by Steven Sanchez
If you had a time machine and went back in time, and collected 60/70s rock legends Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Queen, then went forward to the 90s and picked up Blind Melon, and finally came back to today to concoct a band with a classic rock sound with some alternative edge to it, the end result would be local band The Dying Suns.
In the current climate, where that vintage, but unforgotten, sound of loud blues riffs, heart stopping drums, and male siren vocalists has been making a comeback with nostalgic outfits like Greta Van Fleet, The Struts, and Dirty Honey, this band fits into that fraternity of musical reminiscence. Hailing from the rodeo town of Clovis, the group has been collecting a tornado of attention amongst Valley music fans with past and future gigs at Strummer’s and Barmeggedon. They appeared on the Everything Sparkle show on CentralValleyTalk.com, they have had their demos played on New Rock 104.1 and The Rock Radio Show on KBUU 99.1 in Malibu. They have an upcoming performance on “Great Day” on KMPH, with many more events to follow.
They have only been in existence for a little over a year. These baby-faced rockers are all under the age of 20, but are forging their own path to rock legitimacy. Each, with his long hair and colorful garb, definitely matches the description of Bay Area peace-loving hippies busking their music at an anti-war protest. But don’t let their throwback innocence fool you, they’re here to rock.
The roster that comprises this head-banging squad is: lead singer and frontman Harrison Silva Costa, with his banshee-like wailing that can reach operatic heights; winter is coming, and it’s lead guitarist Maximus Winterburn Musson, who could qualify as a descendant of the guitar maestro himself, Jimmy Page, with his flexible fingers and experimental approach to his six-string mistress that can summon the spiritual sounds of what the Greeks refer to as the kithara; silent as the night, and mysterious as an enigma is bassist Zachary Sylvester, a young man of few words. But make no mistake, he’s the funk and groove supplier of the band; and the pulse that keeps this rockin’ body moving is the supersonic, jazz-handed, octopus-armed drummer Bryce Lowenthal, who can kick start your heart or make it skip a beat once those sticks make contact with his kit.
They started out as one of the main house bands at 559 Beer on Pollasky Avenue, but by assessing their bright trajectory, it seems like there are more places they plan to mark as their territory. I got the chance to sit down with these classic rock Renaissance youths and discuss their views on the local music scene, on emerging as a rising act in the midst of the vintage rock revival, whether their age is a benefit or a challenge in a genre that attracts mostly an older crowd (Zach and Max are seniors in high school), and if their classical music training sets them apart from all the other bands out there.
KRL: How did the formation of the band come about?
Bryce: Me and Harry knew each other from playing in prior bands. I met Max at a choir show, and he knew Zach, and he came in when we were looking to form a group.
KRL: You guys have that classic rock/blues/soul vibe. Was that an established sound you wanted from the get-go, or was it something that evolved once you guys started playing together?
Harrison: When we first played together we played a Led Zeppelin cover. From that point on we were like, this works and this is what we love. We weren’t aiming for anything specific but this is what we liked so we just stuck to it. We have influences from Rush, Zeppelin, and Queen, so we just incorporated that inspiration into our sound naturally.
KRL: The classic rock sound is being renewed. Do you feel you’re coming in at the right time to thrive in the genre nowadays?
Band: Of course!
Maximus: We all have a shared interest to play that kind of music, but we do want to modernize our sound for it to appeal to newer audiences.
KRL: This genre of classic rock in a way belongs to and appeals to an older crowd. Were there any challenges in dealing with these crowds in trying to prove to them you know your stuff and you guys can rock?
Band: Not at all!
Harrison: Nothing but love and support.
Bryce: If anything, they have praised us for taking a shot at playing this brand of music, so it wasn’t challenging at all.
KRL: The Fresno music scene is rising, but it doesn’t get the credit it deserves. To a casual observer, in your words, how would do describe this scene, and what’s your contribution to it?
