Folk-pop couple Johnnyswim reveling in life on the road 

click to enlarge Johnnyswim
  • Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano, aka Johnnyswim, are glad to be out of their tiny Los Angeles apartment during their tour, which comes to San Francisco today.
Singer-songwriter couple Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano, who concoct frothy folk-pop as Johnnyswim, really love touring, but not for the usual reasons.

They’re in it for the accommodations. Compared to their cramped Los Angeles digs, even the dinkiest, “Psycho”-spooky motel room can seem majestic by comparison. On a recent phone call from a tour stop in Asheville, N.C. (they play San Francisco today), they were still in their bathrobes, enjoying breakfast in bed and basking in relative roadside luxury.

You’d have to see the place to fully understand, says Sudano, who was backup singer to the late Donna Summer before she met her future husband at a Nashville, Tenn., church they attended. (They issued their first eponymous EP in 2008, then married a year later and finally moved in together.)

“It’s a tiny apartment, one bedroom,” Sudano says. “Well, it’s actually two bedrooms, but one is a bedroom, the other is our studio. I don’t know what it is, but we just love our little apartment.”

The laptop-and-microphone-rigged studio itself, Ramirez adds, “is basically a glorified closet.”

There are two small closets, but one is packed with luggage and recording equipment, while the other houses a Goodwill bag that the team keeps refilling. The place is so small, Sudano explains, “Every time you bring something new in, you have to get rid of something. Even if you want to go buy a couple of shirts, you’re going to have to find something to give away. So we’re constantly going to Goodwill.”

How did such close quarters incubate expansive, jangly “Diamonds” duets such as “Home,” “Closer” and “Trouble”? Ramirez partially blames his upbringing.

“I lived with my two sisters, my mom, dad and grandma, behind the piano in the living room, with my bed, my dresser and a trunk for my toys,” he says. “So there was no sense of needing personal space because I’ve never really had that.”

They avoid cabin fever via nerve-calming daily rituals. Ramirez rises first and fixes a pot of coffee, then waits for his late-sleeping wife to summon him.

“That’s his cue to bring me a cup of coffee, pat me on the back and say, ‘It’s a great day outside!,’” Sudano says. “He’s found that if I just wake up without that little buffer, I’m cranky for most of the day.”

The pair winces when Nashville chums put down payments on houses roughly equal to two months of their California rent. “But when we go see friends who have bigger places, we don’t even know what we would do with all that space,” Sudano says. “We’re just used to having this streamlined existence.”



Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. today

Tickets: $20 to $22

Contact: (415) 551-5157,

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Tom Lanham

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