January 2016 interview by Todd Jolicoeur, photos by mintypics.com
New comers Red Sun Rising have been creating a buzz in the rock world since the release of their major label debut Polyester Zeal. The first single went to No. 1 and the second seems to be headed in the same direction. In the midst of a short headline run, lead singer Mike Protich took some time out and spoke with us about the album, singles, tour, and more...
Toddstar: We appreciate you taking time out for us.
Mike: Yeah, totally.
Toddstar: There is a lot going on in the world of Red Sun Rising lately, but let's back it up to 2015 a little bit. You guys put out a full length disc, Polyester Zeal, which dropped back in August. How the reception of that been, few months later? You still getting good reception on that disc?
Mike: Absolutely. The first single going to number one brought us a lot of attention, and then we just released our second single "Emotionless," which is quickly climbing. There was a lot of pressure with the second single, but we were prepared for it. You get a number one right off the bat, and you want to stay there, you want to sustain that. We're hoping the second single can push us even further, but it's very exciting, and yes the response has been great and continues to grow, actually.
Toddstar: You mentioned "Emotionless;" at this point so far I think it's peaked at somewhere around twenty-five, maybe a little higher. Following up a number one, you mentioned the stress, was the stress and the pressure coming more from the outside or is that you guys saying to yourself, wow we hit one out of the park, now what do we do?
Mike: That's more from us. It was basically more motivating than anything. It's like, okay, well we got there. We got to do this. We got to deliver again, let's keep doing it. Obviously you can only do so much with what you put on the record. You put your heart and soul, and you put all the hard work into making the record. It's not like we can go back and write another single real quick. It's like that's what the record is, and we stand by it. We're proud of every song on the record, and we're excited to release a second single, but it is motivating for moving forward. The more success you get, at least this band, the more success we get, the more we want to go even further and push ourselves harder. It's definitely motivating.
Toddstar: All right, and you mentioned motivation. You guys had a great producer in the studio with you guys. You had Bob Marlette with you, how much did he bring to the table to kind of help push you guys into putting out the album you guys really wanted to put out?
Mike: One of the biggest reasons why we went with Bob in the first place is he said something to us in the very beginning, when we were kind of interviewing producers, and he said, "You guys have all the talent and all the means of making a great record. I just need to show you how to use it," and that's what he did. He didn't try to change us. He didn't tell us how to do things. He just taught us how to use what we were already good at. Another thing he brought to the table is telling us when to stop. He knew that sometimes when you're jamming on an idea, or your brainstorming, it's easy to go too far, like past the exit, for lack of a better term. He knew when to say nope, that's it, stop. You got it. That's why he's so good. It was not so much of telling us how to do it. It was telling us when to stop and tell us, you have it. That's it.
Toddstar: Again, Polyester Zeal's been huge. It's a great album top to bottom. We enjoyed listening to every song on there.
Mike: Thank you.
Toddstar: I've got my own favorites. I do love the new single "Emotionless," which you mentioned just dropped. Looking back through the songs, are there any songs that really kind of pushed you as a writer? Made you just step out of your comfort zone?
Mike: I think the whole record really did. It's not different, like if you ever heard any of our independent records, you would realize that it's not that different than what we sounded like originally. You just saw a little bit more maturity, and I think that's where the growth was, and I think that's where the challenge was, is to make is an evolution to make it what it is. We're constantly growing. Referencing back the older material, it's not like we changed a bunch. It didn't challenge us in that regard, but it did challenge us into more like honing the craft a little more, so making it more precise and accurate.
Toddstar: That said, what was probably the easiest track for you, from a writer's standpoint to get out? Which one just kind of flowed?
Mike: Some of the songs we brought to the table from past material, like "Emotionless" and "Blister," we kind of revamped. That was easy in the studio, because we already free clear direction of where we wanted those songs to go. Now however, the other side, which we led off with, which did have the success that it did, was one of those songs that kind of came together quickly in a matter of a couple days, and it was a very natural song. It just came out. That song actually came together rather quickly, which I feel some of the best songs do, because it's natural. It's not forced. It's just whatever came out of us.
Toddstar: On the flip side, Mike, what was probably the hardest song to finish up?
Mike: We spent a ton of time on "Emotionless," even though we had a direction on where we wanted to go and the song was basically done, but that was the song that got us the deal, in the begin with, like the deal with Razor and Tie. There was a lot of pressure to make that song. That was supposed to be the home run on the record, so our job was to beat that song when we were writing the rest of the record. We spent the first three weeks in the studio, just working on "Emotionless," and tweaking it, and tweaking it, until we got it right. That song was probably the most stressful just to get done. Obviously we wanted to be happy, but the label wanted to be happy to. It was kind of that compromise. It's like, well let's knock this one out of the park so we can have them rest assured that we're going to make a great record.
Toddstar: That's a perfect segue. Razor and Tie released this album for you. How different was the whole process, even just from stepping into the studio for the first time until a record was released? How different was that process for you guys as a band, doing a dual label instead of on your own?
