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Fulfillment Of A Namesake: An Exclusive Interview With RED SUN RISING

By Curt Miller, Editor at Large
Tuesday, June 16, 2015 @ 2:04 PM

"Each step drives you to want it more and want it bigger and better the next time"

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Band Photo Courtesy Of LeAnn Mueller

We’ve all had the dream of someday hitting the big time. When we were kids, we were all going to be astronauts, racecar drivers, or better still, rock stars. Somehow, though, life is what happened while we were making plans, and that’s okay. Most of us wouldn’t change it. We see our kids running around with their own dreams and we’re glad for the choices we’ve made.

Every now and then, though, the big-ticket dream comes to fruition. Along comes the perfect blend of talent, charisma, and determination. Then, boom, rock-stardom is all but a foregone conclusion. Such is the case with RED SUN RISING. In eight months this band has gone from playing clubs in their hometown to touring the country twice, including shows at Carolina Rebellion and Rock On The Range, to signing a record deal and recording a new album.

Prior to their show in Pittsburgh, the guys in RED SUN RISING had a spare minute to talk with me about the whirlwind ride they’ve been on these past several months. Here’s what they had to say about their amazing journey so far.

KNAC.COM: Mike and Ryan, it’s my understanding that the two of you have known each other for quite some time, having grown up together in Akron, OH. How long have you been playing music together and when did you form RED SUN RISING?

Ryan (Williams): Our singer Mike (Protich) was 19 and I was 21. He was working with some bands he’d formed out of high school and I was in a band that had started to make some headway in Akron. My band broke up and we were looking for a singer. There was so much frustration. [Pointing to Mike] I actually ran into this dude at a gas station.

MIKE: From about 2006 to 2008 we did virtually nothing but write. We played maybe two shows during that whole time. We didn’t even name the band until late in 2007 when we became RED SUN RISING. We didn’t start gigging until 2009.

RYAN: We played a lot locally, but just never went out of town. We were consistent in that way. To sum it up, we’ve been together for ten years, no eleven.

MIKE: We started writing together at least two years before playing shows. We just wrote songs, which is why when we went into this record, we had such a ridiculously huge backlog of songs.

RYAN: The funny thing is, only three or four of those songs stayed in there. Once we got into the studio, we focused two weeks on “Emotionless” at first. Then they were like, ‘What else do you want to do?’ We went through the backlog, and then we had days when we just wanted to write. It really started flowing and we wrote the rest of the record. We ended up writing eighteen new songs in two weeks. We recorded them, sent them off to the label, and picked the best twelve.

Wow! Now that I think of it, there may actually have been twenty new songs. It was a lot of fun!

KNAC.COM: RED SUN RISING was growing very quickly in popularity in your hometown market, but all of a sudden the band broke on the national level starting with a fall tour in support of POP EVIL. How did this come about and did you get signed to Razor & Tie before or immediately after the POP EVIL tour?

MIKE: It’s kind of funny. We signed with G&G Management, who also manages POP EVIL. We’d previously released Independent records, but we didn’t have an album out with them yet. So, the first thing they wanted to do was get us on the road. Literally, the morning we left for the POP EVIL tour we signed the Razor & Tie contract. It happened super fast! RYAN: Razor & Tie’s exposure to us performing live had been video only until after we’d already landed the OPO EVIL tour. Maybe a week or so prior to the start of the tour, they flew out to see us at a local venue where we put together a last-minute show for them. That was their first exposure to us live and, as Mike mentioned, we signed with them soon thereafter on the same morning we left for the POP EVIL tour. We were driving to Tulsa, OK and we stopped in Cleveland on our way from Akron to sign our record contract.

KNAC.COM: When did you head to L.A. to begin recording your debut album with Razor & Tie, Polyester Zeal, which will be released August 7th?

RYAN: We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas at home. Then, right after New Years, we flew right out to L.A to do the record.

MIKE: Yeah, it was January 5th. We got to go home for the holidays; then we were out in L.A. for three months. We did the POP EVIL tour, had a little break, then left again for the West Coast to record our album. That’s how fast it happened.

KNAC.COM: What was your in-studio experience with legendary producer Bob Marlette?

RYAN: Bob Marlette actually passed on a few records to do this one, some mainstream ones, in fact. He had a lot of faith in our sound. He liked Mike’s voice and felt that we were really good songwriters who were ready for the next level. That’s why I think he chose to focus on “Emotionless” first. We all sat down and discussed the song together, where he felt it was strong or weak, and where we thought it should be. Once we got the feel for that process, we pretty much had a rhythm going for creating the album. Honestly, the Marlettes are like family to us.

