In America, Bad Suns are quite a big deal. They’ve toured with The 1975, had their debut album ‘Language & Perspective’ hit #24 on the US 200 Billboard, and even played the jumbo festival that is Coachella.
The band’s first album, along with follow-up ‘Disappear Here’, combined the joy of indie rock with infectious pop-glossed tendencies, applying a fresh coat of catchiness to a popping, dance-worthy sound, and saw them gain fans across the land.
While their success exceeds to grow stateside, their coverage over our seas has been limited, which is an unfair reflection on their genuine popularity – given the chance of more mainstream air time, these guys would surely soar to the same heights with UK and European fans.
To put that to the test, the Californian four-piece have started the year on the front foot, coming across the Atlantic to embark on their first official headline UK and European tour. We caught up with frontman Christo Bowman before he took to the stage for their sold-out show in Glasgow to get the latest on the band’s background, growth, and their all-important upcoming new album, ‘Mystic Truth’.
DP!: So, this is your second UK tour, am I right? How has that been for you so far?
CB: Yeah. We’ve played a handful of shows in London, and we debuted in Manchester last year, but this is our first proper UK and European tour. We’re having a blast. Our first US tour was not this cool, so it feels good, it feels kind of like starting over again, but at the same time, we do have the advantage that our people who are familiar with our music and have already been listening to us. It’s been super fun.
DP!: How does touring the UK compare with some of the more recent US tours you’ve done?
CB: It’s entirely different just in the sense that in the US, we’ve been on the road for five years now, and in that time we’ve kind of amassed this following and people kind of know what to expect when they come to our shows, and it’s a really intensive energy, whereas over here, we are sort of starting fresh. We’re introducing people to what they’re supposed to expect essentially, and it’s just been great. It’s not that we have to win anybody over because the people that are there are there to see us, but it does definitely feel new. It’s nice to make a good first impression I guess is what it is.
DP!: What’s your story as a band? How did you four come together initially?
CB: Well, really we’re four like-minded musicians that ended up finding our way and meeting one another along the way when we were teenagers. I’ve been writing songs since I was about nine years old, and the other guys have been playing their instruments retrospectively and dreaming about being able to do something like this for a similar amount of time, and the universe kind of brought us together via our common interests and looking to make those sort of connections. We’re really just dedicated to the idea of living this life and making music, travelling and playing shows. It’s just always been something that, from an early age, really appealed to us and that we felt we had to do.
DP!: When you were starting out, what were the bands that helped influence your sound?
CB: When we were young, I’d say we loved bands like The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, and then going backwards, at an early age, I fell in love with The Cure, The Smiths, The Police, and U2, and bands like that. We were always sort of drawn to the rock ‘n’ roll formula but kind of doing it in a way that isn’t like standard rock, as classic rock never really appealed to us. Now, I feel we appreciate it more, but we weren’t really listening to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and stuff like that growing up. We were more listening to post-punk, and we really liked bands that had pop sensibilities but were able to pack a punch of a powerful rock band.
DP!: Some would describe your sound as being tinged with a 70s/80s style influence, is that something you’d agree with?
CB: I think that’s fair because that is a lot of the stuff we do like. I think we’re conscious that we are in a modern time and we want to make music for today, but I think that as far as bands go, those are sort of the artists who we feel were really pushing boundaries in their time, and they influence us in that sense.
DP!: You’ve just announced your third album, ‘Mystic Truth’. What can we expect from the record?
CB: Yeah, we’re really excited about that. It’s different. We felt like our first two albums made a statement and kind of introduced ourselves the way we wanted to, and we felt that we’ve just grown a lot over these years. I think we’ve grown as songwriters, and it was really important for us to step it up in a certain way. This was our first time working with a new producer, a guy called Dave Sardy, who’s worked with a bunch of bands that we love like Oasis and others. He’s an amazingly talented guy, and it’s a really crisp sounding record. It sounds really big. For us, at the end of the day, it really comes down to the songs. We just want to make the most powerful, most uplifting, catchy songs that we possibly can. I think fans of our first two records will be pleased because, to me, it’s very much a Bad Suns record, but it’s not a third serving of the same thing. I think each record definitely stands on its own and has its own style, but there’s a progression there, for sure.
DP!: What’s the thought behind the album’s title?
CB: I think we knew the kind of themes we wanted to cover with this record, and the songs that we were writing. There was a lot of thought that went into that. Actually, when we were on our last UK string of shows when we were here last year, we were at the Tate Modern Gallery and there was an exhibit on Bruce Nauman, and one of the installation pieces he had was this neon sign that read “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths.” I saw that and it just struck me as being really powerful without being not without irony in a certain way. It was a little bit tongue-in-cheek and represented everything we wanted this record to be about, because I feel this is a very serious record and very earnest, but, at the same time, we have a sense of humour and I think it just represented our viewpoint. So, time went on, and, as it happens with all the record titles, I write down all these different titles, but that one just really stuck out and seemed to capture the essence of what we were trying to do.
DP!: How would you say the new record differs to your previous albums? How did you do things differently those records?
