The Sultans, led by John Reis, formed in 2000 and disbanded in January 2007. They began as a side project in 2000, while Reis was taking time off from his main band Rocket from the Crypt, who were in between record labels and had lost their longtime drummer Atom Willard. While searching for a new record label and drummer, Reis started his own label, Swami Records, and experimented with other musicians, resulting in the formation of both the Sultans and Hot Snakes. Sultans resulted from his collaboration with drummer Tony DiPrima. Bringing in Rocket from the Crypt guitarist Andy Stamets, Reis took up the bass guitar and the band recorded for the Swami label.
In November 2003, Reis and DiPrima reconvened to work on another Sultans' album, but Stamets chose not to rejoin the group. Reis took over the guitar position and his younger brother Dean Reis was brought in to play bass. This lineup recorded the album Shipwrecked, released in early 2004 on Swami Records.
In the Summer and Fall of 2005, both Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt played their final shows. The breakups of these groups left the Sultans as John Reis's only active band. He devoted himself to running Swami Records, which released several albums by San Diego-area rock bands. In January 2006 the Sultans toured four cities as part of "The Swami California Field Trip," with Rocket from the Crypt/Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba replacing DiPrima, who had left the group. The band performed infrequently throughout the rest of the year.
On January 10, 2007, the Sultans played their final performance at the Casbah. The event was organized as a benefit for the San Diego-based video production company Fourth Project, which had been working on DVD releases for several of Reis's bands when most of their offices were destroyed by a fire.
Reis had announced prior to the show that this would mark the end of the Sultans as an active band, although he would not rule out the possibility of them ever performing together again. Following the band's breakup, Reis has taken a break from performing, focusing his energy on running Swami Records, building a recording studio, and taking care of his new child. He has indicated that he will return to music in the near future. Dean Reis, meanwhile, performs with the Heartaches, while Rubalcaba plays in Earthless and is part owner of the independent Hillcrest store Thirsty Moon Records.
They reunited at Bar Pink on Halloween 2010, after four years apart. The lineup included John Reis on guitar and vocals, Andy Stamets on guitar, Reis’ brother Dean on bass, and original drummer Tony DiPrima, who was replaced in the band’s final days by Mario Rubalcaba.