Local band Flights Over Phoenix hopes to rise above the noise of Southland music scene

In a region crowded with musicians, artists and would-be rock stars waiting for their big break, local band Flights Over Phoenix is attempting to rise above the fray by putting in the long hours necessary to bring a dream to life.

The three-man band — lead vocalist Keith Longo, guitarist Chris Santillo and drummer Jordan Nuanez — composes original lyrics and draws on a vast catalog of musical tastes and influences to craft a sound members describe as “the love child of stadium rock and modern-day pop, raised on ’90s alternative values.”

“What we want to be is an ongoing thing,” Longo said of the band’s style. “It keeps evolving as we continue to write music.”

On Thursday night, Flights Over Phoenix performs at the Sayers Club in Hollywood, where they’ll play songs from their first EP, “When I Comedown,” released in March. Doors open at 10 p.m.

In an interview Tuesday at their Eagle Rock garage studio, the trio reflected on how far they’ve come since Nuanez’s arrival in 2015 officially completed the band. Since then, they’ve maintained a solid playlist, made a music video and self-produced an album, working almost daily from a set-up in Santillo’s bedroom.

“We were with each other for five months, trying to get everything right. We kind of learned as we went,” Santillo said, recalling how they’d look up tutorials on YouTube whenever they encountered a technical challenge. “I’m surprised we all survived after that.”

Musically, Santillo says he came to appreciate ’90s grunge and alternative rock and ’80s pop standards, thanks to Longo, though he personally favors guitarists and lyricists like Jimi Hendrix and John Mayer. Nuanez grew up under the influence of a father who played in the jazz fusion band Seawind and maintained eclectic and widely divergent musical tastes.

Despite the breadth of their interests, Flights Over Phoenix has had no problem honing in on a solid, unified sound. Their work recently earned praise when the band was featured on KLOS-FM 95.5 in an Aug. 4 airing of deejays Frosty, Heidi and Frank’s “Stay or Go” segment and listeners called in to support them.

“The common denominator for the three of us is we essentially want to be in a rock band,” said Nuanez. “I think that’s where the three of us want to be.”

The band’s beginning hearkens back to 2012, when Longo moved to Los Angeles in hopes of making music a full-time pursuit. He landed in Eagle Rock and was going through a rotating cast of musicians for over a year, trying to find just the right members to form a band when Montrose native Chris Santillo replied to a “Guitarist Wanted” posting Longo had placed on Craigslist.

“He was looking for a guitar player, I was in another band and thought it was super-sketchy, but it ended up being fine,” Santillo recalled of the 2013 posting. “We clicked pretty well.”

The two began working together and were making a go of things in 2015, when a friend told them about drummer Nuanez, a Montrose resident and Crescenta Valley High School alum who was looking for a band.

Now, having gone through the rigors of writing and producing an EP, Flights Over Phoenix is facing yet another hurdle — marketing and promoting their work in an attempt to stand out among a sea of hopefuls in L.A.’s vast music scene.

It’s another daunting task, especially considering all three band members have day jobs — Nuanez can be found serving up food and beverages at Penelope’s Café in La Cañada — but they’re keeping their eye on the prize by continuing to make music, playing shows and putting themselves out there.

“You have to be great at marketing yourself and cutting through the noise,” Santillo said.

Listen to Flights Over Phoenix on Spotify or by visiting their Facebook page at facebook.com/FlightsOverPhoenix.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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