Mike: The biggest thing was, obviously having a budget and the means to be able to do that every day. That was the first time ever that we were able to go to a studio and live and breathe music for four months. Recording as an independent artist, you're always doing the late night session with your buddy in the studio, and they could get you time after your job, after you worked all day. Trying to fit it in schedule with work and school, and family and stuff. That was the first time where we just got to be artists, and that's all we did for four months. That changes your mind set because you don't have the stress of a day weighing on you. It's just you wake up and start writing music until you are fried for the day and you go to bed. It was completely different, and to take yourself out of that daily stress is I think important to making a great record, because the vibe of it really translates into the music.
Toddstar: With that said, now you've got to take this out to the crowds. You guys have been doing that. You've had some great touring behind this album, but you're getting ready to hit some smaller shows, big shows for you guys. One of my favorites coming up, Flint, Michigan. You are playing the world famous Machine Shop [http://www.themachineshop.info/].
Mike: Oh, yeah.
Toddstar: What's it like playing a place like The Machine Shop, where you're getting a little more intimate with the audience?
Mike: The coolest thing about that place in particular is just how many great bands started there on their first couple tours, and even still some big bands will go back and play this, because the history, and it's a very respected place and the people of Flint, they always show up, and they're a very huge part of why that venue is so successful, because they keep showing up and their passionate about music, and bands want to go there. We're looking forward to it, meeting what fans we have there in Flint. I think it will be a very exciting night for everybody.
Toddstar: I'd agree with that. I know they're looking forward to you guys. Once you guys get off this short little stretch here, you got a show tonight in Philly I believe...
Mike: Yes, we do.
Toddstar: Once you guys get through this, then you're going to hit some of those big festivals. What's that like for you guys? Are you guys just kind of pinching yourselves say, holy crap we've done it...
Mike: Really, it's kind of strange. We wake up every day, and we just take every challenge that we have on a daily basis. Even with the success that we've had at Radio and the festivals we've already done, we don't think of it as, oh we made it. It's more of, okay, how do we keep going? How do we get to the next level from here? We just keep our heads down and working hard, and that's all we can do it just be the best we can every day, and try and evolve and grow. The festivals, we're just excited to constantly evolve our show and hope that people leave these festivals saying, wow, they got even better than the last time I saw them. That's the only thing that we could hope for.
Toddstar: Sure. That said, when you're doing these festivals, are there any bands that you can't wait to stand on the side of the stage and watch, and just observe?
Mike: Oh, yeah. There have been so many bands, just this past year, that we got to play with that I never dreamed of playing with, and this year as well. A lot of these festivals are doing Red Hot Chili Peppers, in particular, are headlining a lot of them. Yeah, that's a band that we all grew up listening to. We're ecstatic that they're on there. Just to say that we're ... We're nowhere near the time slot that they're going to be, but to say that we're on the same festival as them, is incredible, and I never thought I'd be able to say that. There are plenty of other bands too. They just really stick out for me personally.
Toddstar: If you had the choice, what band would you want to pair up with Red Sun Rising, which you think would complement you guys, and you would also complement them on a tour run?
Mike: That's a good question. We all have our dream tours and bands that we'd want to play with, but that doesn't necessarily mean it would work, and I put work in quotations because you never know. Most people I know now, including myself, listen to pretty much everything, but for me, I think I would love to tour with some of my hero bands, like Sound Garden, Alice in Chains, Tool, Perfect Circle, but then there's bands like some more alternative bands, like Radio Head or something, or Incubus that I would love to tour with. I'm kind of all over the place, really.
Toddstar: Mike, if a fan found your phone or your iPod lying behind, what music might they find on your device that would shock them?
Mike: I listen to a lot of female vocalists. I almost never listen to rock, and it's not because I don't like rock, it's because I'm around it all the time. I see it live all the time. Sometimes you need to step away from it I think. I listen to Alanis Morissette, and Imogen Heap, and a girl named Grimes, so just like some cool independent artists, and some female vocalist, obviously Alanis Morrissette's huge, but for some reason I'm really drawn to the female voice. I think it adds a cool element to music.
Toddstar: If you could pick a female to duet with on a Red Sun Rising track, who's got the voice that would gel with your sound?
Mike: I would totally love to do a duet with Alanis Morissette. That'd be sick.
Toddstar: Man. That's a good choice. Especially, like you said, the era that the music that you grew up with.
Mike: Right, and she's kind of got that edge to her a little bit, you know.
Toddstar: Well listen man, I know you're busy. I know you got a show to get ready for, so we've got one more for you before we cut you lose. With everything you guys have done. You guys are still just youngsters on the scene so to speak, even though you've been cracking at this eight, nine years, but you guys are the new kids on the block still. What is the next step for you guys? I mean you got the album. You got the record deal. You got the big tours. You got the festivals. What's next for you guys?
Mike: Next for us is just to continue to make ourselves better, and to be able to write music that hopefully becomes timeless, and sustains us to be able to make this our career for a very, very long time, because this is what we're good at, and this is what we want to do, and this is what we're passionate about. I guess the goal is just to expose us to more and more people, and connect with more people, and keep writing music.
Toddstar: Awesome. Well Mike, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it in the middle of your tour, and we can't wait to see you guys on the last day of the tour when you hit The Machine shop in Flint, Michigan, and we wish you safe travels until then.
Mike: Right on. I'll see you there man.
Toddstar: All right brother. Talk to you soon.
Mike: Take care.
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