Having only formed in 2012, it almost seems as if Los Angeles quartet Bad Suns skipped those awkward “teenage” band years of being more mediocre than not and sprang forth fully formed. After releasing the single “Cardiac Arrest” in 2013, Chris Bowman (vox, guitar), Miles Morris (drums), Gavin Bennett (bass) and Ray Libby (guitar) more than delivered on the promise of exceptional with their debut album, Language & Perspective, in 2014. We have not ruled out the possibility of dark magic being involved but, either way, it was a damned fine record.
Fast-forward to 2016 and their sophomore album, Disappear Here, produced by Eric Palmquist (who also took the reigns on Language & Perspective). The result now is as it was then: a spot on capture of Bad Suns’ California love in music form from the tight construction of a relationship in question in the title track to the shimmer of love in perfect flight in “Swimming In The Moonlight” and it’s “Beat It”-esque outro. Despite his relative youth of 22, Bowman uses Disappear Here for mature self-examination set to absurdly well-structured hooks aka ear candy. These favored LA sons do their city proud with their constant forward success motion and now that they are practically tour vets, on October 19th they kick off their headlining Disappear Here Tour. So a quick Q&A with Chris about things album, tour and tour riders? Sure, why not?
High Voltage: Time-wise you’re still a fairly young band, but a band that has had some significant success. You’ve toured with the likes of the Neighbourhood, the 1975 and Halsey and now you’re on your second full album with a fall headlining tour upcoming: over the past 2 ½ years was there ever a particular moment or moments where it registered that you’d crossed a line and were “professional musicians”?
Chris Bowman: Several. It’s still a shocking realization whenever I come across a thought like that. That’s been the goal forever, and to have crossed that line is very surreal and very rewarding.
HV: I ask that because most artists have a very personal or specific definition of “success” be it winning a Grammy award, releasing an album or simply not having to have a day job. As of right now, what’s your definition of success?
Chris: The fact that we’re all happy to show up to work every day. We don’t take the opportunity we’ve been given for granted.
HV: When it comes to being a musician, being a Los Angeles band is all that you know: how difficult has it been – if at all – being an LA band?
Chris: As you pointed out, it’s all that we know. However, you’d have to be crazy not to acknowledge the certain advantages that come with being in Los Angeles. Our band was discovered because we drove to KROQ and dropped off a demo CD in their mailbox. The proximity thing helps, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, by any means. At the end of the day, nobody’s going to care about your band unless you’ve got some good songs for them, and, perhaps, LA is a great place to discover exactly how true that is.
HV: And KROQ became your earliest radio supporters so that worked out well. There’s a lot to be said for being in this insanely musically crowded city and managing to not only survive, but thrive as you guys have, and in a relatively short amount of time. Which one of you sold their soul to the devil in order for that to happen?
Chris: What people don’t realize is that it actually took years and years of hard work before we came to the conclusion that it was finally time to bite the bullet and sell our souls.
Chris: Our home influences the music a lot. I love LA to the point where it can become annoying to other people.
HV: Was the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” theory the reason why Eric Palmquist was onboard to produce Disappear Here?
Chris: I mean, the way I’d put it is that we feel we share a musical bond with Eric. He was there when we discovered our sound and he’s very passionate about the music and the process, just as we are. There was no question; we knew we wanted to work together on this album.
HV: What’s the actual process of creating Bad Suns songs? Do they tend to start with lyrics or a melody or, maybe, weird dream?
Chris: It’s different each time. An idea becomes real once the right chords meet the right melody. The music has to be damn good before I decide to pursue the lyrics.
HV: How long did this album take to complete? Were there any songs that were challenging to finish or get “right”?
Chris: Personally speaking, I was able to put aside the first album and start writing for this one in December of 2014. That first demo was “Disappear Here.” We entered the studio in July of 2015 and we completed the album in June of 2016. There was some touring in between, as well as several months of writing and demoing. Overall, the process took about a year and a half, but there are some songs on the album which predate the first and even the existence of this band. It’s terribly complicated and terribly boring.
HV: Two of the stand out songs for me are “Off She Goes” and “Maybe We’re Meant To Be Alone” and they’re vastly different in tone and temperature. Of the album’s 13 songs, do you have any personal favorites?
Chris: I love to hear other peoples’ favorites. With our band, everybody seems to have a different idea of what the best stuff is. The two you point out both came from very natural points of inspiration. There are the songs you go fishing for, and there are the songs which arrive from nowhere and come pouring out. Those both fell in the latter category.
HV: Natural inspiration does tend to yield solid results and it obviously worked in those two songs. Now exactly who are these “Daft Pretty Boys” that you sing of?
Chris: That song is a little bit of me tapping into the frustrations of my high school days. I had some fun with it, but I’m proud of that one.
HV: Again with the natural inspiration and a great song as the result! The Disappear Here Tour begins in October and it’s a headlining tour which means it’s your party: You’re the hosts as opposed to being tour support where you’re the guests. Are there any particular adjustments that you have to make as the headliner?
Chris: Exactly. We’ve been working overtime, and yes it will be a bit different than our support slots of the past, and our headline tours of the past for that matter. We’re really grateful to be in this position where we can sell out clubs across the country, and we still feel we have so much to prove.
HV: Curious, are there any tour rider “must haves”?
Chris: Our rider includes socks, La Croix, and most notably, a DVD of the promoter’s choice. We’ve received The Outsiders, the Ghostbusters box set, and Ted in the past.
HV: A band’s got to stay entertained while on the road. So with about four months left in 2016, are there any band goals or accomplishments that you’d like to achieve before the year ends?
Chris: I’d love to have two more key songs written for the next album by the end of this year.
HV: One last thing: Bad Suns vs The Bad Suns. Have you noticed that, now and then, you guys keep becoming a proper noun?
Chris: Call us what you’d like, we’ll call you what we’d like.
HV: Fair enough.