Q + A with Bad Suns

California rock band Bad Suns is chock-full of catchy, clever tunes. They released their latest album Disappear Here in September, and it received an overwhelming response. Starting in the California suburbs, they’ve supported bands across the world and are now headlining their very own tour across America. PATTERN’s Jenna Drake and Christopher Wilson caught up with the band on their third tour stop in Indy.

Jenna Drake: I know you’ve only just begun your ‘Heartbreaker’ tour. Any cities you are excited about hitting?

Christo Bowman (lead vocalist): It might sound like a copout answer, but we’ve really been looking forward to tonight in Indianapolis. This is our second time playing here. The first time we were here, we were opening for another band. This time around a lot more people showed up than we were expecting.

JD: How has the response been to Disappear Here since releasing in September?

CB: It’s been pretty positive. We’re happy to hear that people are enjoying the new album. The fact that they’ve been coming out to shows and know the new songs as well as the old ones. It’s been really great.

Ray Libby (Guitar): It’s cool to see people singing the words to the new stuff just as much as they would the old songs. We’d like to think it’s a good sign [laughs].

CW: Since it just came out, is the show a majority of Disappear Here or do you play your old stuff too?

CB: The show is definitely built around the new album, but we’re featuring songs from both albums fairly evenly. We’re proud of both albums. We like to play all the songs we can.

JD: What is your favorite song to play live at the moment?

RL: We open the set with the title track ‘Disappear Here’. It always feels like a good launch out of the gates. I do like playing ‘Sleep Paralysis from the first album; it’s always super fun to play because sometimes I’ll look up and think, ‘Where’s Chris?’ and he is on the other side of the room dancing on top of a bar.

CB: It’s hard to pick favorites, it really is. There are so many different moments throughout the show and every one of those is like, ‘YES!’ It’d be a different if we were a band that had one song that people liked. It seems like people enjoy the record in it entirety. It’s a pretty involved throughout the show.

JD: Now that you’re doing a headlining tour, what has changed since your very first tour?

CB: So much. The only pressure we’ve really put on ourselves as a band is just to be as good as we possibly can be. In the early days, we weren’t trying to fool ourselves by doing more than we could do. At that point we were a garage band right out of the gate hitting the road, and we worked on doing that the best we could at that time. As we progress, we naturally start to reach a bit further with our goals. This phase of progression, for example where we are right now, is really exciting to us. Back in the day, it was just us playing songs in small sweaty clubs, and now there’s a bit more of a theatrical element to it. Now we have a wealth of material to pull from, so it kind of feels like we’ve leveled up.

JD: Describe your perfect day off.

CB: It’s so rare but it’s so great. It’s when you pull into a city the night before you have a day off, and you get to wake up there and you have the whole day with nothing to do. Especially if you’re in a really cool place. It’s great to explore any city you haven’t been to. We’re all so curious, and that’s what drew us to this bizarre profession where we’re in a new place everyday.  

JD: What do your parents think of you dropping everything and doing music full time?

Gavin Bennett (Bass/Keys): My parents took a little bit of convincing, but I got that out of the way at a young age.

RL: All of our parents have been super supportive actually. We’ve all been in bands now for around 10 years. It’d be one thing if it was just a phase or if our interests diverted or changed. In the case of all four of us, we’ve been interested in music since such a young age that we convinced our parents a long time ago before we were actually doing anything. Now that we are doing something, it’s a bit of validation. I’m sure our parents are super proud that we’re playing sold out shows in Indianapolis.

CB: They do appreciate that we get to do what it is that we really love to do. That’s a cool thing not to take for granted.

JD: Before you decided that you wanted to do music full time, what did each of you want to do with your lives?

GB: I don’t think I ever had an alternate option. We were playing in bands when we were 15. So at that point in high school, that’s the only thing I really ever wanted to do.

RL: When I was 10 or 11, I wanted to be a cartoon artist.

CB: It was something I tried to not think about as much. I started considering it more when this started to solidify more as a career. I’d probably just be going to school. My parents are both flight attendants for American Airlines, I don’t have a musical background, but I was always traveling as a kid and part of this always feels a bit natural.

CW: In 2014 you played at Bunbury festival. Was that your first festival?

CB: It must’ve been one of the firsts. I don’t think it was the very first; the first was Hangout. That was the first time at a festival and it was cool because we were playing to the general public. People buy tickets to see the headliners, but that was our first time playing Cardiac Arrest, and people actually knew the words. That was so bizarre to us.

RL: The Hangout was such a cool first experience with festivals. The vibe was really cool. It was definitely a fun experience to be at a festival, as a band, backstage.

CW: Can you explain the album artwork for Disappear Here

RL: It took so much back a fourth with an artist we were working with. We had our idea of what we wanted it to look like. We knew we wanted it to be not too revealing but enticing at the same time. What we kept getting back was just ‘OK’, but then we saw one image we all really liked. We couldn’t use it because it was an old Japanese magazine. We basically recreated the image and it came out as its own image. We liked how it looked: mysterious but enticing. We’ve learned that you have to know what you want, and vocalize and articulate it.

CB: It was an option just sitting in left field. When it did come into play, it was so much better than anything we were trying to recreate. We just looked at it and listened to the music and thought, ‘Yeah this works.’ We are so particular, the four of us. It difficult to come up with something we all agree on.   

JD: Do you normally present an artist with an idea, and then go back and forth to perfect it?

RL: For that album we just sent him words of what we were looking for.

CB: We’ll describe ideas and abstract terms in ways that point him in a direction using colors and objects. We usually choose an artist based off of their work and if we they’re going to be able to go after the idea we have in mind.

Christopher Wilson: What was the last movie you guys saw?

Bad Suns: OH SHIT. You couldn’t have asked us at a worse time. We watched The Final Destination last night. It was terrible, it was 3D but we didn’t have the glasses.

CW: If you were a snack, what would you be and why?

GB: Miles is a ham and cheese Hot Pocket or an egg salad sandwich.

Miles Morris(Drums): We’re probably mixed nuts.

CB: Maybe choco Taco or something [laughs]. It’s got to be like Chex Mix so we can all be something. Mixed nuts thrown on an ice cream sunday.

RL: I don’t particularly like egg salad sandwiches.

JD: What does the rest of the year look like for you? Summer?

CB: We’ve been touring this last album a lot which has been awesome. We are in the process of getting a house together and building a home studio, and on top of that, making more music.

RL: We’re playing Free Press Music Fest as well as Bonnaroo and Bottlerock Festival in Napa Valley. I hope we get to play more festivals. The performance is always really intimidating because it’s potentially a lot more people than you normally would play for.

GB: People go to festivals to find new artist and music. During the day, there are a lot of bands people don’t know, so they’re just walking around trying to find people to listen to. People think to themselves, ‘Why should I watch this band?’ and we just want to say, ‘We’ll show you why.’

CW: Is there anything you want the readers of PATTERN to know?

CB: Thanks for reading! If you listen to our music thanks for listening, we hope you enjoy. We hope to potentially cross paths with you readers someday!

Follow Bad Suns on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Catch their latest album Disappear Here on Spotify and Soundcloud.
Follow their individual Instagrams: Christo Bowman, Ray Libby, Gavin Bennett, Miles Morris

Photography by Christopher Wilson.