LeAnn Mueller
Red Sun Rising Credit: LeAnn Mueller

Red Sun Rising has been on a quest since 2007 to have its music heard.

The Akron, Ohio, band plays what its members believe is the new alternative rock, and the band has overcome some challenges on the way toward some success: Its newest album peaked at No. 41 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart, with a single, “The Otherside,” reaching No. 1 on Mainstream Rock Songs chart.

Red Sun Rising will be stopping by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday, Nov. 13, to open for Godsmack.

I am from Cleveland, and during a recent phone interview, frontman Mike Protich and I discussed the city, and how Red Sun Rising fit—or didn’t fit—into its music scene.

“Punk rock, hardcore and metal is what Cleveland was for a really long time,” Protich said. “Being a rock band that was a bit more alternative, we would be put on bills with nothing but metal bands, because there weren’t any bands like us. … Now I think there are more, which is cool. We were always on bills with a punk band or a metal band, and that was kind of the way we grew up, playing with those kinds of bands.”

The metal band Mushroomhead is a staple in Cleveland’s music scene. Many of Mushroomhead’s members, former and present, play in additional projects.

“Those guys got around. I actually liked Mushroomhead when I was younger, and I think they were kind of getting popular when I was in eighth-grade or a freshman in high school,” Protich said. “I remember everyone talking about them, and it was the coolest thing to open for them. That was almost like a business card in Akron, too: ‘Well, we opened for Mushroomhead last week.’ That became a thing to say to get on other shows.”

Red Sun Rising also includes guitarist Ryan Williams, guitarist Tyler Valendza, bassist Ricky Miller and drummer Pat Gerasia.

“We formed in about 2007. Ryan and I … we met each other through mutual friends. We actually went to the same high school and didn’t know each other until after high school,” Protich said. “We just figured out that we both have the same influences and the same idea of what band we wanted to be, and we just started writing songs together. We got to the point where we had so many songs written, but no band, so we started looking for different members. During the first couple of years, we were grabbing members from past projects and past bands until it narrowed down, and we started finding the permanent members we have now. We went through a lot of lineup changes, just like any other band.”

After beginning to play live shows in 2008 and putting out two independent records in 2011, the band finally signed with Razor and Tie records, releasing its first major-label album, Polyester Zeal, earlier this year.

“The last year before we got signed, we had just finished our biggest independent tour ever, and Ryan and I were like, ‘If we’re going to do this, let’s do it,’” Protich said. “We sat down after we got back from tour and met at 6 a.m. every morning before we went to work at Guitar Center, and we’d start making calls and sending emails. We focused our longest tour at a month solid. We had done weekend runs and week runs, but that was the first time where we said, ‘We’re going to save our money and go out for a whole month.’ After that, we saw some buzz happen—and then it died quickly, and that was kind of discouraging. I think there was a point there between August 2014 and the time we got signed in November 2014 where the energy was gone, and we were going to give up. Finally, we got this deal, which got the ball rolling.”

Protich said he learned a simple lesson from all the hard work.

“That’s why we say to never give up, as cheesy as it sounds,” he said. “We were about to, and we just kept pushing, and it happened for us.”

The sound of Red Sun Rising might sound like that of older alternative bands, but there is something more to what they’re doing that makes it feel like a rediscovery of alternative music. They even made a name for it based on a hashtag: #wearethread.

“During an interview, someone asked us to describe our sound and was asking us about our influences. We were just sitting there, and we realized our influences were kind of all over the place, from the Beatles to Tool to A Perfect Circle to System of a Down to Soundgarden; it was everywhere and all over the eras,” Protich said. “I don’t remember if it was Ryan or myself who said, ‘We just take those influences and try to thread them together.’ We just started to brand the band that way and make it our own thing. We’re a rock band at the core, but we like to use a lot of melody and texture. We also like to put thought into our lyrics. It does stand out in a lot of cases.”

Considering how hard it is to get on mainstream radio today, Red Sun Rising’s sound caused the band to butt heads with producers. However, the band eventually found a guiding light in Bob Marlette, who produced albums for Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and many others.

“That was the main reason we decided on Bob Marlette. Every single producer we talked to said, ‘To make it in rock today, you have to do this and this.’ We said, ‘That sounds terrible, and not what we want to do at all.’ We like to be more organic and write our songs on acoustic guitars,” Protich said. “Bob came in and told us, ‘You guys have all the things to make a great record. If you look at a record like a painting, you guys have all the paint. I’m just going to show you how to use it.’ I thought, ‘Wow, this guy isn’t going to try and change us at all’—and he didn’t. That was the best thing, and he let us make the record, and he tightened the screws.”

I asked Protich what he thought made Polyester Zeal successful.

“I honestly don’t know,” he replied. “… We spent time making sure our lyrics were not just thrown in, and not just an afterthought. We take our art very seriously, and we just want to make sure we made the best album we possibly could. I think that the honesty translates, and it’s resonating with people.”

Red Sun Rising will perform with Godsmack at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...