Electronic experimentalists Illuminauts specialize in trippy electronica. “I’ve always been seeking out exploratory music,” says Santino (or Sonny, like in the Godfather) Romeri, a Golden Hill via Chula Vista experimental beat musician, promoter, and overseer of boutique vinyl and cassette label Kill Quanti.
“I’d run my tape player into my guitar pedals and play Lee Scratch Perry through it. I’ve also been into R&B since I was really young. But it wasn’t until about five years ago that I picked up a sampler and ran it through my pedals, and I’ve been refining my style ever since.”
That style has come to include nods to noise, hip-hop, and ambient music.
“Generally we’ll have a few samples and a key, some changes, but it’s loosely structured,” says Romeri, whose day job is web and graphic design. “There’s a good amount of improvisation. We take cues from free jazz, where there’s a theme but everyone’s doing their own thing.”
Equipped with SP404 samplers, synths, loop stations, effects boxes, and turntables, Romeri (former guitarist in Get Back Loretta) and a rotating cast including Nicky Castañeda and David Peña have shared the stage with Zach Hill, Dhani Harrison (George’s son), and Sublte (DoseOne).
“It’s been a slow start,” says Romeri, “but now there’s a big local audience [for beat music], which is what I’m focusing on right now.”
The debut Illuminauts 7-inch on Single Screen Records was released in April 2010, featuring “Swine Flu” b/w “Acid Hands” (featuring glow in the dark packaging). Romeri’s recorded repertoire also includes a track for an Adidas commercial (“Southern crunk meets a J Dilla vibe”) with Soul-Junk’s Glen “Galaxy” Galloway, and stray CD-Rs from shows.
“[My label and booking company] Kill Quanti has been this growing idea for about two years now. Booking and bringing the beat scene to San Diego - Gaslamp Killer, Teebs, Strangeloop, Schlomo, Ras G - anybody exploratory with electronics. Stuff I really believe in.”
“San Diego is legendary for its music,” says Romeri. “I want to keep that legacy going.”
In early 2012, their Little Worlds EP was released with accompanying limited edition, hand-screened posters.