Friendship forged on Cypress Avenue

Kevin Sousa (second from right) with his Cypress Crew, Mike Collins, Zeal Levin, and Nate Amor in September 2022. Photo by Garrick Rawlings

As told to Garrick Rawlings

Kevin Sousa and Mike Collins are two of the people responsible for Hermosa’s light industrial district on Cypress Avenue becoming a center for artists and musicians. Following Sousa’s death last week, Collins reflected on their work together. 

“He and I were partners in my psychotherapy practice, in the ocean, and then on what was happening on Cypress Avenue. The opportunity presented itself for me to take the space that became ShockBoxx (Collins, art gallery and studio), and shortly afterwards the opportunity presented itself for Kevin to take the space that would become the Hermosa Music Company (a recording studio and performance space). 

“I am really proud of what Kevin and his partner  Zeal Levin did. That the place was built entirely with bare knuckles, blood, sweat and tears. 

“Things started to seem different with Kevin and his band a couple years ago when he was diagnosed with melanoma. He chose to keep it private because he had it under control. Last September when the Kevin Sousa Band closed out the Hermosa Summer Concert Series, that was the peak of his joy, that was the band at its best. His energy was just flying off the stage.

“It’s hard to know if on some level he knew what was going on. I’m happy I stayed until the end because it was just one of the most beautiful days of my life.”

“He had it under control. He was winning the fight until a couple weeks ago when the cancer spread to his brain.”  

“He was up in this office a week ago Friday, at five o’clock in the afternoon. We were sitting in our offices just like it was any other day. He and I had a vision for a way to do something on Cypress that celebrated what was already going on. Kevin really, really deeply believed we were not changing that street, we were just joining a really long history of creativity that’s been down there since the 1950s with surfboard manufacturing, music studios, woodworkers, plumbers, metal workers – all we did is join, and stand on their shoulders. That’s a sacred part of what Kevin would want people to know, and it’s a big part of what I want people to know. There’s a lot of cool stuff that’s been going on down there long before Collins and Sousa rolled into town.”

“For the last five or six years I’ve had the opportunity to basically build a treehouse right next to my best friend, who was also building a treehouse. That doesn’t happen, people don’t get to do that. I had the benefit of having a place I could go during COVID, and quarantine, and paint. I would be in there painting, and I could hear him next door writing the songs that are now on the new album that he would be releasing. I got to listen to that before anybody. 

“I’m super proud of what we did. But more than that, I’m grateful for the fact we did it together, and that I got to listen to that guy, and hang out with that guy as much as I did. I really, truly feel I lost my best friend. But there are probably 50 people in this town who could lay claim to the same exact feeling. 

“Kevin had time for everyone and if he didn’t have time he would make it for you. He loved really hard and he’s going to leave a hole in this community that we can try but we’re never going to fill it.”


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