Discussing Warped Tour, Culture Scars, and Pokemon Go with John and Shane from Hail The Sun

Wantagh, NY Warped Tour
Michelle Turk


Hail the Sun is post-hardcore outlet from California that formed in 2009. In January, they wrapped up recording their latest LP Culture Scars here on Long Island, NY at VuDu Studios and this is their first time returning since. They recorded and released a music video for “Words of Gratitude (Parents)” in June when they put out their fourth studio record on Equal Vision Records and wrap up their run on Warped Tour on July 16 to start a headline tour headed west bound. I sat down at the Jones Beach Amphitheatre in Wantagh, NY to discuss Warped Tour, Culture Scars, Pokemon Go, and future goals for Hail the Sun with John Stirrat (bassist) and Shane Gann (guitarist.) Look out for them this fall with an announcement for another tour pushing their album Culture Scars.

Behind the Scene Press: I’m going to nerd out a little on you here. You worked with producer Mike Watts (The Dear Hunter, Hopesfall, As Tall As Lions) on Culture Scars. I happened to be working on tracking at VuDu Studios on a day that Mike was mixing a song on Culture Scars. I went to use the bathroom and stopped dead in my tracks when I heard Hail the Sun and turned to one of the interns to say “what is this?”

John: Did you know it was us?
BtS: I didn’t know it was you at the time! Anyway, Hail the Sun originates from California, so how was it working in Port Jefferson, NY in the Winter?

Shane:  It was the middle of January. We were snowed in a couple of times. It was great working there. Some of the sounds we made were some of my favorites I’ve ever heard for us.

John: Great studio all around. We worked with Frank Mitaritonna and Mike and they have great ears. They were like like extra members of the band. It was very organic and comfortable. They set the mood lights- they’re really big on that. It was very comfortable. It was so new for us to come across the country (from California) but Shane was the one who name dropped Mike Watts.

At this time, Shane whips out his phone to catch Pokemon.

BtS Press: What are you catching right now?
John: Shane is playing Pokemon Go for people who can’t see.
Shane: Tentacool.
John: Feel good about yourself? … But VuDu is great!
Shane: It’s very distracting
John: The game only came out two days ago so everyone one Warped Tour is playing. People just walking around, walking into walls. Stopping. Just turning.

BtS Press: But it tells you to stay alert at the beginning!
John: It’s in their contract to warn you. But yes, VuDu is great. Those guys, that crew, the food. I miss the bacon, egg and cheese!
Shane: The Bagel Deli, you ever get them?
BtS Press: My bandmates all love it, but I’m a vegan. Let’s talk about gear are you using on Warped Tour?
Shane: They actually have a pretty sweet backline on the Full Sail Stage. I’m using an Orange Thunderbird 200 and an Orange 412 Cab. On my end I just play a crappy Volkswagen First Act Guitar. It’s not crappy, I love that thing. But it’s budget? I play through a volume pedal and delay pedal.

John: So we’ve been playing through an Orange backline and Orange makes some solid riggetry (I made that word up.) It’s a word. I play out of a Fender J Bass that I’ve had for about 15 years. Somehow it’s still working. Going through an Earthquaker Fuzz Pedal called a Hoof. I like when you turning it on it feels like someone’s hoofing you in the mouth. It’s a great stage and they do a good job of making us sound good. We’re happy on the Full Sail Stage. Otherwise, Donovan (Melero) is playing his cymbals that he’s sponsored through Sabian now, Aric (Garcia) is playing something I don’t know.

Shane: He's playing a Les Paul through an AD Orange Head that’s also on the backline for the stage. He’s got a lot more pedals, I don’t know what they are.
John: Gear Talk!
Shane: Not my forte. Aric, our other guitarist would probably go off. Us, we’re like we don’t know, we like to dance and jump around on stage!

BtS: That’s cool that Hail the Sun has this ambient sound with a simple set up of pedals.
John: I don’t think you need the fanciest or the most pedals to do it. It comes from within. It’s all about the fingers.

BtS: What’s your favorite song to play on Warped Tour?