CB: It is a bit different. I think the first time around, we were just figuring it out as we went. Both the first two albums we recorded in segments where we would record three to four songs at a time, take a break to go on tour and play shows and sit with what we had recorded, and then come back after writing along the way. Whereas, for this record, we took a different approach.
With the first record, we recorded the first four songs in the summer of 2012 and then we finished the album in the spring of 2014. That had to do with the fact that, when we started recording the album, we didn’t have a record label or management or anything. We just self-funded it based off of odd jobs we were doing at the time. We had a producer who luckily believed in us, and once we were able to get a record deal and those things in place, we were able to complete the record. I think before the music was always the big thing, and lyrics were kind of something that I wasn’t so confident about. It was something that I cared a lot about, but I think I’m a much more confident songwriter this time around in the sense that we really wanted to make sure both things were just as strong as one another – the music, the melodies and the lyrics. So, this time, we took a lot more time in just getting a big batch of songs that we could kind of whittle down to our ten favourites – we recorded 12 songs actually, two more which I’m sure will see the light of day eventually – and we took about a year to get all of that together. Our producer Dave came in and we went through pre-production, we chose the 12 that we loved, and we recorded the record in the span of 2 months. It was definitely a more fast-paced recording experience, and, at the same time, I think we were really prepared for that this time around. It was probably the most fun we had making a record, to be honest.
DP!: You recently put out a great new single, ‘Away We Go’, and then, another one in ‘Hold Your Fire’. What’s the reception to these tracks been like?
CB: It’s been great. ‘Away We Go’ in particular, we wanted to put that song out first because we felt it really captured the spirit and energy of the record and is track one, of course, but at the same time, I think it’s a bit different from the stuff that we’ve done in past. From as simple as the fact that sonically, we just only used Fender Strats and Vox Tasty Thirty amps to create a very particular guitar sound that we were going for, but here we didn’t put those same limitations on ourselves. We played with different sounds, we tried different things and that was really exciting to us, and I think that gives this record a sense of feeling different and having some sort of change. So, it’s been fun to see people react to ‘Away We Go’. It’s been overwhelmingly positive, while at the same time you have people asking “What’s happening? Are they changing their sound?” That for us is really exciting because the alternative for us would just be to say “Okay, here’s more of the same”, which for us is uninteresting.
‘Hold Your Fire’ is a really good contrast to ‘Away We Go’ in the sense that it’s a bit different from it. There might be some melodic sensibilities that are similar or reminiscent of things we’ve done in the past, but at the same time, it’s a breath of fresh air all the same. It’s only been a few months since ‘Away We Go’ came out, and less for ‘Hold Your Fire’, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re really excited about that.
DP!: You recently switched from Vagrant Records to Epitaph. How’s that been for you guys?
CB: It’s been great, but not without its challenges. We signed with Vagrant back in 2013 and started releasing music in 2014, and the company sort of changed. It’s boring, but they were acquired by a major label and the company changed, but at the same time we lucked out in the sense that we had a good relationship with them, so we were able to amicably and mutually part ways without being contractually bound to anything so we didn’t have to suffer in that respect. That definitely did give us that sense of the great wide open, because we didn’t know who we were going to be making the record with the whole time we were writing. It wasn’t until pretty much all the songs had been written and demoed that we decided to work with Epitaph, and they came along at the perfect time and really believed in the project. That’s how we really decide who we work with, at the end of the day it’s about who understands the vision, who believes in it and who will facilitate what they need to in order for us to do what we need to do, and they gave us total creative freedom how it has always been for us. It’s just been a stellar working relationship with them so far.
DP!: Epitaph have quite a heavy roster of bands. Were you ever concerned about how fans may interpret you joining a heavier label?
CB: Well, at first, when we found out they were interested, I think we were a bit surprised for that exact reason because we’ve been fans of the label for forever, from Refused to the early Gallows stuff. We were sort of raised on punk and there’s always been that spirit burning somewhere in the band, so it made sense to an extent. I couldn’t point to a bunch of acts on the roster and think that we fit in with these guys, but I think that was also exciting for us, because it gave us the opportunity to stand on our own and be a new thing. I think the label are now entering a new era or phase right now, and I think it’s just all worked out perfectly, and I like the fact that it does ask those questions about what’s going to happen and what’s going to change, but, ultimately, it doesn’t have any sort of impact on the way we run artistically.
DP!: New album, touring a lot – your 2019 seems to be looking good, right?
CB: It looks excellent so far. We know what we’re doing for the first half of the year, and as for the second, I’m sure we’ll be doing more touring. We’ve been living in a house together for the last two years while we were writing the record, and we’ve all just moved out into our places while still living really close to each other, but we’ve moved in with our girlfriends. Miles (Morris, drums) and Gavin (Bennett, bass) live together now, and we’re just writing songs continuously and definitely still haven’t bugged. By the time that we finished the record, we were still at this pace of writing songs all the time, and we’ve been keeping that up and we’re thinking about the future, while at the same time just super excited to be promoting this album, making videos, touring more, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the rest of the year.
The band’s third studio album, ‘Mystic Truth’, is out on March 22nd 2019 through Epitaph Records.
Writer for DEAD PRESS! | Literature undergrad with a love for all things punk | Often found sipping on coffee or craft beer, whilst attempting to write some words.