Turning Up The Heat:
An Interview with Christo Bowman of Bad Suns
Words by Cher Dunn
Photo by Andrew Boyle
When I first heard the Bad Suns single “Cardiac Arrest”, I knew they would be huge. When I heard the rest of their Transpose EP, there was no denying this is only the beginning for the California-based band. Recently signed to Vagrant Records, the hardworking boys have their eyes on the prize. With an intense passion for music and eclectic musical background, these four know how to write and perform some epic, addictive rock songs. Their live shows are electric and powerful, even with so few songs to play, and with a full-length album on the horizon, they are only going to get better and stronger. Look out world, these guys are about to turn up the heat, and we spoke to lead singer Christo Bowman about everything Bad Suns to get you prepared.
When did you form Bad Suns and how did you all meet/ get together?
Miles, Gavin, and I have been playing in a band for five years now. Ray didn’t come into the picture until January 2012. That was when the first Bad Suns songs started coming together and when everything really started.
What were some of your favorite bands growing up? What was your local music scene like? Do you have any favorite local or unsigned bands you are into now?
The local music scene we’re a part of was always quite alive and expanding. In the earlier days, all of our friends were in punk bands. In middle school, that was the most fun you could have. You naturally wanted to play as fast as you could, and as loud as you could. There’s a club in the San Fernando Valley which has sort of become infamous over the years, called The Cobalt Cafe. Whether you love that place or hate, it had an impact on music in the area. With time, our tastes shifted and lead us into different directions, and eventually lead the four of us to making Bad Suns music. Before he joined, Ray was in a cool band called Buffalo Blackfoot. The first time we all hung out was after a show we played together at the Cobalt. That lead to great things and a lot of great friendships.
What was your process, recording your most recent EP Transpose? Did you have most of the songs already written? Do all of you write together or does someone come with an idea first?
The first three songs came together, over time. I wrote the melodies and basic instrumentation and would demo songs at my house. We’d all get together and start playing and really turn the demo into what felt like a Bad Suns song. Figuring out what a Bad Suns song should sound like took a bit of time and a lot of experimentation. “Twenty Years” was written a few days before we entered the studio, and we really brought it to life during the session. We don’t have one particular writing process. We like to write a song however it comes naturally; starting with a drum beat, bass line, guitar lick, or melody. We’ve gotten to a place where everyone’s more confident than ever in their particular role, so we’ve been cranking out a bunch of new material we’re really excited about, for the full length. It’s quite a collaborative process, piecing the songs together, it’s really a fun time.
There are a ton of great musicians on Vagrant Records right now. What’s it like being signed to Vagrant? Can you tell us the story of how that happened for you?
It’s great. I always envisioned a relationship we’d have with a record company to be quite different. They’re great people, and we’ve really become close with them. They emailed us, last year, around the time that people in the industry were started to take notice of “Cardiac Arrest”. Came to a show, we all got together at their offices for a meeting, shortly after. This was during a period when we were having a lot of different meetings with different people, figuring out who it was we were going to work with. We hadn’t worked with a team before, and we wanted to make smart decisions.
You released a new music video for your addicting new single, “Cardiac Arrest”. What was it like making the video and how did you feel once you saw the end result?
We approached our good friends Zack Sekuler and Daniel Iglesias Jr. to direct the video. I’ve been really close friends with Zack for 7 or 8 years now, and we’ve worked together on several things. He does a lot of graphic design for us, including the EP cover. I basically told the guys “I hate most music videos, let’s come up with something that we don’t hate, and we’ll be happy.” We all got on the same page about the colors and the visual aesthetic and we know it would be fun to make. We were all very pleased the first time we saw it. The original cut wasn’t too different from the one you see now.
You guys are an amazing live band. You’ve been touring quite a lot and have more shows coming up, with Fitz and The Tantrums in California and a bunch of showcases at SXSW. What is your favorite and least favorite part of touring? What are you most excited for this year?
Thank you! When you only have 7 songs to play, there’s not too much you can do. My friend Jake Goldstein described our show to me in a way that made me really happy. He said “You guys show up, you play the shit out of your songs, you leave, and it’s awesome.” I’d hope that’s an accurate description of these first couple of tours. We’re definitely excited to play some new songs from the upcoming full-length on these next tours. We love touring. The traveling, the experiences, the jokes that come from it, playing shows, meeting people. It’s great work. It’s hard to be away from friends and family, but that’s something we’ve been preparing for. It makes you really appreciate home.
What has been your favorite place to play so far? Where would you like to play that you haven’t yet?
I think my favorite show was in Austin, last January. It was an outdoor show, it was packed, people were singing, the vibe was great. Austin is an amazing city. We’re so excited to spend the week there for SXSW. We’re playing the Hollywood Palladium in April. That’s pretty incredible to us, being from LA.
What do you listen to while on tour? Do you get to explore any of the cities you play while on tour?
We listen to a lot of music in the van. The first Bloc Party album was popular on this last tour, as well as Daft Punk, Radiohead, Vampire Weekend, Real Estate, Explosions In The Sky, R. Kelly, etc. Our van broke down in New Orleans, so we got to spend an extra day and night there. That was pretty incredible. You don’t get to explore as much as you want to, especially in the Northeast, during a polar vortex. When you do have the chance, it’s quite nice.
Besides SXSW, do you have any other festivals you are looking forward to playing this summer?
We’re playing at Hangout Fest in Alabama, which we’re really excited about. We’ve heard plenty of good things, it’s a big festival right on the beach. We’re playing Bunbury in Cincinnati. We’re also performing at a few more, which I believe are yet to be announced.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
There honestly isn’t a good answer for that, which is why we’ve always been so driven to make things work. From the start, we’ve all felt that music was the only thing we were going to do. That mentality really is a driving force.
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