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AKRON BEACON JOURNAL

BACK TO RED SUN RISING

 

Published: March 22, 2018 - 5:28 PM | Updated: March 24, 2018 - 7:21 PM


By Malcolm X Abram

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com

The Goodyear Theater is nearly empty, but there’s quite a bit of activity happening.

A maintenance man carrying a bucket of paint walks around touching up the front of the stage and the stairs in preparation for the k.d. lang concert happening the following night.

Meanwhile on stage, 80 percent of Akron rock band Red Sun Rising is having one last rehearsal before getting on a bus and making the long drive to Syracuse to begin their first full tour as a headlining act. The Goodyear is operated by Cleveland-based Elevation Group, which also manages the band, making it a conveniently available venue and a good place to gather before hitting the East Coast.

The Goodyear Theater is nearly empty, but there’s quite a bit of activity happening.

A maintenance man carrying a bucket of paint walks around touching up the front of the stage and the stairs in preparation for the k.d. lang concert happening the following night.

Meanwhile on stage, 80 percent of Akron rock band Red Sun Rising is having one last rehearsal before getting on a bus and making the long drive to Syracuse to begin their first full tour as a headlining act. The Goodyear is operated by Cleveland-based Elevation Group, which also manages the band, making it a conveniently available venue and a good place to gather before hitting the East Coast.

The band consists of three local guys — singer/guitarist Mike Protich and lead guitarist Ryan Williams, the co-founders, and bassist/keyboardist Ricky Miller — along with Albany, N.Y., native Pat Gerasia on drums, and guitarist Dave McGarry of Bradford, Pa.

In its 11 years, Red Sun Rising has had several membership changes in the rhythm section, but the current lineup has been playing the band’s debut Polyester Zeal together for nearly three years, doing 177 shows in 18 countries in 2017 alone. Protich believes logging all those shows and miles together has gelled the current iteration of Red Sun Rising, which he says comes through on Thread, their second album on the Razor & Tie label, arriving Friday.

The album was produced by well-known rock producer/mixer/engineer Matt Hyde, who has bands such as the Deftones, Slayer, No Doubt and Sublime on his resume.

“From the last record, the big difference is Ryan and I wrote pretty much the first record as just us two. So we didn’t have this band,” Protich said from his car as he was driving from his Chicago home back to Akron a few days before the rehearsal.

“This band toured that record for over two years … We didn’t really become a band until we started doing this process. So one of the biggest things is we wanted to have the band members’ influences in the sound, and we accomplished that,” he said.

“We also wanted to have a sound on this record that was more authentic to what we sound like live, and really utilize that we have three guys that can sing in the band. Before, I did all the harmonies, and now you can hear the textures of the other band members and we really utilized all three guitar players in the band and Ricky started playing some keys. So we really mixed in the personalities of all the band members into this record, which is really cool. It’s like a rebirth.”

Threading together

The band decided to call the album Thread after being asked many times by interviewers to describe their sound and/or what genre of music they fit into most easily. Protich has never been fond of those questions, so the band came up with a concept.

“We just want to be a band that writes really good songs, and no matter what you wanna call it, we’re gonna call it Thread. The actual term came from us taking all our influences from different eras and genres of music and threading them together to create our sound,” Protich said.

“But it’s also a statement to say we’re never going to write for a genre. We don’t want to ever write a song and say ‘oh, that’s too heavy for us, we can’t do that’ or ‘that song is too light.’ We’re just going to write songs that we believe in and we love and whatever it sounds like, that’s what it sounds like. And, when you listen to the record, you’ll hear that every song has its own identity and own kind of vibe to it and I think that’s what’s special about the band.”

Thread is a more varied album than its predecessor, Polyester Zeal, which scored two back-to-back No. 1 singles on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart with Emotionless and The Otherside, the first time in more than a decade a band has managed that feat.

But for fans, Thread contains all the familiar RSR elements. The lead single and video Deathwish (currently No. 14 on the Mainstream Rock chart) features a big arena-ready main riff, and Protich’s, tense, malleable tenor singing the verses. It builds to a bashing, crashing, rocking chorus, a bridge with a toe-tapping dance-rock beat and three-part vocal harmony, and an outro featuring a crowd-ready chant, “It’s all right, we belong to each other tonight, in a world that looks for a fight, we got a deathwish closing our eyes.”

Throughout the 11 songs, the band adds new elements to its hard rock sound; soft acoustic guitar arpeggios mingle with Miller’s keyboards on the power ballad Stealing Life, and the alt-rock flavored Lonely Girl reaches directly for radio and your Spotify playlist.

On stage

Back at the Goodyear Theater, the band (minus guitarist Williams who is tending to a personal issue) is ready to run through the set list. The stage is completely set up including the five LED lights and risers on either side for the guitarists to jump around on, ensuring fans in the back of the various theaters will be able see all of Williams and McGarry’s best guitar faces.

For the big tour they have a bigger road crew. Guitar and bass techs carefully ensure the right instrument is tuned and ready for the right song. They also have a full-time driver for their “band wagon,” which any touring act will tell you is a big bonus.

“Last summer was the worst,” bassist Miller said while waiting for Protich to finish up a phone interview.

“We had every festival and it was like 10-hour drives every night. Every night a long drive, and you have a band member who has to stay up, and you have a person who has to stay up and navigate and make sure that person doesn’t fall asleep. So that’s two people who are wrecked the next day from all that driving,” he said, shaking his head.

When the band gets going, they run through the entire dozen-song setlist, mixing in new songs with the old. Even without Williams’ guitar, their sound is punchy and tight. During the rehearsal the band finds out that they have just been asked to be an opener on the last leg of Godsmack and Shinedown’s co-headlining summer tour.

“Partying with Sully. Cool,” McGarry says casually, referring to Godsmack singer Sully Erna.

Red Sun Rising’s headlining tour doesn’t have an official stop in Northeast Ohio, but Protich said the band is planning to carve out some time later in the spring for a celebratory hometown show in a local venue.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.