Interview with the Bastard Suns (Clayton Hiers)

Interviews | May 23rd, 2016

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Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, the Bastard Suns are a mix of punk fury, southern raucousness and moon-stomping energy. Having just finished up with yet another national tour, Clayton Hiers (founding member, singer, songwriter, graphic designer and musician extraordinaire) took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.

First off, for those that may know little of the Bastard Suns, give us a brief history of the band?
I started playing guitar and singing in college around 2000. A few guys approached me at an open mic night and wanted to start a band. While none of those members remain, that planted the seed for what would become the Bastard Suns. I knew I needed a guitarist better than myself, and met Wes through a friend shortly thereafter. Our drummer wasn’t cutting it in the studio, Jay Tea came in to help and boom! We’ve got an amazing new drummer. Our bass player wasn’t staying sober enough for gigs and Levon was there immediately to step in. And when they cycled out, we found two unbelievably talented musicians in Manny and Tonka, and we’re back at it again. That’s what keeps me going: It’s like it was meant to be. Every time a door closes in this band, another opens. Sure, we’re not conventionally successful, but the adventures and experiences we’ve shared are the stuff of legend.

What makes the Suns sound so fun and entertaining are the variety of genre-stretching influences ranging from country and bluegrass to punk, reggae and ska. Who are some of the bands’ biggest influences?
That’s one of the great things about this particular band: no genre is off limits. We’re predominantly from the south, so country and bluegrass are our heritage. Most grew up skateboarding and surfing and that leads directly to punk, ska and reggae. Sublime is a great example of a mercurial band. No matter how many genres they covered, there is never a point when you say to yourself, “That doesn’t sound like Sublime.” Recognizability in spite of variety is extremely important to us.

People know the Bastard Suns as a road band as you seem to always be touring across the country. What are some of the best and worst road experiences that you’ve encountered as a band?
I hate to be general but the best times would never translate properly to print and the worst were never that bad in the first place. One of my favorite sayings is, “If things are going well, it’s fun. If things are going badly, it’s funny.” Words to live by, especially after 16 national tours. But believe me that we’ve seen more natural beauty than can be described, partied with more amazing people than can be recounted and drank and smoked more than should be legally allowed by law.

Are there any songs in particular that, as a band, you guys love or hate to play live?
Not really. Our old tour manager Bobby said he couldn’t stand ‘My Pint’ because he’d heard it so many times but that thought never really occurred to the rest of us, maybe because it’s so much fun to play.

In 2011 the band released 4 separate season-themed EPs titled “A Band For All Seasons”. Each EP has a unique sound and feel to it in correlation to the time of year that it represents. Where did this idea come from and how difficult was it to write songs for this concept and then coordinate them to a particular season? Or was this process easier than it seems?
The idea was really easy: I smoked a bunch of weed and said those famous magic words: “You know what would be really cool…?”. The actuality, on the other hand, was very difficult. I have a graphic design degree and consider myself a decent songwriter but, I definitely bit off a bit more than I could chew. In the end though, the outcome was more than I could have hoped for. Big thanks to the band and Whitney for all their artistic and musical efforts.

One of the most fun and unique songs from the “Seasons” EPs is a ska punk cover of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”. Who’s the Rod Stewart fan in the band?
Wes. Definitely Wes Driscoll and more specifically, Wes’ parents. That was one I didn’t think would work and thankfully, I was dead wrong. Big thanks to the Driscoll Clan, that was a good call.

Speaking of cover songs, which the band has a knack for molding them into their own…if each member of the group could choose any one song of their choice to cover with no arguments from any other members of the band, what would those songs be and why?
Sorry, can’t answer that one because I’m the only one here. But I can give you the inside scoop on a few we’ve been kicking around: Hold on by Wilson Phillips, I’m So Excited by The Pointer Sisters and The Bangles’ version of Hazy Shade of Winter. Consider yourself warned.

Recently the Bastard Suns went through a lineup change adding a new bassist in Mongo Peterson as well as a second full-time vocalist in Whitney Carite. Were there a lot of adjustments within the band with the addition of two new members?
Gotta get you up to date: Mongo didn’t work out so we have Manny Munoz now. Also our long time drummer Jay Tea left to start a family and we luckily knew Tonka Green, and he was gracious enough to join. I love these guys. Without them, we might have had to hang it up. And Whitney has been a blessing, both musically and artistically.

Adding a second full-time vocalist may or may not be a band breaking procedure, and I know that there are a few male/female duets throughout the Bastard Suns catalog, but how difficult was it to adapt parts of older songs for Whitney to sing?
Whitney is incredibly versatile, and she has a strong harmony so it was almost too easy. Again, we’ve been incredibly blessed/lucky.

Some bands like to keep the mystique of the origin of their name secret, but what’s the history behind the name “Bastard Suns”?
I’m sorry to say that I’ve just answered that one too many times to count. I think we’ll just go for mystique from here on out. She’s hot as fuck.

While it’s only been a little over two years since the release of “Long Live Song”, how are the plans coming along for world domination as well as for a follow up album? Any plans on possibly a Johnny Cash or Slayer cover? Or even a One Direction cover song?
You definitely mentioned ‘one direction’ our covers will never go!

Is there a world tour in the near future for the Bastard Suns? Any particular places that you guys would love to travel to and play?
There have been a few discussions lately about support tours and even a headlining tour to Europe. Nothing concrete yet but I would love to go there, Australia or Japan. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

If you could describe the band in comparison to a superhero group, who would you be?
No specific team comes to mind, but let me just say that Tonka smash, Manny hypnotize, Clay growl, Whitney shriek and Wes shred. Yup, that covers it.

Feel free to give a shout out to friends/family/sponsors!
Thanks to our families, friends and fans for their continued support, and special thanks to Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Lace Pickups and Soultone Cymbals.


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