Interview with Bad Suns

As a long time fan of the LA alt-rock band, Bad Suns, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to them about their newest album Disappear Here. Along with that, I was also able to interview the band about their current tour, as well as ask a few questions about their previous album, Language & Perspective.

My first encounter with Bad Suns was in 2014 when I ran into their music online. I quickly fell in love with their songs, and after a couple months I received their Language & Perspective vinyl as a birthday gift. Their catchy hooks and energetic songs make them the perfect band to sit down and jam out to, but they also don’t shy away from music that focuses on more serious issues and contain a lot more lyrical depth.

I met up with the band at The Complex on February 28th; the winter weather was still lingering as fans huddled up in a line outside of the venue. I met up with the band inside where I was able to meet all of the members. I was first introduced to Christo Bowman (Lead vocals and guitar), then Gavin Bennett (Bass), Ray Libby (Guitar), and Miles Morris (Drums).

After we all sat down, I asked the group about their newest album, Disappear Here, and how  their sound has changed and evolved from their first album, Language & Perspective.

“We felt in a lot of ways that Language & Perspective feels like the first couple of dates with a person; you present yourself the best that you can, showing the best sides of yourself, but with Disappear Here it’s kind of a bit more like falling in love…There’s more vulnerability there and it goes a bit deeper, but at the same time it’s still the same person,” Christo explained.

While Language & Perspective is still one of my favorite albums, it’s easy to tell that Disappear Here feels more confident and structured while still maintaining their original sound.

I then asked the band about the album title itself, Disappear Here, and how the name came about.

Christo explained, “We were in the studio and I was reading the book Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, which is one of my favorites, and there’s a billboard that appears in the narrative a few times that says ‘Disappear Here.’ I remember we were thinking of album titles…and it kind of encapsulated everything we wanted it to. It’s like instructions too, to an extent, it’s like sit down, put your headphones on, and disappear here.”  

For myself, music has always felt like an escape, but with the track list for Disappear Here it’s very easy to follow the album’s directions; just sit back and get lost in the music.

Lastly, I talked to Bad Suns about their most recent tour. Coincidentally, Salt Lake City was their first show on the list, so I asked them about what they all looked forward to the most when performing live on their tours.

“I was talking to my uncle just the other day about this. It’s a really cool real life manifestation of your hard work. It manifests itself into people physically spending their time to go buy a ticket or drive to the show; it’s really encouraging.” Ray explained.

Christo chimed in, “Yeah it feels like the reward aspect of what we do…It’s one thing when we put a record out, and it’s great to see that people are listening to it…but you don’t really get the full picture until you come to a show and you see a room full of people singing along to the entire record and you go ‘Oh wow, this is real, these people are actually spending time with our music,’ and that’s just an incredible feeling.”

It was definitely really nice to see how humbled the band was to be playing live, and as a fan, I was definitely humbled to be able to sit and interview them.

If you’ve never listened to Bad Suns before, make sure to check out the song below. Sadly, they’ve already passed through Utah, but if you’d like to see them in the future during the rest of their tour, be sure to check out their tour dates for this Summer!

 

MUNA – About U

When people ask me what albums I’ve been listening to recently, MUNA, an all-girl band from California, is definitely at the top of the list. Their style is extremely unique, and with songs that include lyrical depth as well as catchy pop beats, they’re a band you’ll say “I knew them before they were cool” when they climb up the pop and alt charts.

Surprisingly, I first discovered MUNA’s music through my mother. I was lying in bed when she sent me a text saying she bought two tickets to MUNA’s concert at Kilby Court on February 13th. However, being the ornery college student that I am, I brushed them off thinking they just wouldn’t be my style. But after their concert, I realized how wrong my judgements actually were.

