With the release of Disappear Here, Bad Suns’ impressively wise and honest sophomore album, it is hard to believe the four-piece began as a chance friendship between Christo Bowman (vocals) and Gavin Bennett (bass) in a 7th grade Los Angeles County classroom. The pair picked up Miles Morris (drums) and Ray Libby (guitar) along the way, and together they spent their teenage years navigating the daunting Los Angeles music scene.
While many would consider the vast history and densely populated musical turf of Los Angeles intimidating, Bad Suns rose to the challenge. As Bowman recalls, “I can recount many instances where we’d play the Whisky a Go Go along with five terrible glam-rock-wanna-be bands. It made us want to do something different and work towards a new era of the Los Angeles sound.” While finding their place in LA’s scene wasn’t easy, Bowman is also thankful for the innumerable opportunities that come with living in one of the nation’s musical capitals. “Our band was discovered because we drove to KROQ and dropped off a demo in their mailbox,” he says, “At the end of the day, nobody’s going to care about your band unless you’ve got some good songs for them.”
The song that caught the ear of KROQ DJ Kat Corbett was “Cardiac Arrest,” the band’s first and breakthrough single, on her Locals Only radio show. From there, the band earned the attention of Vagrant Records, who signed Bad Suns in 2013 and introduced the band to producer Eric Palmquist (Night Riots, MUTEMATH). Together, Palmquist and Bad Suns polished up the demos to create TRANSPOSE, their debut 4-song EP which was released later that year. On the strength of the EP Bad Suns began to tour throughout the US alongside acts like Geographer, The 1975, and The Vaccines.
Less than a year later, Bad Suns returned with their debut full-length, Language & Perspective (2014/Vagrant). The shimmery alt-rock album, also produced by Palmquist, showed off the young band’s wide array of influences, which Bowman often says include The Cure, The Clash and Elvis Costello. “Cardiac Arrest” began to pick up steam at radio nationally and climbed the Alternative chart (#14) and AAA (#11), and earning the band their debut Late Night television performance on Conan. With the success of “Cardiac Arrest” and a heavy touring schedule, Language & Perspective rose to #24 on the Billboard 200 and was included on many critics’ best of 2014 year-end lists. “Salt,” the band’s second single, followed suit and quickly climbed the Alternative chart and earned Bad Suns their first mtvU Woodie nomination for Video of the Year, a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and their debut at Coachella.
Just a few years into their budding career, Bad Suns had achieved no small amount of success with their debut record, something which can often be daunting for a young band staring down the barrel of a sophomore album. Instead of shying away or playing it safe, Bowman began to refine a set of songs which would become Disappear Here, Bad Suns’ 2016 sophomore album (Vagrant/BMG). Disappear Here shows the maturation of a band on the brink of fully realizing their identity and poised for a breakthrough. “Language and Perspective was four teenagers trying to figure out how to make an album as a way to avoid college and real jobs,” Bowman explains, “With this album, it was our real job, and we were not gonna half-ass it. We love the work.”
Bowman was reading the Bret Easton Ellis novel Less Than Zero, a book about the distorted lives of young adults in Los Angeles, during the time the band was beginning the recording process for album number two. “Maybe the second or third time the ‘Disappear Here’ billboard appears in the narrative, it sort of just hit me like a ton of bricks. It encapsulated absolutely everything. What a prompt, ‘put on this record, put on these headphones, and just disappear here for a little while,’” Bowman explains. “It’s a roller coaster ride between pessimism and optimism,” he says. “I wanted these real moments of darkness to be represented and discussed, because we all go through it, but it’s really about hope and saying that you don’t have to succumb to that darkness. There is a light.”
Recorded over two sessions in the Summer of 2015 and Winter of 2016, the album begins with the title track and first single “Disappear Here,” a cut that immediately engages listeners. The first song released in anticipation of the album was the opener, title track, and first single, “Disappear Here,” followed by the album’s second song, “Heartbreaker,” which debuted on Zane Lowe’s Beats1 Radio Show. “Off She Goes” holds a strong emotional connection for Bowman. The track came to life as just melodies and chords on the piano before he wrote the lyrics and he remembers, “just being moved to tears the whole way through.”
Conversely, “Love Like Revenge” started off as an electronic laptop demo recorded on a plane back to LA from London. Bowman was excited to share the track with his bandmates, “I gave Ray my headphones, looking for his opinion, and I still remember his face of approval as he listened to it in the seat next to me on the plane. That’s the best. We’re always aiming to impress one another.” The unique instrumentation makes it a standout on the record.
“Defeated,” a track that Bowman penned when he was only 16 years old, had been cyclically recorded and abandoned over the years. “It was a huge relief to finally get that song where we wanted it,” he says, “It’s one of the simplest songs on the album, but was the most difficult to work through.” “Daft Pretty Boys” is a song the band is particularly proud of, one that they might point new listeners to as an introduction to their sound. Disappear Here closes with “Outskirts of Paradise,” a track that feels like a breezy, late summer day in Los Angeles. With the simple refrain of “separate yourself / integrate yourself / when the time comes,” Disappear Here fades out, with all the certainty and uncertainty of a coming of age tale.
Crafted for the live show, Bad Suns can’t wait to take the album on the road. After serving as main support on massive tours for The Neighbourhood and Halsey in the past year, Bad Suns embark on their biggest headlining tour yet this fall. “Our fans are so warm and loyal. A lot of them will go through some shit in order to make it out to one of our concerts. I’m talking flights, busses, 12-hour car drives, you name it. That will always be very special to me,” Bowman says, “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.”