Upon doing a Google search, I learned that the town of Alice, TX is only 12.3 miles wide. Think about that for a second. 12 miles. That's smaller than the distance it would take to run a marathon. A small town like that in the middle of South Texas? It's bound to follow the same routine most other small towns in the country. You know what you're going to do for the rest of your life at a very early age. You may almost feel a little stuck where you are.
Unless you're Shattered Sun. Six guys from the town of Alice decided to take a chance, throw everything out on the table, and risk it so that they could live their dream. The result? Main support on a tour with Testament and Exodus, two of the biggest names in thrash metal known the world over. On top of that, the band have inked a record deal with Victory Records and are slated to release their highly-anticipated debut album Hope Within Hatred in the next few weeks (April 21, to be exact).
On the very first night of the Testament/Exodus tour in San Francisco, I got to sit down with Marcos Leal (vocalist) and Jessie Santos (guitar) to talk about their incredible journey thus far.
Congratulations on getting to release your very first debut album. I really enjoyed listening to it. What was the process like for writing and recording this in comparison to working on the Confessions EP from back in 2012?
Marcos: Well when we went into the studio after the Confessions EP, we went in with a mindset that we were trying to attract labels. But we didn’t have the people that we have working with us behind us, so we were just a local band really trying to capitalize on their sound. A lot of musicians are always hunting for that album that they can listen to from front to back and they just don’t cringe. I feel like we really accomplished that with Hope Within Hatred. I think it’s our best work, but we’ll let the fans decide that.
Absolutely. I think with certain genres, there can be more of a drive to build an album that just has singles. But then there are others that want to build an album that you can listen to from start to finish as a whole, and it works all the way through.
Marcos: We were never really the band that tried to follow the trend, you know? We really wanted to, and still to this day, write great songs. Like all of the bands that we grew up listening to. from the old school bands to the nu-metal days that we grew up with, with bands like Korn and Slipknot. I feel like that art is a little lost in today’s music, and we just really wanted to focus on writing great songs, front to back.
Jessie: That’s the only way to do it, man.
There were many songs on the album that went the traditional metalcore route, but then there were some that channeled elements of thrash and more traditional classic metal. When you guys were writing, did you set any limits for yourself as to what you could or couldn’t write, or was it just all in?
Marcos: All in. Jessie kind of came into the writing process later, but he was such a gem that we found that really took our music from here to here. We really strove to write the best album that we could. We took as many influences from nu-metal (the era that we grew up in, but also from the older era with bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Queensryche, and Pantera. All of those bands write great fucking songs, and that’s what we try to embody.
You mentioned Slipknot a little while ago. Out of curiosity, what album was it for you guys that got you hooked?
Both: First. (everyone smiles)
Marcos: Dude, in my eyes, and I’m sure it’s this way for a lot of people, that album should be a monumental album that changed kids’ lives. As a teenager, that was it. I wanted to be Corey [Taylor, lead vocalist]. It’s funny because I use him a lot as an influence. That first album was life changing for us.
Where does the title Hope Within Hatred come from? Who came up with it?
Marcos: That was me. It’s funny because we were just talking about our influences, but I’ve always had a big stick in my side when it comes to [this next point]. People, especially where we come from, think that if you’re screaming in music, you’re summoning Satan. They think that there’s nothing positive that you’re giving the world. I just always thought that was bullshit. When I went to this album, I said that I wanted to spread a message. It’s so hard to get away from the negative. It’s around us 24/7, and it’s easy to forget that there’s hope in people. There’s hope in each other, and in humanity. I think people have just lost sight of that. Every single song on this album is about that, in a different light.
You signed to Victory Records for the release of the album. What drew you guys towards Victory Records over other labels?
Marcos: When we first met Johnny and Chuck (Billy), we told the from the jump that we weren’t looking for a label that was just gonna throw money at us, or a label that’s just going to say ‘here’s x amount of dollars, go do your thing”. We want someone who believes in our music, in us, and our product. It’s something that we’ve built since we were kids. There were a lot of moments where we were talking to other labels, and it’s almost like…
Jessie: It was about a year process. We’d get this offer and it would just go back and forth, back and forth.
