Red Sun Rising
Mike Protich (Vocals, Guitar) – Ryan Williams (Guitar) – Dave McGarry (Guitar, Vocals) – Ricky Miller (Bass, Vocals, Keys) – Pat Gerasia (Percussion)
The sophomore album from Red Sun Rising, Thread begins with a slow-building but ultimately brutal track called “Fascination.” Over the course of the song—a meditation on the toxic nature of ambition—the Akron, Ohio-bred band embody both moody restraint and furious intensity, handling each with equal passion. With its dramatic shifts in tone and arrangement, “Fascination” makes for the ideal opener to Thread: an album that relentlessly defies expectation while delivering songs with deep cathartic power.
As Protich explains, the title to Thread echoes Red Sun Rising’s purposeful unpredictability, a refusal to adhere to any one genre or style. “It came from us being tired of people asking us to describe our music,” he says. “It’s our way of saying we’re not a rock band, we’re not a metal band, we’re not an alternative band—we’ve just taken all our influences and all these different eras of music, and threaded them together to create our own sound.”
Thread arrives as the follow-up to Red Sun Rising’s Polyester Zeal, a 2015 release whose hit singles “Emotionless” and “The Otherside” each landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Produced by Matt Hyde and mixed by Jay Ruston, the album came to life at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas (a studio selected for its abundance of vintage gear). And in a major milestone for Red Sun Rising, Thread marks the band’s first time recording with McGarry, Miller, and Gerasia.
“None of those three were even involved in the first record, and now they’re the most solid guys we’ve ever had in the band,” says Protich. “In a way the most important thing we accomplished with this album was the five of us becoming a band. It felt like some kind of rebirth, and it was really magical to see.”
Thanks in part to the augmented lineup, Thread bottles up Red Sun Rising’s live energy like never before, giving rise to a raw and volatile sound untouched by studio trickery. At the same time, Hyde’s skillful production underscores one of the most captivating elements of the album: the frenetic tension between Red Sun Rising’s bright, beautifully crafted melodies and darkly charged lyrics.
On lead single “Deathwish,” that contrast manifests in the interplay between serpentine guitar riffs and primal drumbeats, then erupts into the song’s epic bridge. “‘Deathwish’ came from us sort of looking at the state of the world, at a time when a lot of bad things were happening politically,” says Protich. “It turned out to be a song about self-fulfilling prophecies, and how that relates to the idea of the end of the world.”
For “Veins,” Red Sun Rising brilliantly merge Beatles-inspired harmonies with snarling guitar tones and lyrics capturing what Protich calls “a conversation with an addict, where they just keep on making broken promises.” The band’s gripping three-part harmonies also infuse songs like “Stealing Life,” a track that opens with delicate acoustic guitar but soon gives way to powerful, punishing riffs as Protich mourns for loved ones and musical heroes lost to suicide. On “El Lazo,” Red Sun Rising introduce shimmering keyboard textures and cascading guitar lines into an urgent reflection on what Protich refers to as “mentally blocking someone from your memory to the point that they might as well be dead.” And on “Left for Dead,” thrashing rhythms and graceful guitar work help twist the story of an absentee father into a potent anthem of survival. “That’s one of the most personal songs on the album for me,” Protich says. “I had a great childhood and my mom is a saint, but my dad was basically nonexistent. ‘Left for Dead’ is the first time I really dove into my feelings about all of that.”
The main songwriters for Red Sun Rising, Protich and Williams first crossed paths at a gas station in their hometown of Akron in 2006. “Ryan was in a band that I’d seen play around town, so we just started talking about music,” says Protich. Although Williams soon asked Protich to try out for his band, the two ended up striking out on their own and starting a separate project, which eventually became Red Sun Rising. Through the years, the two have tapped into their shared sensibilities and mutual passion for making music that’s both hard-hitting and introspective. “When you write songs with someone, you open up a piece of your heart and your brain, and it builds this connection that’s unlike anything else,” Protich says.
In creating Thread, Red Sun Rising found their genre-bending musicality made even more dynamic by their surroundings at Sonic Ranch (a studio set in a pecan orchard in the middle of the desert, near to the Mexican border). “It’s this cool little oasis, where you’re totally isolated and free from everyday life,” says Protich. “You get to completely immerse yourself in the creative process and let your mind just wander, which I think is very conducive to making something different and exciting.”
Naming everything from the Electric Light Orchestra’s elaborate art-rock to Regina Spektor’s quirky eclecticism among the inspirations for Thread, Protich notes that the emotional undercurrent of each track surpasses all else. “When I was younger and writing songs, it was mostly about trying to come up with words that sounded cool together,” he says. “Now we’re really focused on the narrative, and on creating something that other people can fit into their own lives. We always want people to find their own meaning in our songs, and we love having fans tell us what a song means to them personally. That’s something that we always want to share with everyone.”