Hail The Sun frontman Donovan Melero took time out his packed tour schedule to talk to us while he had a day off in Texas. Hail The Sun formed in 2009, and while Melero has always been the band’s frontman that has never stopped him exploring other ventures such as a solo career, a magazine, a record label all while being a booking agent.
Hail The Sun’s latest album Divine Inner Tension releases August 11th, and we wasted no time asking Melero for his thoughts on the album. When asked which songs stood out to him on the record Melero responded with “I really thought ‘Under The Floor’ was going to be our prog anthem. It has a nice easy structure, but it also has a weird time signature and the chorus is still great. Then it has this crazy middle part with the instruments are going crazy while I’m doing a vocal run over it. And I’m not saying it hasn’t totally landed like we thought, but not compared to ‘Maladapted’. That has been one that has landed crazy with our fan base. People are already really singing along to it live and I get it, the chorus is so digestible – it’s great. So that is one that Eric our guitarist while we were writing was like ‘this is going to be a big one for the album and for the rollout’”.
Melero quickly adds in “’60 Minute Session Blocks’ for me as well. I feel like once that goes live, people are going to gravitate towards it because it’s an easily digestible song. I’m proud of the lyrics. I think that people will be able to relate in their own way. And it’s short, it leaves you wanting more and I think that’s one of its strengths.” Sticking on the subject of ’60 Minute Session Blocks’ I tell Melero I thought it had a pop punk feel which he agreed with explaining “that was definitely something that we had aimed for. ‘60 Minute Session Blocks’ was written on the spot in the studio. I felt like we needed to have one more song that was more just straightforward. It was like a straightforward rock song, maybe not even rock, just like alternative, just something that was very straightforward. I love ‘A Favour House Atlantic by Coheed & Cambria as well. And as it started to come piece together, I thought this could be in that realm of existence for our band and for our catalogue.”
Divine Inner Tension instantly feels like the band has drawn inspiration from various places and artists. Quizzing Melero on where the inspiration for the album comes from he says “we all have different influences rather than an actual sole musical inspiration on this one, which we all sort of always have. I listen to a lot of different stuff. I love The Mars Volta, I love Frankie Valley with the Four Seasons, I love Glassjaw. But that aside, the influencers were more mindset. They were more of an idea of our limitless potential and retelling our stories and coming from the spot of we are all our own Gods. And I’ve envisioned our band being where we are since I was twelve years old. I didn’t know exactly how it would happen, but I never thought it would happen. And that was a big influence with this writing cycle, along with co-writing with people like my good friend, my best friend Joe Occhiuti. He plays in Ice Nine Kills – he’s the bassist. He’s my partner in Iconic Records and Iconic Ticketing. We lived together for a while. I’ve known him for like ten years now.”
The new album is the first Hail The Sun album not to feature Melero on drums. Speaking on the addition of Allen Casillas to the album he says “Allen our touring drummer is basically a fifth member now. Alan always has a pretty big hand, and he took on the duties of drums on this record. I still wrote some of those parts, but rather than having to write them and then spend hours and hours loading them just to track them, after much consideration, we thought that it would just make sense to have such an incredibly competent drummer like Alan drum on the album and he killed it.”
A point that Melero is eager to get across is how proud he is of the bands journey from starting up until this new album and US tour. “We feel lucky to even be at this point. We’ve done the tours. We’ve been at DIY Band 2010 to 2012. We played to nobody, we played to bartenders. We lived those early days that inspired us like bands like At The Drive In did and we thought that was cool. And we were just like, fuck it we’re going to go out and play! We had no idea how to do this (tour). We Googled Bakersfield venue and we emailed the venue and I remember this is so ironic because the first venue we emailed responded back within five minutes saying ‘hey, we’ll check it out and get back to you’. I thought ‘oh my God, this is going to be a piece of cake. We’re going to book this shit in no time’ and little did I know that was an exception to the rule. Venues responding that quickly to a fucking band they’d never heard of. That did not happen all the time. It was a big learning experience. But I say that all because over the course of our catalogue and touring experience, to get to where we are now I always felt that this was going to be something that happened with this group of guys.”