MIKE: Yeah, they are. They completely took us in. The studio is at Bob’s house, so the vibe working with him is really relaxed. You feel like you’re part of the family by the end of the recording process. The coolest thing about him is that he let us make the record that we wanted to make. He didn’t tell us we needed to do this or that. He was of the mindset that we already had it and he was just going to tighten it up.

RYAN: One of our biggest concerns was outside interference, but there wasn’t any. We brought it to the label and they said, ‘You know what? You brought us a great record.’

KNAC.COM: When the band was signed last fall Mike, Ryan, and guitarist Tyler Valendza were essentially RED SUN RISING’s only full-time members. How and when and did bassist Ricky Miller and drummer Pat Gerasia end up joining the band?

PAT: Ricky’s and my story are a bit different. My old band FUSEBOX POET used to tour with RED SUN RISING. We did Independent tours together and always helped each other out. We’ve kept in touch for years. I’m from North Carolina, but moved to L.A. about eight months ago. It just so happened that they were on the West Coast doing the record and we reconnected. It took a while to reach the point where I’m actually out here on the road with the band. It’s my first tour as a member of RED SUN RISING, so I’m the newest guy. But it’s definitely terrific to be out here!

RICKY: I’ve known the guys in RED SUN RISING for three or four years. I got a call from Ryan four or five months ago asking if I’d like to sign on as the bass player in the band. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I was like, ‘Hell yeah I’ll do it.’ They flew me out to L.A. in March for two weeks and it was amazing. It was my first time on a plane, too.

RYAN: He’s leaving out the fact that he’s a perennial Akron legend. He was the lead singer in a band in Akron and he’s also a great guitarist and piano player. We brought Ricky in and Chris Marlette, Bob’s son, played drums on the record and he did the SEETHER tour with us, too. He’s another amazing guy.

We sat down in the GC Studios one day, took a deep breath, and decided that Ricky would play bass even though he doesn’t normally do that. We were all happy with the decision. Bob came in to offer a critical assessment, heard a couple songs, and said, ‘This is the band.’ He knew Pat was an option, too. So, at that point we had our lineup. It’s been a really great decision, too, especially given Ricky’s vocal abilities.

MIKE: The cool thing is that I do a lot on this record where I sing (harmonize) with myself like ALICE IN CHAINS used to do. With Ricky in the band, we can reproduce that live instead of having one of the parts on a track. It sounds amazing.

RYAN: In terms our lineup, until 2013 we were a four-piece band. I played guitar as did Mike along with his role as lead vocalist. We added Tyler who was a local kid who we’d known for a long time. He’s just a monster guitarist. There were always ideas that we’d wanted to try, but it was difficult with Mike singing, as well. So, we thought, ‘What if there were three guitar ideas?’ We gave Tyler a call, asked him to come play with us for a bit, and he jumped right in. He’s been with us now for three years.

KNAC.COM: The first track from this album, “The Otherside”, which has already been released, definitely has a moody, Alternative feel to it. Is that how you’d describe the overall sound of this record?

MIKE: “The Otherside” sets the tone for the rest of the record, but it’s not necessarily like the rest of the record. The only thing that’s similar about it and the rest of the tracks on the album is that it’s groove oriented with heavy rhythms. There are also a lot of texture and layers to it, which most of the songs have in common.

RYAN: You have to take into account the intent behind the songs, as well. For example, the song “Amnesia” contains lyrics that are very motivational. It really depends on where we’re at when we right the music.

That’s anther thing people don’t know about this band. You’ll never be sure where a guitar part came from. Mike may have written all of the riffs on a particular song while I was the one to develop the song’s overall concept. We always come together and find a common ground. We even interpret how songs make us feel differently, which is kind of part of the art.

It’s not necessarily a moody record. It’s dark, but that’s our nature. We’re easygoing in person, but we take the music very seriously. You get twelve tracks to say something on an album, so what are you going to talk about? We take that part very seriously.

There’s also the dynamic of the three of us being away from our families in a place where we’re comfortable, but have never been. We start to become very introspective. As Mike has stated, this record has a little bit of everybody in it and the songs are about the things that led up to it. I would describe this record as the story behind getting to the record. So, the next album is definitely going to be different.

KNAC.COM: The RED SUN RISING story is virtually the stuff of legend, which is to your credit. It shows how much talent you have and how much hard work and dedication you’ve put into this band. Take our readership through that journey every band dreams can happen from local favorite to supporting POP EVIL on a national tour to record deal to Rock On The Range to touring with NOTHING MORE.

