How Far Will Bad Suns Go To Have A Good Concert? Depends.
Eliot Lee Hazel
Bad Suns stumbled upon everything: their name, their record deal, and even each other. When the band formed in 2012, the then-19-to-22-year-olds had left behind former bands — not to mention high school — in favor of new projects. Fronted by vocalist Christo Bowman, the Southern California four-piece formed in 2012 and picked up where Elvis Costello and The Cure left off, and they added their touch of heavy indie rock. Pair the post-punk energy with angsty lyrics and riffs, and the result is the band's "mood," which is a self-declared huge influence on their sound. The group spent the first two years as openers for larger acts before releasing their debut full-length, Language and Perspective, in 2014 and headlining their own small-venue shows. Now, they're back with a new sense of purpose and creative confidence in what is to come.
Tell us a little bit about your musical backgrounds and influences.
For some reason, it shouldn’t be this difficult, but really it’s just four people coming together who are
interested in — how do you describe our musical background and influences? — I guess it’s just the combination of four people’s musical tastes put together, and that’s what you’re hearing in the music. As far as influences go and what we draw from, we’re really sort of open to whatever garners a reaction from us one way or another, emotionally or anything. It’s about finding the pieces we identify with and building a sound from that.
Was there any one instance that brought you all together or did you find each other along the way?
We picked up one member at a time along the way, through the years, right after high school. You don’t always stay in touch with [high school friends] long afterwards, so it’s nice to have a group that remains constant and that’s constantly speeding up and inspirational, something that we get to pursue together. It’s great. It’s like the ultimate male bonding experience, I think.
How did you come up with the name Bad Suns in the first place?
Well, I guess we were 18 at the time, and we just really needed a band name. We were pulling out whatever we could find, books or backs of CDs and that kind of thing, and I saw the words “bad sun” on the back of a CD, and I thought it was pretty interesting because I had never seen those words together before, and so that was one of the ones we had floating around for a while.
So you went with the least terrible option. Where did you go from there as far as putting [the band's debut album] Language and Perspective together?
That album was a lot of fun. That album chronicles us entering together into this new project because the band came together — we were rehearsing together and writing songs in the years leading up to it — and the lineup really solidified as the four of us in the year 2012, and so it was recorded between then and 2014 pretty much just leading up to the release. We had some time in the first third of the album, really. We funded ourselves. We didn’t have management at the time. We didn’t have a record label or anything like that. And that album is the journey of us finding our way into the situation where we were able to complete a full-length. So it’s sort of like a big accomplishment we eventually reach after a series of years of trying to make it happen. It’s a really important record, though. And we’re proud of it.
Now, two years after the release, we’re awaiting your upcoming album, Disappear Here. What can you tell us so far?
We’re really excited about it. The easiest way I’ve been able to explain it without saying too much about it to people that have asked me so far — just because you never want to give too much away — but really it’s just the same band that’s improved over a few years and hundreds and hundreds of shows and more and more creative experiences just making a new album. And, you know, no one is going to turn it on and be completely confused. I think we tried to make a Bad Suns album again. We weren’t running away from anything, so I think that’s all there is to say at this point. These are exciting times.
What, then, are some of the improvements you’ve seen in the band, whether stylistically or otherwise?
We never try to emulate anything. It’s all about the mood of the room when the song is in session. So I’ll say there are definitely some new moods being tapped into. I would say that Language and Perspective was a daytime record with some nighttime songs thrown in, but this new one is a more nighttime record with some daytime ones thrown in. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s the way I’ve been describing it.
Do you have any standout or memorable shows or total disaster stories?
There are a few, but I don’t want to set anyone off in the camp. I’m not naming who it was, but one of the better things that has ever happened on stage was: We were playing in a new city we had never played in before. It was a really fun show, and a bunch of people showed up, and I won’t say who but one of the members before the very, very final song — and when you’re on stage, you’re sweating a lot, so you’re drinking a lot of water and replenishing yourself with hydration, and you’re on there for a long set so it becomes difficult — somebody wasn’t able to make it to the bathroom on time. All self-control possible, but there was just pee down the leg. We somehow made it through the show, and thankfully nobody noticed, and nobody found out. The show went on uninterrupted, and it was a valiant effort. We’re proud of that story to this day because it’s a testament to the lengths we’ll go to make sure the show does really continue.
So you’ve been bonding and improving while on the road, but how do you each see yourselves growing as musicians and as people?
When we made the first record, it was all of us and about four voices coming together, and there was an idea that we had come up with of the way we wanted to push forward and determine the sound of this new band and the road we were forging. So there was a bit of us becoming familiar with that along the way and then after touring that, the music becomes intrinsic to you at that point. You play it for so long, you gain this whole new attachment to the music based off the way that other people are responding to it. It’s kind of this crazy symbiotic experience. So then, we basically had all that just coursing through our veins this time around, so I think that’s one of the really cool things about this journey, just the creative growth that is consistently happening.
Have you been anywhere that you could picture yourself living?
We were actually just talking about this. We’ve recorded two albums in the same studio, which is amazing, but we’re thinking next time around, we want to spread our wings a little bit. There are definitely various cities we’ve talked about just setting up camp and moving everyone over for a period of time just to record a record. I definitely see us making a few of those trips happen. We talked about Portland, we talked about Seattle, we’ve definitely talked about New York. We talk about Austin. We’ll see what happens. There are so many amazing places you find along the way while touring, especially the more times you visit certain places; you can find the area’s charm that you weren’t able to grasp onto immediately the first time.
And what did you think of Phoenix last time you were here?
I love Phoenix. They’ve always got great crowds. Some of our best shows were shows we played in Phoenix, and that’s not even blowing smoke.
Bad Suns are scheduled to open for Halsey at Comerica Theatre on Tuesday, July 12, at 8 p.m.
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