Moving on from discussing the album we spoke about one of Melero’s other projects. Kill Iconic started off as a magazine and has since become a brand featuring the magazine, a record label, a ticketing company, and a clothing range. When asked what inspired him to start Kill Iconic Melero answered “I’d always wanted to do a magazine since 2016. There are these bands that I still really loved, but they weren’t getting as much coverage in other magazines. And that’s okay because I understand that like anything brands and products are going to shift towards the people who are buying them, towards the consumers. It’s why Warp Tour shifted genres and all that stuff. And I really respect that. I noticed a window opening up over the last seven to eight years where you’re never going to read a Glassjaw interview in Alternative Press, but you would twelve years ago. And I still think that there’s people who would care to hear about that kind of stuff especially now that it’s coming back around. And I wanted to put a focus on that world of bands that I’d be interested in, but also all the bands in our own community. With that we really started to build something that felt like it had enough legs, interest and demand that while it may not be hundreds of thousands of units which is what another magazine would be looking for it was something small and boutique that I would want to start initially and there would be enough demand, interest and help to cultivate that following.”
Melero decided to finally launch Kill Iconic in 2020 when the pandemic hit. With no touring and no work as a booking agent, the free time allowed Melero to set up Kill Iconic. “It’s completely self-funded. But I say that because when all of our income went away through touring going away and booking going away I wanted to create something that would have more like a revenue stream that doesn’t require live entertainment. With a magazine you have subscribers and then the record label, it’s just residual income. Of course, it’s a big investment, but those are things that will come in through streaming, etcetera. And that was the business side of it. I thought I’d like to have something that can’t just go away overnight because touring stops. God forbid that happens again. I don’t think it will. I think everyone loves touring now.”
Kill Iconic is a seasonal magazine exclusively in print, with digital media being increasingly popular Melero explained his decision to keep to the traditional methods of media. “I didn’t want it to be digital. I love the days of print magazines. I love the way that the paper feels. I love the way that they look sitting on coffee tables or shelves. And I didn’t want this to be like a thin page magazine. I wanted it to feel like a nice picture book, something that you display maybe on your shelf in the living room or gathering place or a coffee table. And so, the size of it isn’t exactly the size of a normal magazine. It’s a little more in the direction of square than a rectangle, which we chose to do. And I sourced several different paper manufacturers and paper types that I sent as samples before I landed on the one that I wanted because it was really important to me how it felt, how it smelled, all that stuff. I don’t want to sound silly, but I love that about print magazines and really nice collectible items and the type of community, culture and fan base that we’ve surrounded ourselves with. I wanted to make sure that we delivered a product that felt really good to hold and was something that wouldn’t just be tossed, that didn’t feel like it’d be easy to toss away. It’s very collectible and they are limited.”
Hail The Sun are currently on a massive US tour, I asked Melero if the band had any plans to head to the UK. “Yes and no. We are definitely going to make it happen, if not any time before this it will be by summer of next year. But I want to get there so badly. The last time we were there was in 2017 and I feel like right now would be the time to strike. I love Europe, I used to go over there all the time. I would love to start cultivating that market and having it be something that we add into our normal routine of touring. I don’t know what the fan base is like over there, I don’t think any of us really do, but we’re down to give it a shot and you got to try it somewhere.” Expanding on this he adds “I think all of us are a lot more about the experience and just living a life full of experiences like that. We don’t want to fucking go broke, but we could also die tomorrow and going broke wouldn’t matter if we die. So, I really try to find the balance there. I think it’d just be fun as fuck to go to Europe regardless of all the logistics that come with it. We’ll see if someone takes us out this fall. That’d be awesome. Last minute addition.”
Finally, I asked Melero about the future and what he hopes is in store for Hail The Sun “we have fun together and our catalogue reflects that. And I say this because the journey that’s brought us to here, I feel like it’s going to still go even much further than where we are at. As long as we’re having fun and doing what we feel is best and writing music like this, it’s going to continue – there’s no limit. And I’ve always felt that way. I still feel that way. I think it’s going to be a really fun journey for Hail The Sun, but we’re at a point where we can have an album that has ‘Tithe’ and ‘60 Minute Session Blocks’ on the same record and it doesn’t feel out of place. And I’m so proud of that because this is something that I feel like you can expect from Hail, where it’s not completely thrown out of left field. This fucking crazy, screaming, hardcore type of song (Tithe) with then a more alternative, just straightforward track (60 Minute Session Blocks). And it’s not like it’s a different band, it feels normal and natural. That I think is something that’s special.”
Divine Inner Tension releases August 11th via Rude Records/Equal Visions Records
Pre-order Divine Inner Tension HERE