MUNA entered the stage with members Katie Gavin (Lead vocals/Production), Josette Maskin (Lead Guitar), and Naomi McPherson (Rhythm Guitar/Synth/Production). Even though the stage was small, they definitely put on quite the show. Their microphone stands were adorned with white flowers and Gavin’s audience rapport made the show feel very intimate and organic; an experience that’s sometimes hard to find in a live performance.

As soon as the concert ended, I went to iTunes and downloaded their CD “About U.” Though their song “I Know A Place” is the main single from the album, my personal favorites are “Promise,” “Crying On The Bathroom Floor,” and “End of Desire.” But no matter the song, there’s always a catchy element to their music that leaves you tapping your foot and humming along. Plus, Katie Gavin’s vocals have a certain unique tinge, similar to Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries, that pulls you in and leaves you wanting more.

One of my favorite things about MUNA, however, is how they combine the sound of an indie-pop band with an aesthetic that’s dark, eerie, and unexpected. Their album cover is mostly black featuring images of roses and chains; a somewhat 90’s goth look for a band that’s so pop. But I think this is why I like MUNA. They juxtapose their pop sound with lyrics that are darker and deeper than what’s typical of the pop genre.

Along with their unique image, MUNA identifies as a “queer girl band.” None of the band members identify as straight, and they all made a conscious effort to exclude any gender specific pronouns in their songs. They also challenge current political issues, such as adding the lyrics “He’s not my leader, even if he is my President,” to their live versions of “I Know A Place.” While some of MUNA’s songs may cover touchy subjects, their overall message is that of acceptance and being confident with yourself even if that means not adhering to social norms.

MUNA is still a relatively new band, but I have a feeling that won’t last for long. Their sound, image, and message combine into something that’s a breath of fresh air for the current pop scene. And with appearances on both Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Shows, I can only imagine we’ll be seeing more of them in the future.

 

On Your Radar – Mutemath

Dapperly dressed and unbelievably energetic, I discovered Mutemath when I stumbled across a curious video for a song called “Typical.” The video starts with a man in a gray button down and red bow tie playing some power chords on a guitar. He slowly starts backing away to reveal a somewhat chaotic looking scene around him. Brightly colored paint and post it notes littered the floor of this monochrome room. More band mates start to appear, but each of them seem to move a little peculiarly. It’s a little odd, until I realize that the band is performing the song backwards. The music video intrigued me enough to make me want to find out more about this band.

Mutemath started as a collaboration project between singer Paul Meany and drummer Darren King in 2002 when Meany was still in his previous band named Earthsuit. King would send Meany some demos and remixes he had done. Meany liked the work King did and started a correspondence with him where they would go back and forth exchanging new songs. Soon after, King moved to New Orleans to put more dedication into this project. With the addition of Greg Hill on guitar, later replaced by Todd Gummerman, and Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas on bass, this small collaboration evolved into an actual band.

Experimentation has always been key for this alternative rock band. They are constantly striving to find new and innovative ways to create extraordinary music. It’s fascinating to watch some of their “behind-the-scenes” videos because their determination and creativity are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. They’ll tweak with samples many times before committing to something they like. Sometimes it involves slowing down or speeding up an instrument to the point where it’s nearly unrecognizable. The result is a fantastically composed, multilayered song.

I find myself drawn to Mutemath because of their uniqueness and incredible performances. Songs like “Typical” and “Spotlight” are upbeat and lively rock tracks to jam to. “Pins and Needles” offer a calmer almost somber side to Mutemath as Meany delicately sings, “And I’m growing fond of broken people/As I see that I am one of them.” While they have many great songs, “Clipping” has to be a personal favorite of mine. Throughout the song, loops of a distorted piano parallel with cheerier sounding piano notes as it builds up to a beautiful violin solo.

 Mutemath’s recent album Vitals is a testament to how much this band has evolved. Vastly different from their previous album Odd Soul, which was more of a soulful/bluesy album, Vitals shows off an invigorated new Mutemath with more synths and a more indie pop vibe. Meany really opens up to fans as his songwriting is more honest than ever on this album. “Composed” talks about trying to find peace during panic attacks while “Used To” deals with letting go of a toxic relationship.