Shane: That’s a good question. It’s been really fun opening up with an older song and then starting out with “Ow! Splidao” from the 2012 release Elephantitis. It’s been fun to play because most people here don’t know us some people walk by and like it. And the people who do know us like the song.
John: It’s a stab in the face for everyone. In a good way
Shane: Yeah like “Let’s check it out”
John: It’s been fun playing “Falling On Deaf Ears” from our 2014 release Wake. That’s a fun exciting song. It’s got a lot of mellow parts that go into loud, exciting parts. Weird time signatures. It’s cool watching the kids get kind of confused but still try to bob their heads to it.
Shane: They get it. They’re smart.

BtS: How is it like playing music that’s slightly more progressive than other music at Warped Tour?
Shane: I guess we do consider ourselves progressive. When I write I think I have that mindset now, but at the same time these songs have always been second nature to us. Once we get them learned we don’t think of them as more complex or anything.
John: It’s also cool hearing some of the other bands that are kind of proggy. Issues. Oceans Ate Alaska.
Shane: Everyone’s got their own sort of intricacies in their own ways that seems equally difficult to play.

BtS: Any other bands you recommend checking out?
John: I’ve been really liking I See Stars, they put on a really great live show. A little hardcore, a little electronica. Electrocore I think I saw on their wikipedia page (laughs). They’re really cool. Some of the classics who’ve been on Warped Tour: Every Time I Die and New Found Glory.
Shane: I’ve been really stoked on Emarosa. Their sound is crazy. They just dropped an album yesterday and had a choir on stage.
John: Yeah, that was wild!

BtS: There was a choir on stage here at Warped?
Shane: Yeah! They got it for the special CD release party. Their set is amazing. Very high energy. Very solid musicians.

John: There’s a lot of great bands. It’s fun to catch ‘em all.

BtS: I see what you did there.
John and Shane sing Pokemon theme: Gotta catch ‘em all… Warped Tour!

BtS: Can you say more about Culture Scars? Are you going on tour after this?

Shane: Yes! We dropped the album three weeks before this and did a tour out to Warped from California to Dallas that we headlined. Now we’re on Warped. To get back from Warped Tour, we are going to do another headlining tour stopping at Salt Lake City, San Jose. It’s not a long run but it’s a headliner for us so it’s a big fun exciting thing to promote the new album.
John: In the fall we will be doing another tour (whispers) that can’t be discussed right now.

BtS: Top secret.
Shane: So many secrets in the industry. I just want to tell everybody. Trying to stay busy and push Culture Scars best we can. We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback.

BtS: There’s one song that I feel like this week is so relevant (in regards to current events and politics regarding Alton Sterling and Police Shootings in Dallas, TX) “Ministry of Truth” and “The People that Protect Us”- the more you think about it. There’s so many people dying.  It hits so close to home. Could you say more about that?

Shane: Well, I would just say as a band one of our big messages is to question everything and never take nothing at face value. Even the words I’m speaking right now. Do your own research and make your own decisions about things. That definitely ties into the media and how social media is perceived by people in power and positions of powers.
John: Donovan has such a creative mind and his lyrics really strike home. Unfortunately we are going through these rough times with all these tragedies. It does take on part with the power and authority of this country now. We encourage people to think about our current situation and where we are headed to make the right decisions. “The People that Protect Us” really hits home right now. Donovan is with our broken van right now, he would have more to say. Part of this album is dealing with these scars that come from our culture that have an effect with us. Think everyday and try to stay positive. We have to just get through these crazy times.

BtS: On this lighter note, what are some hopes you have for Hail the Sun in the future?
John: To take over the world. (ala Brain from Pinky and the Brain).
Shane: To keep growing and meeting new people throughout the world. We would love to tour Europe and Japan and some of the other cool markets that our bigger brother bands have done. Keep putting our music out there, we think we have something to offer. So far the band people we’ve come across over the last 7 years have really changed our lives and it’s great. It’s a great feeling and it’s just fun to play music as a job.
John: it’s a lifestyle not even a job.
Shane: On the road 6 months of the year. It’s great to be here on a beach on Long Island meeting new people, like you. Playing Pokemon.
John: Have a good time and keep rocking.
Shane:  (laughing) That’s our motto in our band… keep rocking- keep the van rocking, don’t come knocking