About 2,300 miles separate Akron, Ohio, from Los Angeles, and for Red Sun Rising, the hard-rock band’s creative journey from its Midwest hometown out to Southern California to make Polyester Zeal (Razor & Tie) took close to 10 years.
Singer-guitarist Mike Protich, an Akron native, admits, “The L.A. thing kind of scared us a little bit. We’d been there to visit, but we’ve never done anything musically out there. It’s kind of intimidating. But once we got there, we did our thing and we realized we did have a place.”
Protich recently checked in from the road to map out his band’s backstory and recap the sessions for Zeal (which includes the track “The Otherside”).
A music revival in the Rubber City
Mike Protich: “When me and [guitarist] Ryan [Williams] first started the band in 2006, we put [everything else we had been doing] to the wayside and started from scratch. We probably wrote for a year and a half before we even played a show. We made our first EP around 2007-2008, and we went from there.
“The Akron music scene at the time was in a slump, and a lot of venues were closing. It was kind of sad. … Probably five years ago, I think there were three decent venues in the whole city. But since then, there’s almost a new venue opening up every year. And I think part of it was that the bands who were doing well, instead of being combative about it, everyone supported each other. You’d go to a show, and you’d see a bunch of bands hanging out watching the other band playing, and I think that created a community.”
A brief fling with Nashville
Protich: “When we first started, we had a sound engineer who knew a lot of people in Nashville. We did our first album [a self-titled 2010 release] in Nashville, and we fell in love with it because it’s very similar to Akron in terms of the way it looks and the way it’s laid out.
“We talked about [moving there], but we kind of got to a point where it was like, ‘We want to do it from Akron — and I think we can.’ We wanted to bring things back to Akron as far as the music scene. Ryan and I started our own little festival called This Is Akron. We did two years of it, and by the second year, we had more than 5,000 people coming. Eventually it got to be too much work for us. I’d like to think we played at least some role in bringing back the music. We’re proud to represent Akron; I’m glad we didn’t move.”
Recording Polyester Zeal in Los Angeles with Bob Marlette (whose studio credits include Alice Cooper, Shinedown and Seether)
Protich: “[A member of our management] had worked with Bob before, and he suggested him. … Bob said everything that we wanted to hear, and basically what he said was, ‘You guys have all of the elements to make a great record. You have all the colors; I just need to show you how to use them.’
“Akron is very, very gray. We never get any sun. And Bob’s house in Woodland Hills has this outdoor area with sun cabanas. It’s so tranquil. We wrote almost the whole record sitting out there with acoustic guitars. … You could let your mind go completely in any direction. It wasn’t like sitting in the studio and trying to work things out.
“It was inspiring to be away from home and not have to worry about going to work or anything. We could wake up, go to the studio and immerse ourselves in the recording process, which we had never done.”
Live like a local, party like a rock star
Protich: “We were out in L.A. for three months [starting in January 2015]. We found it was cheaper to get one of those Airbnb houses. We all pitched in. We lived in the Woodland Hills neighborhood and had a rental car. We really had a feel for what it was like to be a local, being there that long, having your own house and a rental car.
“We had a couple of wild L.A. nights — we had to. … We went to the Rainbow Room [to celebrate a friend’s birthday], and Ron Jeremy was there that night. [Motorhead leader] Lemmy was there that night. But what was crazy was seeing Tom Morello there, just eating dinner with his family. He came out and said hi and shook everybody’s hand.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Red Sun Rising on tour (schedule subject to change):
• Aug. 19: Piere’s — Fort Wayne, Indiana
• Aug. 20: Bogart’s — Cincinnati
• Aug. 21: The Intersection — Grand Rapids, Michigan
• Aug. 22: Franksville Memorial Park — Franksville, Wisconsin
• Aug. 28: Starland Ballroom — Sayreville, New Jersey
• Aug. 29: The Kent Stage — Kent, Ohio
• Sept. 8: Rose Music Hall — Columbia, Missouri
• Sept. 9: Venue 3405 — Joplin, Missouri
• Sept. 10: Aggie Theatre — Fort Collins, Colorado
Photo by LeAnn Mueller