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Interview: Shattered Sun vocalist Marcus Leal talks debut album, working with Chuck Billy

Posted by on April 13, 2015

Shattered Sun is Victory Records’ latest metal acquisition. The young sextet, from a small town just outside Corpus Christi, TX, has recently been thrust into high notoriety in anticipation of their upcoming full-length debut, Hope Within Hatred. The band caught the attention of Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, and his promotion company Breaking Bands, which we learned more about after talking with him recently. Currently on tour with Testament and Exodus on the Dark Roots of Thrash 2 tour, I had the opportunity to talk with Shattered Sun vocalist Marcos Leal at Pop’s in Sauget, IL (just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO) for my first official artist interview with Metal Insider.

 

I understand that your debut album on Victory Records will be released soon. What was it like to sign with that label and what can we expect from the album?

Well, we’re really small town guys from a little town called Alice, TX; very, very small. So for us to sign with Victory – a label that so many of our favorite bands came off of – is huge for us. We’re an oilfield town, so for a group of guys to come out of there in a metal band is huge. The album comes out April 21 on Victory Records, called Hope Within Hatred.

 

Is this your first album ever? Or have you self-produced anything before this, like some EPs?

Yeah, we had some EPs and demos and stuff like that, but this is our first national release full-length album.

 

The album was recently voted the most anticipated release of April 2015. What are your thoughts on that?

Thank you! Oh man, our fan base really came together. I don’t know if you saw the list of bands we were up against; Halestorm, Soilwork… And it was like; how we won it, as a young, up and coming band [that] hasn’t even released our album just yet, for that to happen was just huge. Huge thanks to our fan base for doing that, because it was just them.

 

I guess it better be a good album, you’ve got a lot to live up to.

[Laughs] Oh yeah, trust me it’s a diverse album. And I think fans and everybody [else] are really going to love it.

 

I understand that you caught the attention of Chuck Billy and his promotion company, Breaking Bands. Is that correct? Can you describe what that was like?

Yes, that happened out of a stroke of luck. It all started… You know, as a local band, you’re looking to get shows and get bigger. And basically, the only way we knew how was to buy on to another tour. So we bought on, and the guy that we bought on with basically screwed us over. We ended up staying on the side of the road in Blythe, CA with nothing. Through that really bad experience, I formed a really good friendship with Mike Sarkisyan from Spineshank; he was who we were touring with. We kind of just stayed friends, and once we started getting this album together, we showed him some of the demo tracks, and he was just like, “You know what? Let me send it to Maria Farrero, maybe we can get you guys a PR deal.” So we got [in touch] with Maria, and she called us and was like, “Hey fuck the PR deal, do you want a manager?” Now, at that point, Breaking Bands was just an idea; it wasn’t even anything yet. So at the end of the day, she called us, and it was with Johnny Z and Chuck Billy, and we had no idea! So they said they loved us, they wanted to fly down to Texas, they were here the next week, and we signed. The stars kind of aligned; [a] fate kind of thing.

 

How surprising was that, when you found out that Chuck Billy was involved?

It was unreal! We were just like, “What is going on right now?!” What was crazy about it, too, was us and Exodus were their first signees. So once we were kind of out there, we were doing an interview with Chuck, and he was… telling the reporter, “We had over a hundred thousand submissions.” So for a little band from Alice, TX to get on before a hundred thousand submissions? Man, that’s huge. Like I said, again it’s just kind of a stroke of luck; it’s fate, this was supposed to happen, the way I see.

 

Is that how you were able to get booked on this tour with Testament and Exodus?

Somewhat, but it wasn’t just something that was convenient… “Let’s just throw them on there.” We really had to earn this, and we’d known about this tour before anyone knew about it. So we were working with Victory and working with Chuck to make it happen. It was a long shot; it wasn’t going to be given to us, that’s for sure, just because of Chuck. And we earned it man, both bands approved of us, and we’re just very, very thankful to be here.

 

How does it feel to be opening for two of the most respected thrash metal bands of all time? Were they influences of yours at all?

Yes, and the crazy thing is too, as a young band coming up with our first album… Hopefully we have many years ahead of us. But when you look at two bands like this, especially Testament and Exodus, you see them every night, that’s what we’re aspiring to be. Thirty years down the road, I want to see fans [still] coming to our shows. It makes us want to be better musicians, and just better people.

 

How has the tour been going for you so far? 

You know what? Surprisingly amazing! We came on this tour… We’re not the typical thrash band, and we were expecting some hecklers here and there. But every show, we have to go out there and earn it; take a crowd full of people who’ve never heard us and really fucking earn it. And every single night, the crowds have been amazing to us. It’s like a dream come true. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves; like, “Is this even really happening?” [Laughs]

 

It must be a good feeling.

