Interview: Bad Suns

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In 2014, Bad Suns made a name for themselves in the alternative music world with Language and Perspective. The California rock band’s album was full of catchy, clever tunes inspired by the ’70s and ’80s—including the unforgettable single “Cardiac Arrest,” their breakout hit. Recently, Bad Suns made a comeback with the release of Disappear Here. Now, they’re playing shows across America on a headlining tour.

We were lucky enough to chat with the band members—Christo Bowman, Miles Morris, Ray Libby, and Gavin Bennett—before their show at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C. Read on to learn about their songwriting process and what they did this Halloweeen .

TYF: Welcome back to D.C.! Currently, you’re on tour with Coin. What has that experience been like?

Christo Bowman: It’s been excellent. Yeah. I think we had been looking forward to it for a really long time, and for once we had the ability to actually prepare for it properly, so already, we knew we were gonna have a good time, and every day that we’ve been on it, that’s become more and more true. And I think it’s even exceeding our expectations. We’re having a blast.

TYF: Any funny or interesting memories from the road you’d like to share?

Bowman: I fell off the stage in Chicago. It felt crazy. It felt like I was going through a time portal. I wasn’t sure what was happening. One split second [felt] like an eternity. And I got a bruise out of it. That’s the least predictable thing that’s happened onstage so far.

TYF: What’s the most interesting city you’ve visited so far?

Ray Libby: We were in Montreal last year for a tour with the band The Neighbourhood. We had never been there before, and, at least to me in particular, it seemed like a completely different city than any city in the United States, definitely. And it was different than any Canadian cities we had been to before. We’d been to Toronto and Vancouver, which are both pretty similar to American cities, I would say.

TYF: Let’s talk about your music. Your new album is called Disappear Here. You’ve mentioned that you got the title from the book Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. What were some of your other sources of inspiration?

Bowman: Musically, I’d say it’s really all across the board. At this point, I think we found ourselves in a position as a band where we didn’t even need to reference other bands or recordings or albums as much as we had when we were initially forming our sound. At this point, I think it just sort of lives within us and seeps through. So that was an advantage. And yeah, like you said, Less Than Zero was a book that I was reading. It was a lot of Tom Robbins novels I was reading that I think helped shape the language of the record a little bit.

TYF: One of the singles from the album is the title track, “Disappear Here.” You made an interesting music video for that song that shows the band in a house with different colored lights. How did you come up with the idea for this video, and what was it like filming it?

Bowman: That one was just the treatment that got sent our way that we thought looked pretty exciting visually, and we felt that it was a strong note to enter the cycle with.

TYF: Was it hard filming underwater?

Bowman: No, it wasn’t that bad. No. (Laughs) It was more effort than there was video, in the end, but it was still fun.

TYF: On Twitter, you guys said that your next music video might be for “Heartbreaker.” Is that video in the works right now, or are you just in the brainstorming stages?

Bowman: Yeah, we’ve been going over treatments for it. The plan is to shoot it once we get back home.

TYF: My favorite song from your album is “Outskirts of Paradise.” What was the inspiration behind that?

Bowman: Musically, I think that song is a really good example of the way that we create collaboratively when we [write music]. For instance, that’s a song where… The intro guitar, which is repeated throughout the entire song, that was something that Gavin was playing, just had on a loop. And then the bassline, which informed the chords of the song, that was something that Ray started playing on the bass immediately afterwards. [So] we had those two things. And the drumbeat came in, and from there, with all the chords, I had the sense of where to go with the melodies. I’d say that’s a classic example of the way we write together. I think the inspiration was just, you know, every member feeding off of one another.

TYF: Which songs from the new album are your personal favorites?

Gavin Bennett: I’d probably say “Outskirts of Paradise” for me. I really like that song.

Bowman : I think “Love Like Revenge” is my personal favorite musical composition that we’ve done as a band.

Libby: Lately, I’ve been a big fan of “Off She Goes.” I normally say “Outskirts of Paradise” is my favorite song, but “Off She Goes” is really, really good.

Miles Morris: Mine is currently “Violet.” I think it’s cool that all of ours are different.

TYF: Do you have any favorite lyrics from the album?

Bowman: Well, I don’t know if I have a favorite. But I really like, from “Off She Goes,” “If you just believe in yourself, we can tune out everyone else.” I think that philosophy has a lot to do with our band.

TYF: That’s a good one. I’ve noticed that you guys mention dreams a lot in your songs. What are some of the most memorable dreams you’ve had?

Bowman: I had this dream when I was a kid that still sticks with me. I don’t think I was even five years old. But I was just riding a bicycle down a hill, and I couldn’t brake no matter how hard I tried. My legs would just keep pedaling forward, and I couldn’t pedal backwards to brake it. And that was the whole dream. I never crashed or anything. I was just continuously going down the hill on the bicycle. I was just terrified.

TYF: One of your band’s early samplers was called 412, and I know a lot of fans are curious about what that number means. Do you guys want to share?

Bowman: Well, it’s something that’s highly important to us. And it has a really deep meaning. It’s one of those things… We don’t know if it’s entirely fair to reveal all of it at this point because we’re not really sure if people would be able to understand or really handle the meaning behind it.

TYF: Halloween was a few days ago. Did you guys do anything special for the holiday?

Bowman: Yeah. We played in Philadelphia and we dressed up. We were The Matrix, and then Miles was Jack Skellington. And we gave out candy to people during the encore, and we also gave out candy to people before the show, but we sort of approached it the wrong way. We came at the line from the back, and we were dressed as our costumes from Matrix, so we’re all just these guys wearing, like, huge, dark trench coats and giving people candy. Everyone didn’t know who we were. It was dark outside. It didn’t go over very well. (Laughs) Yeah. It was pretty funny.

TYF: That’s a good way to spend a Halloween.

Bowman: Yeah. It was fun.

Libby: We spooked some people.

Bowman: Yeah, we spooked some people, I’m sure. (Laughs)

TYF: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers before the end of the interview?

Bowman: Thank you for reading this publication. Hope you enjoy the music, and hopefully if you do, we’ll see you at a show next time.

Be sure to check out Disappear Here on iTunes and Spotify, and visit the band’s website for more information: http://badsuns.tumblr.com

Brittany Menjivar is a seventeen-year-old music enthusiast who listens to everything from Britpop to EDM to up-and-coming Warped Tour bands. She is passionate about many things in life, including (but not limited to) flower crowns, Foster the People, S. E. Hinton novels, scimitar-horned oryxes, The Great Gatsby (both the book and the 2013 film), theatre, the music of Damon Albarn, blue raspberry ICEEs, and thought-provoking films. Brittany loves spreading the word about interesting ideas, which is why she writes for TYF and serves as the editor of her school newspaper and literary magazine. She also loves metaphors and similes, which explains why she enjoys reviewing music so much. In addition to being a member of the TYF staff, Brittany is a poet who has been published in KaPow! Creative Writing Zine, The Noisy Island, Crashtest, and YARN. If you're reading this, she hopes your day is full of good art and good vibes.