For most artists, creators, and people on the periphery of the music industry, periods of quarantine and lockdown have represented an absence from doing the thing they love the most: that is, being a part of live music, being on stage, and bringing that experience and connection to the masses.
But for Donovan Melero, spending time away from his duties as frontman, lead vocalist, and drummer for Californian post-hardcore outfit Hail The Sun was a chance to expand his already impressive skill set, while also keeping an optimistic eye looking towards the future.
“The first thing I asked myself was, ‘Whenever this ends, whether it’s months or whether it’s years—however long—where do I want to see myself at the end of it? Where do I want to be when things come back in? What position do I want to be in moving forward?’ Because it’s gonna change everything.”
“When all this happened back in March, I took like three weeks off to just unwind. I’d realized that there were so many things that I was doing daily, that were constantly weighing on me, and I didn’t realize it until they were gone,” says Melero.
“With that mindset, I immediately started working on an idea I had had for quite a while, but never got a chance to execute. So, I started working on kill iconic music magazine. I started flying lessons as well, to get a private pilot’s license over this last summer. I also wrote a lot of solo music, and we had to put off the Hail The Sun record for about six months. We just kept thinking of ways to make this rollout better. So, when the time actually came, we were very prepared for the rollout that’s happening now.”
The record and rollout of which Melero speaks is for the group’s upcoming album, New Age Filth, set for release in April through Equal Vision Records. On their fifth LP, Hail The Sun pull from a wide range of sonic influences. Some, like Saosin and Circa Survive, have been long-standing elements of the band’s back catalogue and sound. And yet, tracks like the concussive “Parasitic Cleanse” or the barnburner closer “Punch Drunk,” reveal a muscular, more primal edge to the band’s music.
“I think it just felt good at the time,” explains Melero. “I was really on a heavy kick for a couple of weeks during this cycle. And I wanted to have that same type of feeling I got listening to a Glassjaw or Every Time I Die song. I’m like, ‘I want to really feel this stuff. Fuck it.’”
To write and record New Age Filth, the band—consisting of Melero, Aric Garcia (guitar), John Stirrat (bass), and Shane Gann (guitar)—spent over a month living in an apartment attached to producer Kris Crummett’s (Dance Gavin Dance, A Lot Like Birds) studio.
“Kris is a fucking mastermind. He’s an expert at his craft. As we were going through all these songs, he didn’t have a ton of edits, almost no edits, as far as arrangements. So, I think that was more focus than we’ve ever had for an album cycle, you know, getting it down to what was essential,” admits Melero.
“Outside of that, we just got into our daily writing routine and did most of the tracking at night. We just ploughed through it. It wasn’t like we were trying to pull a rabbit from a hat or anything either. A lot of the ideas were just flowing out and we were just piecing them together.”
The result is ten songs that find Hail The Sun pushing their creative boundaries in every way, taking the band’s penchant for crafting lush instrumentals and soaring vocal melodies to lofty new heights.
“Something we had a huge focus on this batch was just trimming all fat, cutting that shit off and having it be completely prime product, with only the parts that matter,” says Melero.
“We tried to get it down to the point where if one of the parts had been missing, the song would not feel complete, but if something could be pulled, and it didn’t really affect the song or it didn’t contribute to the song, then we would cut it. And I think that shows tremendously.”
Stream and purchase New Age Filth here.