Something that I don’t always take into consideration when arranging to interview bands and musicians is the difference in time zones. When the interviewer lives in the UK and the interviewee lives in the USA, a compromise has to be made. I’d like to start off before I go on with this with a huge thank you to Jesse Mancillas of Cemetery Sun for doing this interview in the early of hours of the morning for the sake of time zones.
I’m not usually one to enjoy covers of songs. I don’t know why. Maybe it has something to do with the musician’s identity often being lost within it. Regardless, this ideology of mine didn’t apply the first time I heard one of Cemetery Sun’s covers. Entirely obsessed with their sound, I was lucky enough to get a phone call with their guitarist Jesse and learn all sorts of outrageous facts about him and the band (one of them works for Twitter, another accidentally used to belong to a cult).
First of all thank you for agreeing to this interview. Do you have any introductory words?
No no, I’m just happy you wanted to feature us in your blog here. We’re kinda getting stuff off the ground here with releasing our EP and it’s been really exciting to see this kinda attention or interest in the music.
Can you talk me through the bands name, Cemetery Sun?
So, I guess when the band kinda formed, me and another guitar player Elliot, we were in the middle of making this kinda weird ambient project and we employed Josh, the singer, and he kinda blew us away in. At the time, he was involved in a pop punk band called Headlines and one thing led to another and we ended up joining the pop punk band for a while and we used to play like straight up Jimmy Eat World stuff and pop punk for a minute.
Once we started writing new music, we were writing music that was kinda a blend between what me and Elliot had been doing with more of the ambient circa survive, really darker, kinda experimental style guitars and Josh is kinda straight up pop with vocals to just sing a simple melody and it was kinda catchy. We didn’t think headlines fit the band anymore and so, actually, at the time, we were going through a lot of different names and all of them were terrible. Our bass player at the time, Danny – he actually came up with the name and we kinda felt it spoke to the character of the band which tends to be kinda a mixture of the darker sounding music with Josh’s kinda almost lighter approach in the way he approaches the melodies and stuff. Cemetery Sun kinda fit and no one else had the name or anything.
If you could choose the best three things about being in a band, what would they be?
You know, there’s like this moment you can get when you’re playing with people you really know, really trust and you’re all vibing on the same kind of thing – it’s kinda almost like a high where you kinda tune out. You’re not thinking about anything else and it’s almost like you’re not thinking at all, just, like, stuff’s coming out. I don’t really have a word for it. That’s probably the whole reason you even play music. So that would be my number one – kinda the spiritual experience of coming together and forming something out of nothing.
The second thing would probably have to be the process of making the songs; kinda doing the recording and exploring and experimenting and fighting. There’s a lot of fights that go on in the band. You just got four different people who have different opinions on stuff. But, yeah, it’s kinda fun. It’s exciting, it’s intriguing. It’s not really something you can get in everyday life, in your normal day job, where you can come out with something that you’re proud of – almost as if it’s your child.
And the third one honestly has to be the travelling around; the moving around, playing different places that you’ve never played before. There’s a lot of down time. Usually when you got to play a show you’ve got to show up about four or five hours before the show even starts. You do your sound check and then, usually, you have nothing but time – so being able to walk around and see the sights of whatever town we happen to be in is usually pretty awesome. Sometimes it’s really bad, it’s really boring and it’s really sh**ty [sic]. But, nine time out of ten, there’s something good that comes out of it: you meet someone, you see something, or maybe you just get some time to reflect.
So probably that – it would probably be the spiritual experience of playing in a band and getting that moment. The second would be recording music and fighting it out with the dudes, and the third would be travelling and kinda seeing the world.
No, I think – I mean – in any relationship you’re going to be in, with anyone, be it an emotional relationship with someone or – I guess it’s almost like being in a marriage, when you’re in a band, because, when you spend enough time with someone your flaws start to come out and the honeymoon stage kinda goes away, and you’ll start to really know each other.
I’ve been in a lot of bands and there always comes a point in the relationship with the other band member where fights do happen. It’s only because you’re all so passionate about what you’re doing and everyone has an opinion on it. Either it will break the band or it strengthens the band and, at least with this group, we’ve been through a whole lot and gone through a lot of changes and I think it’s made us closer; I think it’s made the music purer.
If Ive fought it out with Josh before on like a vocal part or a guitar part or the progression on a song and at least, because of that, I know where I can trust him because I was able to go “okay, you were right” and he was able to say “well, you were right in this sense”. It builds a bond and I almost feel like if you don’t fight in a band then your music is probably not that good.
You know, the worst thing about being in a band is probably having to deal with — I mean, there’s a bunch of negative stuff but I think that the thing that stands out is this kind of competition – it’s kinda hard to explain. When you’re in a band, everyone’s trying to strive for at least some level of success and, at least in our town, that tends to come out as being competition between other musicians and other bands. It doesn’t necessarily come out as actual physical competition but it’s kinda like this mental game that everyone plays with each other. I come from a background where everyone’s a community and everyone wants to support each other and I feel like greater music comes from that. I would like it if we could all sort of figure sh*t out and then just get alone and make good music and enjoy each others music but that doesn’t seem to always happen.
Ah, sure. It would have to be Dr Dre “The Chronic”.
Why did you, personally, choose to get into music?
My dad was a drummer from the day I was born. He was a professional musician. He kind of stepped back from it but it was always something that excited me. Then I just started playing and I got involved with people who wanted to suck with me and actually wanted to just kind of hash it out and figure it out. Then we started to progress and started to get pass the stage where we were trying to play stuff someone else had written.