Despite the fully transparent lyrics, there are songs on the album that lighten up the mood. “Monument” for example, is a euphoric celebration of a couple’s love. It is a perfect combination of poppy rhythm and joyful synths.

Filled with optimism and spirit, Mutemath doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. They recently finished touring with Twenty One Pilots and just released a remix album consisting of new versions of songs from Vitals. Mutemath’s hard work and dedication is admirable and well worth the listen.

 

On Your Radar: Bad Suns

The moment I first heard the band Bad Suns, I became completely entranced with their music. There was something hypnotic about them that drew me in. Whether it was the singer’s soothing voice or their dreamy melodies, Bad Suns had me craving more.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Bad Suns is comprised of lead vocalist Christo Bowman, bassist Gavin Bennett, drummer Miles Morris, and guitarist Ray Libby. The band is often described as 80’s new wave as they tend to get comparisons to iconic rock artists of the 80’s such as Depeche Mode or Elvis Costello. It’s no surprise considering Bowman grew up in a very musical household where he became inspired by the records his father would introduce to him. He was so inspired that he learned how to play guitar and started writing his own songs. This would later help him when the band released their debut album.

Language & Perspective was a great introduction for the indie pop band. It set the stage for the young musicians and showed people they were ready to enter the music scene. The first single “Cardiac Arrest” put the artist on the map with its mellow, almost beach like vibe. Bowman ingeniously compares extreme feelings one might have towards another person to a cardiac arrest. “Sleep Paralysis” is a personal favorite from the album as the band finds a way to make this song pleasurable yet disjointed.

With the attention they gained from their first album, Bad Suns began touring with The 1975 and The Neighbourhood as opening acts. After many months of touring, Bad Suns released their second album Disappear Here earlier this year on September 16. Sophomore albums can be a little tricky for some bands because they’ve already developed a fan base and expectations are raised. This seemed to be no problem for them as Disappear Here is a perfect successor to Language & Perspective. The songs are catchier and have more of a depth to them. The opening and title track for the album “Disappear Here” is a nice welcome back to the band with an upbeat rhythm. Bowman has an extra zing in this song especially evident during the chorus. “Heartbreaker” touches on a feeling that many young adults experience: the fear of failed relationships. He pretends that he’s okay and can go on without her, but it’s an act.

Bad Suns is a modern, retro sounding band filled with spirit. Their honest, sometimes cynical, lyrics not only make them relatable, but prove that they too are learning how to navigate life. With the amount of optimistic energy they bring to their music, it’s a band that I consistently find myself putting on repeat.

Die Antwoord – Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid

The first time listening to a song by the South African rap-rave group, Die Antwoord, I was appalled, shocked, and even offended. Apparently I wasn’t the only one considering the mostly negative reviews of Die Antwoord’s fourth studio album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. However, while it’s easy to dismiss the group for their crude and audacious persona’s, there’s much more to Die Antwoord than meets the eye.

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The group’s aesthetic stems from the South African counter-culture movement called “zef” which roughly translates to “common” in English. For Die Antwoord, the style is most often characterized by bold colors, gaudy outfits, and flashy jewelry. However, in an interview, Yo-landi Visser says “Zef’s kind of like you don’t give a f*ck and you have your own flavor and you’re on your own mission”; a mentality that’s ingrained in all of Die Antwoord’s work, especially in their newest album Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid. 

The opening track “We Have Candy” is a surreal and theatrical invitation to the rest of the album. A combination of comedic dialogue and soaring operatics leaves the listener confused yet wanting more; a description that can be applied to most songs from Die Antwoord. “We Have Candy” was the group’s original name for the album because of it’s random and playful tracks, but the name was soon changed to Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid once the group added more dark and vulnerable songs to the album.

