The last time Christo Bowman’s band Bad Suns played in Eugene, they performed at Cozmic Pizza, now known as Whirled Pies. “We had fans there, it was really cool,” he tells me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles.
But what was especially cool was that, when Bowman looked out in the audience, he spotted Dan Reynolds, vocalist with Imagine Dragons, a band responsible for several of the biggest mainstream radio rock hits of the past decade.
What was Reynolds doing in Eugene, and how did he end up at the Bad Suns show? Bowman’s not sure, and he was too afraid to ask. Bowman was, after all, only 19 at the time.
But now, Bad Suns is back in town, supporting its new album, Mystic Truth, out in March on legendary punk label Epitaph Records. Bowman calls the album a big step forward for the band.
“It’s different than our first two records. People may be a bit confused,” he says. Nevertheless, “it’s our strongest body of work to date. I want people to see their lives reflected in it.”
Advance album singles like “Away We Go” exist somewhere between the E Street Band and The Clash: a little blue collar, a little power pop and a little pop punk. But, most of all, Bad Suns is a little bit ready for their own kind of mainstream rock radio success.
Growing up in L.A., Bowman has always been fascinated with music. “I always had this energy that I wanted to put into something,” he says. “I loved music and I loved movies. I wasn’t sure where to focus that energy.”
Bowman’s earliest musical memories involve The Wizard of Oz, and Bowman’s first time singing on stage was as Harry Hill, the main character in the classic stage musical The Music Man.
But when Bowman heard Blink 182 on the radio, things started to change.
“It was so different,” he says. “There was that ‘click’ moment: these guys are combining all these things that I love. I went down a rabbit hole. I wanted to do it.”
Epitaph is known as a punk label, and while Bad Suns do recall early Elvis Costello, music lazily lumped in with punk, they don’t exactly fit the punk mold — not exactly punk, but then again, very punk in essence.
Once Epitaph heard Mystic Truth, however, they were on board, Bowman says. “They were elated, and happy to work behind it. None of those imagined barriers existed or mattered. Punk music is what we grew up on.”
For example, the band bonded over The Shape of Punk to Come, a late ’90s classic from Swedish punk band Refused. “The spirit of punk has always kind of been there,” Bowman says.
And of all the people Bowman admires that front bands, he has particular respect Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. “That guy encapsulated everything a front man should be,” he says. “No-holds-barred leadership: not giving a fuck.”
Bad Suns with Vista Kicks Friday, March 1 • 9 pm Hi-Fi Music Hall
$18 advance $20 door