There’s kind of this view I have on it: if I could find someone who could write a song that I felt spoke to who I was and can properly express who I am then I wouldn’t have to play music.
For me, it’s like my main voice. I can talk and communicate with people and feel as if I’m expressing myself but it’s not really until I’m playing when I feel that I can express who I am or what I’m feeling. I feel like it’s more tangible when I’m actually playing music.
Who would you say your biggest musical influences are?
My personal biggest music influences has more recently become Dr Dre. More for a lot of how he played those really simple melodies and I’m kind of latching onto that.
As fair as the musical greats in my mind, it’s always going to be John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers, who’s an amazing guitar player. Not so much because of the music he plays but because of his approach and mentality to it. He was very spiritual about it. He kinda taught me a lot. When I was younger, I would research other musicians, looking at how they play, and there was something about the way he did it; it wasn’t just him playing a bunch of notes, it wasn’t about him just playing a bunch of songs and dancing around, it was a connection between whatever was out there and he expressed it through his guitar playing.
Then, other than that, probably Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine. He kind of had this voice that was really different from anyone else and he wasn’t afraid to go against the status quo. For me, that’s something I constantly strive for. I try to do something which is a little bit different and maybe is not the status quo or the right approach to it but it works.
So probably those three guys right now – that and Radiohead! Radiohead kinda started off as, not as a pop band but definitely mainstream for their time, and then they sort of took this left-field turn and people just had to pay attention to them. There was no other choice you had. It was just so f*cking good. Yeah, so, those four.
What is the first song you ever remember hearing?
Hmm, the first song I ever remember hearing. My dad was a drummer in the 70’s so he played a lot of funk. So it’ll probably be a Tower of Power song – who were this really funny funk band from the 70’s and 80’s. Or maybe, I don’t know, the theme song to Top Gun or something like that.
Ah, dream band. I don’t know. I’ve talked about this before.
I’m a really big fan of Radiohead so the bass player would have to be the bass player from Radiohead.
The drummer would have to be Darren King from Mutemath. That guy’s a monster. I’ve seen him a bunch of times and hung out with him and stuff.
Hmm, guitar player. That’s always a really hard question for me because I always want to be the guitar player. Hmm. It’s a hardcore band but the guitar player from As Cities Burn is insane. The way he moves around and the meoldies that he plays.
So, who’ve I got so far? The bass player from Radiohead, a hardcore guitar player and the drummer from Mutemath. So it kind of fits. Who else would I have? Probably Thom Yorke. Yeah, okay, there you go. Two parts Radiohead and two parts random dudes.
About you, yeah.
Oh my God – one outrageous fact. Let’s see – how weird can I get? I’ve got a lot of weird things. Ah, okay. This is really weird and it might be kind of off putting but from the ages of like ten to about eighteen I was actually a member of a cult and I didn’t know it until I left.
You can actually look it up online – it was a church that actually got classified as a cult and got shut down. I left way before that because they got too weird for me but, yeah, as a kid I grew up in a cult.
What’s your favourite memory from a gig you’ve played?
I played Warped Tour one year. It wasn’t with Cemetery Sun, it was with an older band, but I remember being apart of Warped Tour and the whole experience; getting there early before everyone came in and seeing this whole production blow up, completely centered around music, and getting to meet all these cool bands that I had admired and was able to become friends with them. Just seeing it all. There was this massive see of people and they were all there for the music. No one knew who my band was but we were in this battle of the bands thing and they just put us on a stage and people were really into it and very receptive. That’s probably the most fun I’ve had playing a gig.
Tell me a secret about one of your band mates.
Ah, a secret. Let’s see. Trying to think of a secret that’s not going to get me into a lot of trouble. There’s a lot of secrets I probably can’t tell you. I could probably tell you a weird fact.
Yeah, go for it.
Yeah? Well it’s not really that much of a weird fact but our guitar player Elliot, he does all of our recording for us. We don’t all go to a studio, we just do it in his mum’s garage. But he graduated with a bachelors degree from a major university here and he worked for Google for a long time and now he’s a main manager for Twitter. I don’t know how he finds the time to do all of that. He’s insane. He’s a very hyper dude. Sometimes we have to tell him to calm down because he’s just constantly going at 110%. He’s probably the weirdest guy we have in the band. He’s a f*cking weirdo.
Have you got a project that you would like to raise attention about?
Yeah! So we are releasing our first EP. We are actually doing our first homewtown release show this coming Saturday in a venue called The Broadwalk. Then we’re doing another bunch of shows and releasing a video for “Hard Drugs and Fake Love” within the next month. Then we’re releasing the video to another of the songs from the EP very shortly after.
The number one thing I will say is, to anyone who is just starting out, It’s okay to suck. It’s okay to be terrible at what you are doing. You have to go through it and if you don’t go through it and give up before you get to the spot where you feel comfortable then – at least in my mind and my heart – I always felt I’d regret it. Definitely don’t be afraid of sucking and definitely don’t be afraid of sucking in front of people. People are going to laugh at you and make fun of you but just try and create your own voice.
That’s great. Right, we are going to do finish off with the quickfire round. This is a question I always ask everyone I interview – what colour socks are you wearing?
Right now, my socks are black.
Piercings or tattoos?
Morning or night?
Sorbet or ice cream?
Poolside or beach?
What’s your favourite snack?
Favourite snack… do chips and salsa count? Yeah, chips and salsa.
Ideal holiday destination?
Some place in South America. Yeah, anywhere in South America. South America as a whole.
Thank you for agreeing to this interview! It’s been an honour to have you on my blog. Best of luck with your future ventures!
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