Marcos: There was actually another offer with another label that we were about to close, and then at the last second, Johnny and Chuck kind of pulled the plug and said “hey, you know, these guys don’t believe in you.” The funny thing is, Victory was there from the start. I remember at the end of that train, Johnny was like “Victory and this guy Ron Platzer, man, he loves you guys. He believes in you guys and has from day one.” I remember when we first met him. A lot of people will say a lot of things about Victory Records. Speaking from our personal experience, they’ve never tied our hands. They’ve given us full power as a band. They’re completely behind us one hundred percent. We treat them like family, and it’s the same way back and forth. We love them and we’re looking forward to having a great future with them.
Who did the album artwork for the record? It looks so epic.
Marcos: The funny thing is that, going back to the whole Victory thing, they could have easily tied my hands and said “we’re just gonna go for the cheaper route”. I had that image in my head when we first started writing the album. To let me go to Par (Olofsson) who did Exodus’ album artwork and so many other bands’ artwork, and have him paint the picture I had in my mind, I was just like “wow”. I give Victory a lot of props for that, because they could have just as easily said no. They let me follow it, and I love it. I think it embodies everything in the album, with the guy standing in Times Square, about to face it on his own.
As a head’s up, I ask these next two questions to every artist that I interview. First: what kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Marcos: Fuckin’…energy. We’re trying to do something special here. We’re trying to do something and bring something back that’s kind of from the old days. We’re bringing great songwriting and great energy onto the stage. I really want fans to walk away knowing that we’re six small town guys who are able to live our dreams, you know? If we can do it, anybody can do it. Okay, I won’t say that anyone can do it, but we are proof that if you are a musician, you can push for it and you can make it if you really want it.
Jessie: That dream isn’t dead, man. It’s very much alive, you’ve just got to fuckin’ work hard for it. If you do, you get it. Straight up.
Marcos: Especially with where we’re from. Our lives are very predetermined in South Texas. You know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life before you graduate high school. If you go against that norm, everybody’s going to ask you “what are you doing?”
Jessie: You’ll be frowned upon. They’ll ask you “what the fuck are you doing with your life?”
Marcos: You don’t know how many times we’ve been told that we can’t make it. People have asked “well if you can’t make it in Alice, TX, how the fuck are you gonna make it anywhere else?” Well you know what? We’re living proof, man. With everything we’ve been through, we’ve been kicked in the nuts so many times. We were in a Battle of the Bands that almost ripped our band apart. Everything that has screwed us over…for some reason, the stars aligned at the end of the road, and we’re here. It’s awesome.
What does music mean to you?
Jessie: It’s life to me.
Marcos: Everything. It’s our blood. It’s what we live and breathe. We wouldn’t be traveling the United States in a fifteen-passenger van sleeping outside of Denny’s if we didn’t love this.
Jessie: That was a few days ago. (laughs)
Marcos: We’re the typical, average, small town guys that had a dream and followed it to the fullest. That’s who we are in a nutshell. Like Jessie said, we’re very thankful for Chuck, we’re very thankful for Victory, and we’re very thankful for our management. They took a chance on six small town guys …and here we are. First night of a tour with Testament and Exodus. You can’t help but smile, man.
Lastly, once this incredible tour with Exodus and Testament finishes up, what are the future plans for you guys in terms of music, tours, anything else you want to let fans know about?
Marcos: Yeah! We’ve got a music video coming out right before the album comes out. The album gets released on April 21 in stores. After this tour, we’re heading back to Texas to do River City RockFest with Halestorm, Papa Roach, Volbeat, and more. We’ll be opening up those big shows. We locked a few tours for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you, but I can tell you that Shattered Sun will be on the road until 2016. We’ll be promoting our album, and we can’t wait to get out to fans.
Hope Within Hatred, the debut album from Shattered Sun, will be available everywhere on April 21st via Victory Records.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.