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The song “Banana Brain” is a perfect example of the more random and playful songs Die Antwoord began writing the album with. The track begins with Yo-landi’s high-pitched and eerie vocals which then lead into a roller coaster of pulsing beats and EDM rhythms. The music video for “Banana Brain” depicts a crazy house party with fast cars, psychedelics, and neon lights; a setting most appropriate for the song’s wild/rave attitude.

Even though Die Antwoord’s music shouldn’t be taken too seriously, some of the songs take it too far to the point where they become immature and no longer amusing. The songs “Wings on my Penis” and “U Like Boobies?” are just as cringe-worthy as they sound. The songs feature an unknown six year old named Lil Tommy Terror rapping about exactly what the song’s names suggest. Along with being inappropriate in nature, the songs also lack musical substance and make me question why they were considered official tracks on the album in the first place.

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While most of the songs from Mount Ninji contain a similar sentiment, it’s clear that the group tried to balance the album out with more vulnerable and stripped down songs like “Alien,” “Darkling,” and “I Don’t Care.” The songs discuss what it’s like to be considered an outsider and not caring what others think. Even though the message of these tracks are more heartfelt and genuine, their stripped down nature makes the songs dull and repetitive.

Mount Ninji and Da Nice Time Kid may not be the most musically substantial album out there, but it’s certainly exciting and different. It also contains bizarre guest appearances like “Rats Rule” featuring Jack Black and “Gucci Coochie” featuring Dita Von Teese. Overall, the album’s avant-garde character and catchy rave beats definitely makes it an album worth listening to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Eat World – Integrity Blues

When it comes to alternative rock music, there are bands that are absolutely quintessential to the genre. These bands dominated the airwaves in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and helped pave the way on what alt rock should sound like. Even though lately many of them have not been as popular as they once were, there are a select few who prove they are not out of the game, like Jimmy Eat World.

Jimmy Eat World formed in 1993 in Mesa, Arizona. They had released two albums in the 90’s but didn’t see commercial success until the release of their 2001 album Bleed American. Many notable singles were bred from that album, from the title track to “Sweetness”, but nothing compared to “The Middle.” From there on out, Jimmy Eat World was one of the staple bands of the emo/pop punk scene. They stayed in the limelight for their next two albums Futures and Chase This Light, however, they started to drop off the music scene with Inverted and Damaged. After touring got done for Damaged, the band decided to take a year off for a much needed break.

Integrity Blues is a nice welcome back for Jimmy Eat World after their hiatus. They came back with new ideas and a new approach on how they would develop their songs. The whole theme of this album revolves around acceptance of life and the changes it brings with it. “Pretty Grids” and “Get Right” call upon all the rock lovers with their heavy guitar breakdowns and profound bass lines while “You With Me” and “It Matters” show their capability to embrace a softer side as singer Jim Adkins calmly serenades the listener.

“Sure and Certain” was the first song I heard that notified me that they were making a new album. I remember the first time I heard it I was extremely overjoyed. It was as if the band never took a break to begin with. The opening lively guitar strums combined with the anthem-like drum beats was enough to ensure me that Jimmy Eat World had returned.

While their past two albums were not highly successful, Integrity Blues reminds fans why they fell in love with Jimmy Eat World in the first place. It hits listeners with deep feelings of nostalgia. For me, the album transported me back to the days where I had Futures on repeat. The band was able to create an album that was consistent to how they sound without being repetitive. The long awaited album had finally come and it didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Yellowcard – Yellowcard

As their 10th and final studio release, Yellowcard’s self-titled album is powerful and new yet still reminiscent of their original pop punk sound.

In June, the band announced that they would be breaking up after the last show on their world tour on December 18. While the news was disheartening to their loyal fan-base, the band stated in a note:  “We realized that this was the right time to step away and preserve the legacy and integrity of the band. It is with you, the fans in mind, that this decision was made.”

With many successful bands, deciding an appropriate time to retire is difficult, but after months of deliberation Yellowcard finally concluded that their era would soon be coming to a close.

