"Latin music [in Cali is] the normal thing, but if you're a rock or metal fan, or have a band, you are almost like an outcast."
Red Sun Cult are a Stoner Metal / Rock band from Cali, Colombia. Recently they were on Channel Thirteen, in the Resonantes program, but also were placed #17 on the top 25 chart on the Colombian radio station Radionica FM. All of this is a huge achievement for the band, but we wanted to find out what the band is about, what life for musicians in Colombia is like and whether it's a safe tourist destination for music lovers... this is Red Sun Cult's story.
Tell us how you came up with the band name, Red Sun Cult?
"Well with the first line-up of the band, we were Stoner Rock fans and Kyuss was the band we loved the most, the 2nd album by Kyuss was called 'Blues For The Red Sun' and so that was the inspiration for our name."
How did you get into playing Stoner Metal / Rock in the first place?
"We were huge fans of Classic Rock, especially Blues Rock and Jimi Hendrix, Cream, that kind of stuff. But when we started to jam, we also like heavy music and so it's kind of a result by mixing the two genres together."
What was it like growing up as Heavy Metal / Rock fans in Colombia? What challenges do bands face?
"Well it's really hard... well the city (Cali) is very well known as the salsa capital, here the rumba is like our religion, everyone on the weekend goes dancing. Being a heavy metal / rock fan is kind of hard because there aren't many venues, bands, etc., so it's like a group of friends in the city who owns 2 or 3 bars, 1 venue and that's the scene here.
Well I think there are two big challenges for being a rock / metal band in Colombia, the first is the size of the public, filling a venue of 50 people here in Cali is like a big event... 50 people is considered a lot of people at a gig here in Colombia; especially in Cali, in Bogotá it's quite different but not that different. The second challenge is travelling from city to city as roads in the country are in a bad shape, for doing 400km you will spend like 12-13 hours risking your life.
Colombia has so many mountains and so with the roads you have to go up and then down, so driving 400km takes a lot of time because it's very hilly / mountainous / curvy road. In fact once we were travelling from Bogotá to Cali and we almost died.
Rock / Metal music here in Cali is niche, so in a city that likes Latin music, it's the normal thing, but if you're a rock or metal fan, or have a band, you are almost like an outcast. So you need to find that niche, this is one of the biggest challenges."
With that in mind, do you think that for metal's profile to be raised in Colombia, there needs to be a band tapping into Latin music?
"That's an interesting question, there are some metal bands who did that... Sepultura from Brazil I think is one of those bands who tried to mix Latin rhythms with metal. We try to incorporate let's say the Latin aspect to our music, especially in the lyrics; we are in the jungle you know?"
Tell us about the music consumption in Colombia, do metalheads prefer the physical or digital copies?
"People are listening to music by streaming or YouTube, so there's a small culture where people buy merch, but everyday it gets smaller you know. People are turning more towards vinyl production than CD, it's growing everyday. Mainly though people are consuming music by streaming.
I think things like CD's and vinyls are becoming more of a part of a collection, you treat yourself... when people go to our gigs, they say the music was great, the gig was good and then ask do we have any CD's. Unfortunately we don't have any more CD's, but they ask for CD's and vinyls. But for the mainstream things like Spotify and the streaming platforms are the main methods of music consumption.
In terms of consumption we need to put a lot of effort into our marketing strategies and we would, if the chance arose, to have maybe around 100 CDs or 100 vinyls in order to satisfy a particular segment of people who are really into collectibles."
Streaming has enabled bands to be heard worldwide which is a great thing, but do you feel it is killing off parts of the music industry in some aspects?
"I think things are changing, for us as a band the platform Bandcamp has worked very, very well and we have seen people from all over the world buy our music and merch. So I think we'll just have to adapt, especially for bands like us where in our corner of the world there is no real industry - I think this change is beneficial for us because before there were no big labels in Colombia.
But now bands like us with the DIY ethos could sell our music in places like Australia or the UK, so maybe for us it's a good thing. As part of the music business we have to adapt to these changes, there are a lot of perks - people from around the world can listen to Red Sun Cult; but on the other hand from my personal opinion, I think that streaming has depleted that experience of waiting for an album to come out, going to a record store, buying it and taking it home to listen throughout.
Now it's the singles, that's why our experiment this year is to release singles each month, instead of EP's or albums. People just want a couple of songs and that's it, you need to be releasing a lot of music constantly."
What plans does Red Sun Cult have for the rest of the year (COVID-19 dependant)?
"We will be working hard this year, we as a Stoner Rock / Metal band want to experiment, we've got other sounds such as playing keyboards, we have a new singer / frontman and navigating the challenges of the Colombian music scene in terms of consumption, because it's really hard. We are releasing one song per month in the form of a video clip, engage with the people on the radio stations - national and international, try to release music as much as we can; the band has been working for the past 1.5 years in writing new music and recording it.
We're trying to include electronic music in some areas and by singing in Spanish we hope to capture more of a fan base here in Colombia, as well as singing in English to capture an overseas fan base."
Do you have any greetings, thanks, etc that you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"The guys we work with in the band as well as yourself for the interview, I think it's these kinds of spaces that are so important and amazing; more so since we first spoke in London and I know you are very interested in metal all over the world and how the cultures influence the music, it's very interesting how all these different cultures have something in common which is the love for rock and metal music. That's why I loved the World Metal Congress, because you got to meet so many kinds of people with the same passion and to be interested in music from all over the world.
It's very cool that you're calling us in Colombia from the UK with 5 hours difference. Thanks a lot for other people who look for music from all over the world. Thanks to everyone who listens to our music wherever you are; making our dreams come true."