Coming off their recent tour with Bumpin’ Uglies, The Bastard Suns’ lead vocalist and songwriter, Clayton Hiers took time between working on his next tour and merch work/design to catch up with us. We spoke for a while about their career, touring life, and the music business.
The Atlanta-based band blends of rock, reggae, ska, punk, psychobilly, and Irish folk just blow me away! Allow me to introduce you guys to one of the most badass, DIY, bands I have ever met: The Bastard Suns
Photo by Bastard Suns
Stef: You guys have explosive energy on stage and are probably one of the most amazing bands I will get to interview in my lifetime. Can you tell me about how your band came together and the name? What inspired you to start this collaboration?
Clay: We started around 15 years ago, with a completely different lineup. I had recently graduated college and gotten a 9-5 job in my field and after a year or two of fighting Atlanta traffic every day and being grossly underpaid, I decided that the path I had chosen simply wasn’t for me and I quit.
I got a job waiting tables and met a few of the future members. We began playing around out of boredom and got damn good quickly! We started to develop a following in ATL and it just kind of grew from there. Now here we are over a decade later with completely different members, and I’ve personally toured coast to coast over 30 times. What a ride. The band name came about because we used to party pretty hard, and no one liked the sunrise anymore. We called it the Bastard Sun, and it just sort of stuck as a good band name.
Stef: Wow, I love it! Your sounds evolve and go into a whirlwind with gut-wrenching throw-downs that make any human want to bang their head and cheer at the same time! Do you guys write your music together as a group? Or work around the lyrics? What is your process?
Clay: I’ve always written lyrics with basic melodies, but I’m a horrible musician, so the boys come in and spruce it up a bit. I always compare it to a contractor who builds the frame of a house, but that’s useless until you get the plumbers, electricians, and interior designers in there. It’s only after they’ve done their part that it becomes a cohesive, habitable home. If that makes any sense at all!
Stef: I know you guys were just off another East Coast tour, how was it? Your band has toured for years NON-STOP! How does this affect your lives? Is it challenging to juggle personal life and music life?
Clay: It’s very challenging, especially for a band with no outside help. We’ve searched for booking managers, business managers, etc. for years but it’s tough to find good help these days. Currently, I’m the merch/marketing designer AND the booking guy, apart from being the frontman and songwriter. It’s a lot for anyone, especially so for a bitchy man-child such as myself.
But we get it done, and yes, it has affected everything from our relationships to living situations to bank accounts. Don’t get into this for the money, kids. Because you probably won’t make much. Get into it because you love music and performing MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, or don’t do it at all!
Photo by Bastard Suns
Stef: Clay, your determination is conveyed through your lyrics and the non-stop touring. Your songs are a mix of original music and a few super rad covers as well! Are there any of your fav songs that are near and dear to your heart? I personally, love them all, but my faves are, “Oh, Celina” and “Never Say Die”.
Clay: The boys probably have favorites, but to me, they’re like children. I love ’em all and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. Plus, I’ve got a silly pot song like “SBMT” that I wrote basically as a joke, and that’s become our most well-known and most profitable song ever. We’ve got some new stuff that I def enjoy playing more, but that’s just because it’s new and exciting.
Stef: Your fans are so freakin’ dedicated and extremely loyal! I bet you have some crazy stories! Wanna share one?
Clay: We do have some of the raddest fans around. I don’t have one particular story, but they’ve done things like rent us suites in nice hotels and show up at shows 1,000 miles away from their home, just to surprise us.
One of my good friends from Georgia even hooked us up with his lovely Mexican American parents in El Paso and they just brought an entire taco feast to our rooms without ever meeting us! And they were the good, traditional tacos too. The love, loyalty and outright appreciation that we feel from our fans is by far the most sincere and consistent form of payment we’ll ever get, and I’m grateful beyond words for that.
Stef: Clay, that is amazing! And definitely, this is the fuel for your fire! Being that you guys have traveled for years, what was the scariest time on the road?
Clay: Waaaay too many to count. Luckily, we’re smart about how we travel so we’ve had very few run-ins w the cops. But recently we made the mistake of booking the cheapest rooms we could find in Columbia, SC and we ended up naming the spot “The Murder Hotel.” All the old mattresses were stacked in the parking lot, (a sure sign of a serious bed bug problem) and they put our room right next door to a fully functional brothel. The people were really nice, but we were sharing a wall with a whorehouse and there was a door adjoining the two rooms that didn’t lock, so there ya go. The moral to that story? Always read the reviews before you book rooms. Always.
Stef: I promise that we will never forget that story! Let’s talk about your band members. Your mates reside in Atlanta, Denver and Sarasota, FL. How do you collaborate your music and tours? Having a tight unit is imperative in order to keep the momentum!
Clay: A lot of Skype and Zoom. And we make it a point to tour together as much as possible. There’s always a really nice sense of true joy when we’re finally back together and “the circle is complete!”
Photo by Bastard Suns
Stef: When is your next tour? Are you guys writing some new stuff right now?
Clay: Next tour is in September and it’s our third East Coast tour in a row, which is where you heard about us. But we got hooked up with a non-profit called “Punk Rock Saves Lives.” They’re a good cause and they asked us to play a big show for them in Pennsylvania, so I basically routed a whole tour so we could make it happen.
And yeah, we have enough new stuff for at least a 7” but now we have to find time to record it! If you wanna see any of the new stuff, for now, you’ll have to come to a show!
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Stef: Where do you see your band in the next 2/5 years? Are there any bands you would aspire to tour with/share stages with?
Clay: I’d love to see us doing more festivals and touring with some bigger bands, instead of always headlining our own tours. We recently did a tour opening for Bumpin’ Uglies and it was amazing. We gained so many new fans so quickly!
Stef: I love those guys! Makes perfect sense! You are obviously an UNSTOPPABLE entity that will continue to conquer this planet! Any plans for going abroad in the future? If so, what are your thoughts on this?
Clay: Going to Europe, Asia, etc. is extremely complicated and expensive. Usually, you need contacts overseas who can set you up with tour dates, transportation, equipment, etc. We’d already be there if we could pull it off on our own, but we simply can’t.
Stef: Is there a message you would like to tell the world about your band and what you guys stand for? Also, do you have any advice for others that want to live their dream of music?
Clay: At the risk of sounding egotistical, I’ll quote two of my songs. What do we stand for?
“Find what you love, that’s all you’ve gotta do. Then try your very best until they bury you. Be who you are, it’s all you really can. And if they try to threaten that, then make your stand.”
As for advice to young musicians? “Lemme tell you, if you’re only in it for the money, I suggest you find a new line of work there Sonny. The only payment that we get at the end of the day is watching good friends like my Rudy go CRAZY!
For a band that literally grinds it out 24 –7, they are clearly on a mission. I must tell you all, after doing this interview I felt energized and very inspired. Equal parts hardcore momentum to being true to the bone, including relentless efforts, original sound, and humbleness are the reasons that they have found success and have been around for so long! Nothing great comes easy in this life, but these guys have IT!
Catch their newly announced tour here:
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Band members: Clayton Hiers, lead vocals/songwriter (Atlanta). Mike Fender, drums (Sarasota). Mike Sterling, vocals/trombone (Denver). Ian Edwards, bass/vocals (Atlanta). And Ty Watkins, guitar/vocals (Atlanta)
Interview by: Stef Sanchez