Yeah, it’s great, man! It’s good because, like I said, where we come from, opportunities like this don’t happen to guys like us. It’s a dream come true.

 

You guys will be playing the upcoming New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. What are your thoughts on that? I’m guessing this is the first time you’ve played it?

Yeah! We’re doing the New England Metal Fest, that’s going to be fucking huge! Every fucking band on there is amazing, so for us to be a part of that is awesome. We’re also doing Rockville in Jacksonville, and we’re doing River City Rockfest in San Antonio opening up for Halestorm, Papa Roach, and Linkin Park… it’s huge! And for us to be getting this momentum so early in the game is just unreal, man.

 

You guys were recently at this year’s South By Southwest, did you play there as well?

Yeah man, it was a great time. This was our third year back, so it was fun. Austin, especially during South By Southwest, is a little crazy; it’s kind of like a huge family reunion with all of the bands from Texas. Hard working bands putting it together and putting it all on one stage.

 

You said yourself that you’re not “the typical thrash band.” Your sound is pretty interesting; it sounds like there’s a lot of metal styles being incorporated throughout. That being said, your bio on your Facebook page lists you as a “metalcore band.” [Ed: the genre has since been updated to “metal”] Do you think this is an accurate classification?

No. No, I just really don’t like people trying to lump us in with a genre. I just think we’re American metal. The style of music that we try to make… We have influences like Metallica, Testament, Exodus, Pantera, and we also grew up in the nu-metal days, with like KoRn, Deftones, Slipknot. So we just took all of our favorite bands and stuck it in one pot, and it’s just kind of who we are. That’s our signature sound; a big melting pot of metal.

 

Regardless of how anyone classifies you, it seems like any popularity of what could be called metalcore has been either fading or at least fragmenting to an extent. Do you feel like this has affected you in any way? If so, how?

No, man. Honestly, we love metalcore. Some of our influences [are] Killswitch Engage, Unearth, Shadows Fall, all those bands. The way I look at it [is] I just personally don’t like to be put into a genre. It doesn’t affect me either way; you can call us pop, you can call us metal, you can call us thrash, you can call us whatever. But at the end of the day, we’re just an American, kick-ass metal band. We’re going to give you the best fucking show that you’re going to see.

 

So then, is it OK if I call you a trip-hop band?

[Laughs] If it pulls your leg, man! If that’s what works for you.

 

So then, as a trip-hop band- just kidding [laughter]. Finally, despite how some feel about it, I am personally a sucker for the sound of keyboards in metal. Especially when it’s played live and not prerecorded and played over the P.A. But it also seems interesting how different bands incorporate the instrument into their songwriting. How do you use the keyboards in your compositions and arrangements, in relation to your other, more traditional metal instruments?

We didn’t necessarily intend to have a keyboard player, it just kind of happened. The way we describe it, is as kind of the cherry on top. It helps the vocals sound more full, it brings life to the riffs, it fills out the sound all-around, it makes [the music] sound real full. That’s just the way we describe it man, having the cherry on top of the sundae.

 

Cherry on top, icing on the cake, and various other desert analogies.

[Laughs] Yeah, there you go!

 

I have to ask; are we going to see a keytar on stage at any point?

No, no keytars; I wish [laughs]. Maybe [someday] Henry [Garza, keys/samples] will pick one up, that’ll be fun.

 

At the end of their set, Marcos revealed to the audience that they would be on this summer’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, which was announced earlier today. You can see where the band will be playing this summer here. Photos from this night of the tour will be uploaded soon. In the meantime, here are the remaining dates of Testament’s Dark Roots of Thrash 2 tour with Exodus and Shattered Sun.

4/13 Grand Rapids, MI @ The Intersection
4/15 Toronto, ON CANADA @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
4/16 Niagara Falls, NY @ Rapids Theatre
4/17 Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
4/18 Worcester, MA, New England Metal & Hardcore Festival @ The Palladium
4/19 Huntington, NY @ The Paramount
4/21 Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom
4/22 Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
4/23 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
4/24 Knoxville, TN @ The International
4/25 Jacksonville, FL Metropolitan Park Welcome To Rockville Festival (Festival Date, NO SHATTERED SUN)
4/26 Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
4/28 Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
4/29 Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
4/30 Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero
5/01 Virginia Beach, VA @ Farm Bureau Live Lunatic Luau 15 (Festival Date, NO SHATTERED SUN)
5/02 Cincinnati, OH @ Bogarts
5/03 Concord, NC @ Charlotte Motor Speedway Carolina Rebellion 2015 (Festival Date, NO SHATTERED SUN)

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