Harrison: The music scene is revolved around the arts and freedom. People like playing for the fun to play, to keep their minds on something else than being distracted by all the bad things that are going on in the world. What our music brings to the table is that we have a certain tone to all our songs, which the result is we want to bring positivity to concertgoers.
KRL: Everyone in the band is classically trained. All of you have been in high school bands, and were taught music theory from an academic perspective. Most bands just play rock music, but you guys are students of music in general. Do you think that works to your advantage?
Maximus: We definitely do have aspirations to use those classical aspects to incorporate into our music. My mother was a belly dancer, and I grew up with [multi-]cultural music in my house so I’ve been open minded to input that into our sound.
Bryce: I come from a jazz drumming background; I grew up playing the instrument my whole life. I was in drum line, concert percussion, and jazz band, and my love for the instrument grew from there. It’s easy to apply that background to the world of rock because you have a diverse palatte to work with when you come from that world.
Harrison: I’ve been involved in musical theatre, and my mother was an opera singer, so I had free vocal lessons my whole life. In high school I was required for four years to take musical theory to graduate, so it helps to have that knowledge, but it’s not mandatory. Sometimes being too technical can be a disadvantage, but we go by feeling since we already have honed the craft of our instruments. So we just go with what feels right.
KRL: You guys are a young band. Half of the band is still in high school and the other half just graduated. Saying you guys are in a rock band that’s been on radio, opened for well known bands, and is about to be on television—what did that do for your reputations?
Harrison: It really didn’t make much of a difference. I was a musical guy already so it didn’t really add much.
Maximus: For me, being in a band and performing—it was the first time I had ever been praised for anything by my peers. It definitely was a confidence booster to help me form my identity in a way I never have before.
Zachary: Same with me.
KRL: The band has a lot of influences. With all that at your disposal, when you come up with new music, do ever find yourself thinking things like: I want my solo to sound like this song, or for it to resemble that song, etc.? Are your influences on your mind when approaching new music or is it always subconsciously there?
Bryce: It’s not always a conscious thing. We are interested in letting things flow naturally and not put too many expectations on what a song is supposed to sound like. We have an ear for what we specifically want but our goal isn’t to sound like any specific band or artist.
Maximus: Me, personally, what I’ve always wanted to do was create the same experience from the music I would listen to. The feeling of wanting to make a song that made me feel a certain way and create the vibe of what that band did, but we don’t want to copycat anybody.
KRL: You guys have got quite a bit of attention for only having been together for a short time. You have past and upcoming gigs at popular local spots, your song has been played on radio stations, and you’re about to be on live television. How do you factor in, and deal with, the attention at such a fast pace?
Maximus: This is me and Zach’s first band, so there’s not really a reference point there, we’re just doing our thing.
Bryce: I’ve been in bands since I was 15, and now I’m 19, so I already know what to expect to a certain degree. I personally, from my stand point, worked hard in contributing to whatever reception we got during my tenure in those groups. Having gone through that, I must say things have happened faster with this band than any other band I was in before. I don’t think it’s too much at all yet. We’re ready, we dream of reaching the sky with our potential, this is what the job entails, so we accept what comes our way.
KRL: All of you are from Clovis, which isn’t particularly known for birthing musicians or being considered an artistic place. When you’re out there promoting yourselves, do you feel you’re carrying your hometown on your back in getting its name out there?
Maximus: I would very much be proud to say, if we were to achieve mainstream success—I believe we would be proud to say that we’re from Clovis and appreciate what Fresno has done for us, so there’s always a sense of pride of our roots no matter where we are or where we play.
KRL: When people hear The Dying Suns how would they best describe your music?
Bryce: I believe the feel of the music and the energy we bring to the music is what stands out. The diversity we aspire to achieve by infusing Latin, funk, and classic rock, the positivity and wanting to smile. We would love to build a zone where people could release those feelings and enjoy what it means to be human by creating this art and experience for anyone and everyone to love.