“We went into this record knowing it would be the last” said the band. However, even with the end in sight, Yellowcard made sure to produce an album filled with invigorating rock hits like “Got Yours” and “What Appears.”

The opening track, “Rest in Peace,” begins with a rhythmic guitar intro and catchy violin riff that’s intrinsic to Yellowcard’s signature sound. With lyrics like “If this was the last time that we would ever speak, Could we forgive somehow, Could we let it rest in peace,” Resolution and Forgiveness are made apparent as strong themes throughout the song. Even though “Rest in Peace” is the opening track to Yellowcard’s final album, it doesn’t feel like it. The song is uplifting and hopeful in the sense that there’s peace to letting things go.

One of the other main hits from the album, “The Hurt is Gone,” succinctly wraps up some of the important ideas from the album. It discusses the inevitable changes a person goes through, and the hope within that change.

As a band that started in 1997, the members have grown significantly over time, and relay their own personal changes through their music. “The Hurt Is Gone” is so special because everyone at some point in their life can relate to the ideas of the song. Along with an important message, the song includes a melodic guitar introduction and a striking chorus with the lyrics “Change comes for you, even if you’re hiding out. So wake to this truth and maybe you’ll believe me now.”

The final song “Field & Fences” is the most singular track from the album because it’s so poignant and ends the album in such a beautiful way. The 7 minute song includes soft guitar melodies and layered harmonies that sound almost hymn-like. The chorus ties everything back to the beginning track, “Rest in Peace”, with the lyrics “Tennessee, when I finally lay down to sleep, then I’ll rest in your ground.”

While Yellowcard is comparatively more somber than the band’s previous releases, it’s a perfect mix of new music with their old sound.

Even though the band will retire after their December show, they will be playing in Salt Lake City as part of their Final World Tour at The Complex  on October 28th.

Banks – The Altar

The human mind is a curious and fascinating thing. It’s a labyrinth filled with thoughts and an endless stream of ideas. At times, it can seem difficult if not impossible to communicate these thoughts to others. However, that doesn’t seem to be an issue for singer Jillian Rose Banks, better known by her stage name Banks.

With a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Banks often explores themes of relationships, love, and self-discovery. Her music is bare and raw as her lyrics are an open book to her mind. By her appearance, you wouldn’t expect her to be as honest as she is in her songs. Banks is usually very quiet and composed when giving interviews and her social media pages are run by her manager because she does not have much of an interest for it. While she tends to have more of a serious persona, she comes alive when performing her music. The Altar, the artist’s sophomore album, is an extensive look into Banks’ most private thoughts.

The Altar opens up with “Gemini Feed,” a song about one of Banks’ previous emotionally manipulative relationships. In it, she tells the story of how she deeply cared about a man who would always put her down and try to convince her that she needed him. Albeit genuinely loving him, she has grown strong and shows it by singing “And to think you would get me to the altar/Like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water/But admit it, you just wanted me smaller/If you would’ve let me grow, you could’ve kept my love.”

“Judas” is a track dripping with heavy hip-hop influences. It features Banks’ signature disjointed coons as she unabashedly compares one of her ex’s to the Apostle Judas. Her vocals are dark and delicate as she recalls how her ex did her wrong. The song has a certain attitude to it as she points how well she is doing now without him.

Banks holds nothing back on this album. Unlike her first album Goddess, she comes in stronger and powerful. She no longer sounds like the girl lost in love, but rather an empowered woman who will no longer put up with nonsense. When she uses expletives in her songs, they’re not just there as random placeholders but rather a perfect representation of how she’s truly feeling. Although The Altar exemplifies Banks’ growth as a musical artist and person, nothing on this album really stands out to me. The whole album sounds a bit inconsistent. It is a mixture of very high energy songs oddly combined with soft ballad like melodies. While it is not my favorite album, I can respect Banks on her courage to be completely vulnerable to the public through her music.