MIKE: We don’t wake up every day and say, ‘Yes! We’re on tour!’ This is just the next thing we have to do. We’re going to go out and play a show tonight. We’re not thinking about what we’ve been able to do. Yes, we’ve done a lot in eight months time, but I don’t feel like we did. I feel like this is just the next thing we have to do every day.

RYAN: One of the things that keeps us going, too, is a mindset of, ‘On to the next thing.’ Here we are on tour with NOTHING MORE and WILSON, which is awesome, right? But, just today “The Otherside” hit FM Radio, so here’s yet another thing that’s happened. We’re waiting to hear what the feedback will be. Where might that take us in a month?

I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish, but we’re constantly striving. Sometimes, maybe we should stop and take a deep breath and go, ‘This is fun! This is cool!’ Our conversations are always about what’s next, very goal-driven. But, is it awesome? Yeah! It’s cool! I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time. I remember the first time we headlined our own show in our hometown in front of 200 people. We were so proud. But, you don’t wake up afterwards and take a month off. You wake up the next morning and try to figure out how to get 500 people in there the next time.

MIKE: Each step drives you to want it more and want it bigger and better the next time. Also, part of what kept us doing it is that we knew it had to happen. Every day that went by we were that much further down the rabbit hole, so we had to do it now because we’re not going to get back out.

RYAN: My thing is I’ve always liked our music, too. I know; when you write your own music, you’re not supposed to say that you like it. But I do. I know what kind of music I like and I know who my influences are. A reoccurring theme with this band has been that, once we’ve had the opportunity to present our material to anyone, it’s always gone over really well. We want people to like it, so we always felt if we could get exposure on a wider level, we could make a career of it. I definitely think we can continue to grow, but we’re also very appreciative of where we are right now.

KNAC.COM: With Polyester Zeal coming out August 7th is there a tour already in the works in support of the new release?

MIKE: Yes. We just signed with APA and we’re going out on tour with POP EVIL again. The plan is to keep us on the road this year. We really want to promote this record. We’re a strong live band, so pushing our record by being out there performing is a great approach. We’re excited about it.

KNAC.COM: What’s next for this band with seemingly endless potential?

MIKE: A lot of this is so new to me, I just don’t know. Every time we reach a new level it’s like, ‘Oh, wow; we can do that?’ Then, it’s new again. When we got the call for the first POP EVIL tour, it was hard to believe that we were going on the road with a real band. It gave us a chance to play to so many new markets in front of really big crowds. We’ve been doing that for a while. Then, the next thing happens. Our record is released and is going to be on the radio. And that’s a thing. I don’t even know how to react. I continue to be surprised at each level. We just know that we have to keep doing what we do every day, which is performing our asses off. That’s where our focus is.

RYAN: I’m interested to see how people embrace all of it. Also, it’s my hope for this band and for the music industry in general that we’ll have the opportunity to explore a variety of genres. I love rock and alternative. Really, I love all styles of music and there’s a little tinge of everything in what we create. I’d like to see us broaden our horizons even more. We’ve never pigeonholed ourselves in songwriting and I don’t want that to ever happen. My goal is for us to always be able to grow how we want to grow.

KNAC.COM: What’s something about RED SUN RISING that your fans likely don’t know about you?

MIKE: We’re huge comedy fans, especially of Jim Carrey. Half of our dialogs are quotes from Jim Carrey movies, either during load-in or sound check. We even quote old comedies, like Airplane! and Blazing Saddles. [Laughing] It’s pretty much constant!

I’m not a betting man. Hell, I don’t even play the lottery, but I’ll not soon forget the first time I saw RED SUN RISING perform in Youngstown, OH last September. I was certain from the moment they took the stage that someday they’d be touring the country promoting their own material. They’ve got terrific songs, are talented musicians, and their live performance is outstanding!

The best example I can give of the response RED SUN RISING gets at a live show came at their Pittsburgh show where they opened for NOTHING MORE. RED SUN RISING is new to the Pittsburgh market, so when they first came on the crowd was a bit uncertain as to what to expect. After a couple of songs, everyone’s hands were in the air, fists pumping. By the last song of the set, the audience was singing the lyrics back to Mike to a yet unreleased song. Mike started them off and the audience finished every chorus. That’s the RED SUN RISING effect and that’s why this is a must see band who’s rise to success is quite literally part of its very namesake.

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