Hail The Sun is a band from Chico, California who just released their third album, Culture Scars, on Equal Vision Records. It's nearly impossible to pin down the type of music they produce into one specific genre. They've been described as post-hardcore, experimental rock, progressive rock, progressive hardcore, math rock, and numerous others.
They would just define themselves as "four dudes, one music."
Their music is technical wizardry, with complex guitar parts, stellar drumming, and soaring, dramatic vocals. Their infectious, high-energy sound is one of the many reasons why they are one of the best up-and-coming bands in the scene today.
Guitarist Shane Gann spoke with Tattoodo about their newest album, their tour, and of course, tattoos.
Hail The Sun. #HailTheSun Photo by Rafael Gamez
Tattoodo: Your songs are so complex and technical, with shifts in time signatures and just crazy instrumentation, we're curious how you come up with them. Does it start with a guitar riff or is it a collaborative effort?
Shane Gann: Typically, either Aric or myself will come up with something rad on guitar (Donovan has contributed plenty of sweet riffs that have become songs, as well). From that point, if I can hear in my head where a riff naturally seems to want to go, I'll keep writing the song's skeleton before presenting it to the band, where we'll change this and that, and add our special blend of herbs and spices to make it a Hail The Sun song. If I can't hear that natural next part, though, I'll present just that first rad riff to the group, and we'll continue the process more as a group (though this is a more rare occurrence, as we all live in different parts of California). It's always very organic, though, and we try every idea, no matter how stupid they sound.
One of the themes of Culture Scars is disillusionment with the entertainment industry, what inspired that?
The biggest message we, as a band, try to present, is to question everything. We so often take things at face value, whether it comes at us via social media, "traditional" media, or even just hearsay. That same mentality easily bleeds into the entertainment industry, as well, where we tend to just assume that everyone involved is doing so for the right reasons, sending the right messages, etc. While this may often be the case, it isn't always, and with Culture Scars, we want to remind people to further investigate what they're allowing to become a part of their own lives. Control your influence.
Some other themes of the album appear to be contempt for the current political system, do you think we are heading down the wrong path politically? How do you think that can change?
You guys don't mess around! Diving right into the juicy stuff. I'm not getting up on any soapbox or anything, but I will say this and only this: change comes from action. Words, ideas, petitions, protests, all the way down to the songs we're writing about this stuff... they only go so far. As a people, if we decide we want things to be different, I firmly believe we have the power to make that happen, but it'll take real action by a real community of really committed people.
How was working with Mike Watts as a producer for the new album?
From the get-go, Mike always had this mentality that our record was going to be "so fucking good," which is EXACTLY the kind of confidence you want from your engineer/producer. It was so, so easy to work with him and the VuDu crew (even when we were butting heads), because it was so obvious we all wanted what was best for the part, the song, and the album. Long Island is officially home of my favorite jamokes.
How has the transition from Blue Swan Records to Equal Vision gone?Label changes aren't always as dramatic as they seem! The relationship with a label is very parental, so in our case, Equal Vision is like our new stepdad, and our old dad (Will Swan of Blue Swan Records) is just happy to see his little boys succeeding! The relationship we have with the Blue Swan family is still just as strong as ever, and we're even playing a Night of the Blue Swan at the Roxy on December 11th (we're playing our album "Wake" from front to back). More than anything else, it seems everyone is just proud of us and excited that we're continuing to grow.
Donovan Melero has a side project with Sianvar, is anyone else doing a side project or interested in doing a side project?
As far as I know, I'm the only other one doing anything else on the side, with [sufferer]. It's a very specific project, with specific people recruited to fill the roles that the music calls for (Cory Lockwood [vocals] from A Lot Like Birds, Blake Dahlinger [drums] from I The Mighty, myself [guitars/bass/vocals], and our good friend Forrest Wright [even more vocals]). The project centers around anxiety and depression, with a portion of all income going directly to a non-profit that focuses on the same issues. It's heavy, and you can expect it within a couple months!
Are there any songs or albums out there that made you think, Fuck, I wish I wrote that?
Absolutely! I'm a huge nerd for a good chord progression, and songs like Built To Spill's "Carry The Zero" or the chorus of The Reign of Kindo's "Something In The Way That You Are" have these chord changes that literally help the song "progress" in a way that feels unexpected, familiar, and just so G.D. rewarding to listen to. The way I see it, people might often only pay attention to the riffs/melodies/lyrics, but if you boil those away, all you're left with is a foundation of chords, and that's typically what catches my ear first.
What is one band you’d love to tour with?
I can only pick one?! Since I'm answering for the whole band, I'll say Circa Survive. They're an obvious influence of ours, and I think we'd fit really well on a tour with them. Sure, we've played a couple festivals with Circa, but we've never gotten to really "bro down" and become good friends, the way we would if they were forced to spend every day for a month with (bassist) John (Stirrat).
What is your favorite song to play live?
That answer changes constantly, but right now, I think "Burn Nice and Slow" is probably my favorite. It's not overly difficult like some of our other stuff, and all the riffs are really fun to play, especially to a crowd! Though I'm really excited to play "Jane Doe" for the Roxy show I keep mentioning *wink wink*.
Do you have a favorite venue/city to play?
My favorite venue is Chain Reaction, in Anaheim, California. That's where I grew up watching Orange County punk and hardcore bands and it first helped me discover what a local show was. Then I saw Horse The Band change my perception of what a local show could be. It's where I get most excited to play, still, to this day. It's cramped and loud and they don't even sell booze. I love it.
Do you have any tattoos that are special to you?
I won't name them all, but the really special ones are as follows: I have a balance on my forearms to remind me of the importance of balance in all things, music stuff on my upper arms that reminds me to love accidents and to appreciate rest (both in music and in everything else), a dharma wheel on my calf to keep me on my personal path, and I have Dickbutt tattooed on my left butt cheek (the most special of them all).
Have you seen any Hail The Sun-inspired tattoos out there, like lyrics or album artwork? If so, what were your favorites?
It still trips all of us out that people would get Hail The Sun tattoos! It reminds us that what we do is actually affecting people, which is both humbling and flattering, and keeps us accountable. As far as favorites go... recently, we've seen a large spike in Hail The Sun tattoos, and I think it has at least a little bit to do with the fact that we've really embraced our logo, which actually was pulled from a matching tattoo all of us in the band got done a few years ago (with A Lot Like Birds and I The Mighty). This has become my personal favorite to see on people, as it's like we all have matching tattoos.
What’s next for Hail The Sun?
Short-term: I'm not sure if I mentioned, but we have a show at The Roxy in LA on December 11th, where we'll be performing our album, Wake, in its entirety. The following weekend, we have a show at The Boardwalk in Sacramento to celebrate that venue's long and cherished history. Long-term: I've already started writing 4 or 5 songs for a new album, and we've got a tour lined up for early 2017!