Shattered Sun – Paying Their Dues

Wednesday, 29th July 2015

If there is a band that can say that they’ve picked up buzz in 2015, it’s certainly Shattered Sun. Their Victory Records debut, Hope Within Hatred, was released to some celebrated fanfare (even from us here at DR) and the band snagged a choice opening spot for the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour in the spring (with Testament and Exodus). But it didn’t stop there – the band is currently playing the Victory Records stage on the Mayhem Festival, and will be joining the Soulfly/Soilwork/Decapitated ‘We Sold Our Souls to Metal’ tour in the fall.

Catching up with vocalist Marcos Leal after their off-Mayhem Fest date in Poughkeepsie, NY, it’s easy to see why the band is getting their opportunities. Despite the small Loft crowd, Shattered Sun played it like they were playing to the thousands at their Mayhem Fest crowds. Their work ethic and attitude should take them far. In addition to chatting about Mayhem (and Slayer chants), we talked about the band’s beginnings, opening for Testament and Exodus, getting pegged into the metalcore camp, and the band’s positive lyrical outlook.

Dead Rhetoric: The band initially formed in 2005. What were the early stages of the band like?

Marcos Leal: It was a lot of trial and error. A lot of members coming and members going. The thing about Alice, Texas, where we are from – it’s an oil field town. There’s constantly that pressure to go to the oil field and make $50 an hour as opposed to touring and stuff like that. It wasn’t until 2011 where we came to a crossroads. We were getting older – we were either going to do this all-in right now or we were going to the oil field for the rest of our lives. We kind of put it into this album, Hope Within Hatred, and everything just kind of flourished. It was a long, crazy road – the story, if I could tell it to you, you’d be like, “I don’t believe you.” It’s one of those ‘stars aligned,’ right place, right time kind of things.

Dead Rhetoric: Listening to the commentary tracks on Spotify, there were a lot of people that seemed to tell you that Shattered Sun wouldn’t make it. What got you to think otherwise?

Leal: We always believed it. I tell people all the time, even people from my home town. It’s hard for the small town mind to grasp. Like, you can come catch us at Mayhem and we played in front of like 5,000 people and we knew we always wanted that. But to a small town person, who’s never made it out of that town, of course they are going to tell you that you are never going to make it. It was always a kick in the nuts. From close friends and family to people that came and saw us, they were like, “you can’t make it anywhere from here.” We always looked at it as ‘no,’ because if we do that, then we are just going to be on an oil rig until we die. We just weren’t going to accept it. We had that mindset when we went into writing Hope Within Hatred. We thought either we were going to attract some label and attract some management or we were going to fail. So it’s either take it on the chin and say that you went down swinging or something happens. And thank god, something happened for us [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: So does that play into the whole mentality of playing to 10 people or 5,000 people and still putting 110% in?

Leal: Yeah, tonight was a little tough. I’m coming off of being a little sick, but like I said it in there – we come from those roots and we are not above those roots. We are still paying our dues. Shows like this, it doesn’t halt us or make us think “what the hell are we doing.” It’s paying our dues and climbing the rope. It’s doing what you can to get your name out there. I always say too, that if you go on there and put on a shit performance – those 15 people you played in front of are going to go tell another 15 people and so on. You are much better off showing them your passion. That’s what we tried to do tonight.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been on some huge tours so far this year – Dark Roots of Thrash II, now it’s Mayhem Festival, and soon to be Soulfly/Soilwork/Decapitated. Does any of it start to seem surreal?

Leal: Yeah, I remember when we signed with Breaking Bands, which is Chuck Billy, Jon Zazula, and Maria Ferrero. I remember sitting outside of the studio, and Jonny was saying, “I’m going to get you on tour with Testament and Exodus and Anthrax – you are going to be doing summer festivals and all that stuff” And we were like, “oh yeah, Jonny…oh my god yes!” But for it to be happening, it’s like you said – it’s surreal. When we went on tour with Testament and Exodus, it was one of those things where we were so excited but then it hit us. We are the opening band for the heaviest tour of the year, and no one knows us. Instantly there was that [pounds heart] – you know that your heart is beating but…thank god that the thrash fans embraced us as one of their own. It opened the doors for Mayhem and Soulfly. To be rubbing elbows with people you grew up idolizing, it’s unreal. You have to stop everyone in a while and be like, “how the fuck did we do this?” That’s something we do every day. Honestly, we are very blessed to be in the position we are in right now.

Dead Rhetoric: Likewise, metal elitism starts to kick in when people see bands generate some success and you’ve managed to get on board with some great tours lately. Have you gotten much backlash along those lines or do you tend to ignore that stuff?

Leal: To the band, no it’s never been an issue. To me, personally, I can go on record and say that I’m the type of guy that has a chip on my shoulder. I see all those things. Like you said with the track by track, I kind of fed into it. When we got on Testament – there was a bunch of people who were like, “who the fuck are these guys” and “fuck these motherfuckers.” It was every single night, we had to come out on stage and win them over in the first 10 seconds. Those same guys that were saying shit about us would come up to the merch table and say, “hey, I said a lot of stuff about you guys, but you guys are great. You earned my respect.” That’s how you do it. You have to pay your dues and you have to climb the ladder. We knew when we got that tour that it was going to be a kick in the ass.

Funny story, now that we are in this – the first night of the Testament/Exodus tour. We were doing the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. The birthplace of thrash. We were so freaking nervous. We had just done the soundcheck in front of all of Exodus and Testament – keep in mind that at the time we only knew Chuck. Right when we were walking off soundcheck, they opened the doors and people started rushing in. We still had an hour until we had to play – we were just sitting backstage and we were so nervous so we were just drinking beers. Six turned into like 20 [laughs]. We walked up to the sidestage and the crowd is chanting “Exo-dus…Exo-dus.” Think about it from a young band’s perspective, you are just like “oh my god.” It was that moment when you had to go on stage and you had to win that crowd and win their respect. That was something I’ll tell my grandkids about. It was one of those moments where I thought, “okay, I’m doing the right thing here.” It was definitely worth it.

Dead Rhetoric: Considering Slayer is on Mayhem Fest…has anyone been chanting “Slayer” yet?

Leal: Every single day! It’s like the theme of the tour. It’s funny because it’s like lighter fluid. You’ll hear someone shout, “Fucken Slayer!” and then you’ll be walking through the crowd and other people will be shouting “Fucking Slayer!” over and over through the crowd. It’s a lot of fun! And the cool thing is, that the thrash crowd really embraced us, and it’s funny that the crowd we are winning over right now are the Slayer-heads and King Diamond fans – those guys and it’s awesome. We are very, very thankful to have a fanbase embracing us – it’s pretty awesome.

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