For George Shuntov, music embodies a phoenix-like quality.
New music evolves from past encounters and emotions that leave an indelible mark on the soul. In turn, those experiences ignite another musical spark and regenerate the soul into a new creative being.
“George in a sense is like the phoenix, and he’s no longer with us in the physical world, but in an artistic and spiritual one he’s still with us. It’s amazing, and The Phoenix Process is still in effect, and George really is the phoenix,” said Julian Cumpian, Shuntov’s longtime friend and collaborator.
Cumpian reflected on Shuntov’s profound musical legacy Sunday night along with his former bandmates, Brandon Salazar and Théo Caen, in The Phoenix Process. Shuntov, the prolific frontman for the Chicago electro alt-rock quartet and a highly-regarded, do-it-yourself (DIY) music champion, suddenly passed away March 20 at age 34.
“The places where he was active in and in communication with, he did leave an impact, and that’s something that will be remembered and will continue to leave an impact on more people. I’ve been sharing his music with people I know who are artists, and they are floored at the level of musicianship he had and just the way he did everything. He was all self-taught and all self-produced. He didn’t need a lot to make it sound amazing,” Cumpian said.
Cumpian met Shuntov, a Chicago native with Bulgarian and Ecuadorian roots, through a mutual friend on MySpace in 2006. Over the next decade, Cumpian and Shuntov became fast friends and musical collaborators who performed live together. By 2013, Shuntov formed The Phoenix Process with another friend, who soon departed the project, and later brought Cumpian into the fold.
Forming The Phoenix Process
Together, Cumpian and Shuntov developed multi-genre musical concepts and visual elements for The Phoenix Process and created an eclectic live sound built around electronic beats, world influences, electric guitars and hand percussion. In May 2014, they played their first live show in Rogers Park at the now-defunct Red Line Tap.
“It was a good start, and we figured out what worked and what didn’t, and we got people exposed to the sound in a live setting. Fast-forward to 2015, Brandon and Théo joined the band, which continued until 2017,” said Cumpian, who left The Phoenix Process in 2016. “The band didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough I’d say for us to develop a sound, get to know George and have people get to know George’s music. He left a big impact in such a short amount of time.”
Meanwhile, Salazar met Shuntov through a Facebook group called Chicago Musician Exchange after seeing a “want ad” post for a drummer and guitarist. While only age 16 at the time, Salazar reached out to Shuntov about a possible collaboration, and the two started working together with Caen.
“I heard his music, and I was like, ‘This guy is the real deal, this guy is a fucking professional. There’s no way he would take a little guy like me.’ I showed him some of my stuff, and I put myself out there into the world, and he saw me and Théo through that,” said Salazar, drummer and percussionist for The Phoenix Process.