Red Sun Alert: Assuming power with new EP and UK/Ireland tour 

With the Covid crisis in the rearview mirror, Leeside post-hardcore four-piece Red Sun Alert are finally release to unleash their ‘Assume Power’ EP, with a UK and Ireland tour to accompany it. Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with vocalist Julia Pawlak and guitarist Cian Mullane.
Red Sun Alert: Assuming power with new EP and UK/Ireland tour 

Red Sun Alert: The band will be touring in the UK this spring.

As your writer catches half of Northside post-hardcore outfit Red Sun Alert over Zoom, the lads are in various states of busy mode - Julia Pawlak is pulled up in her car, conducting the interview over the phone, while guitarist Cian Mullane is taking a break from recording for another of his panopticon of Leeside music projects, an upcoming extended-player for math-rock trio Daz-Gak! (the exclamation point is theirs).

Busy is the watchword for Red Sun Alert, too - after being among the slew of local bands affected by the Covid-19 crisis, the band got right to work as soon as they could, finishing their Assume Power EP last summer, and slowly drip-feeding singles from it over the past few months.

To mark its release on Friday, March 3, the band are getting ready to head back out on the road - playing Sheffield and Nottingham in the UK as this goes to press, and a brace of Irish gigs on release week, including a hometown launch at Crack Jenny’s, the former Larry Tompkins’ Pub on Lavitt’s Quay.

“The UK is always very welcoming, we’ve made such amazing friends over there at this stage, and it’s a lovely, lovely scene, so it’s always very exciting. It’s nice to expand the horizon a little bit, and I like to think of it as a brilliant opportunity to see new places as well. Music is really giving that opportunity to us, to go somewhere where we normally maybe wouldn’t be going to, if not for the fact that we got involved in such an amazing thing.”

Like with many Covid-era musical projects, the EP was assembled in dribs and drabs remotely, before getting comprehensively rehearsed prior to recording as the circumstances changed. In the case of title track ‘Assume Power’, however, it’s been a case of different strands of creativity coming together, from social commentary on women’s rights in Poland, to fishing lyrics out of wordplay to fit musical ideas, says Pawlak.

“Once we were able to see each other again, we just dived right into it. We were able to send some ideas across, and had an idea of what maybe we were going to be working on. Once we were able to be in a room together again, a lot of the stuff happened. But when you are able to have like one person over, it’s easier, and Cian lived very close to me at the time, so he was able to come over and write with me. We wrote quite a bit together, and then once we were able to go to rehearsals and meet all together, we fleshed everything out, got all the music done.

“Lyrically speaking, I remember writing Assume Power, and, for me, I almost sang that as sounds and syllables, you know, and then the words kind of started to come together. The theme of that song in particular... what was happening in Poland at the time, and it was women striking against all the rules and regulations that are taken against abortion and and the ‘pro-life’ movement that was happening in Poland, basically. So it was kind of a reflection on me standing with the women, y’know, who were out there on the streets, fighting for their rights.

“Looking at the [other] songs, we have ‘Close to Water’, which, lyrically, it’s not super complex, it’s more just kind of being like, ‘I’m close to something that I want to reach’. We also have two other songs that we haven’t released yet from that EP, and one of them is a more fun kind of song, I think, not too much thought went into that, and we also have another song that you haven’t heard, ‘Cactus’, I can’t even describe the theme of it.”

“We’d just be angry at stuff, like,” muses Mullane.

Perhaps a sign of its own times, the finished product was done between MTU Cork School of Music’s top-floor studio (available to students and alumni alike for bookings!), and producer/engineer Eoin Hayes’ Rebel Recordings studio, late of the now-levelled Bubble Rooms rehearsal studio in Ballinlough, another creative space for people in the city that was taken away by circumstance.

“We started by tracking all the drums, which took ages, we went absolutely crazy with it, in the Cork School of Music studio, like, the facility is absolutely amazing. That is where the bulk of all the stuff that you see from all our bands, that has all happened in there, in that space, because it’s a brilliant opportunity for people to get a bit more familiar, and actually, y’know, learn how to do these things. I think we became so much more equipped in knowledge of how to be able to make our own music.

“We brought Eoin in to help us out. We were able to learn from him, he’s a brilliant man for that, he really talks you through the whole process, explains exactly what he’s doing, so it is like a little studio lesson all the same. We always track the guitars next, which we actually did over in Rebel Recordings out in Bubble Room, which is no longer there, unfortunately.”

“That whole building is knocked now, it’s all gone,” says Mullane of the studio, on the former industrial estate on the Douglas Road.

“[Bubble Rooms runner Paul Fennelly was] very, very eager to help out young musicians, that was his thing,” adds Pawlak. “We recorded our first EP there, and some singles as well. It’s a nice little memory of something that was, that is no longer. We did bass and guitars in that building, tracked them all in there. Eoin has absolutely amazing gear that he let us use, it was awesome.

“We went back to the School of Music to record vocals, we kind of did that over a span of a few days. It all kind of came together quickly, just because we really knew how the songs are meant to be sounding, ‘this is exactly what we want’. We also have Emma Maguire from Mossy doing some backing vocals on some of the tunes that you’re going to hear. She’s a great friend of ours, she’s lovely, lovely girl. Eoin sat down with us, mixing tunes, it was all face-to-face, a great experience.”

The crew also had help from a fellow artist in HAUSU Records’ Automatic Blue - the man behind which, Drew Linehan, is a fellow CSM grad, and chipped in with performance and production contributions.

“Drew helped us out, especially with the vocal parts, and maybe adding in some synths, as well. He helped us looking at the vocals and different aspects of that. And he’s such a great friend of ours, like we spent the last four years with him in college, and also I went to Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa with him. A great buddy, and it was a really, really nice and enjoyable experience just to be able to do that - I actually recorded some stuff in his shed with him, which was great!”

The band comes home from the UK and heads upstairs in Crack Jenny’s on Thursday, March 2, with support from female-featuring bands Mossy and Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra, and a DJ set from Alexa Newall, of Staff Party and other local outfits. It’s a definite choice, in line with the band’s policy of booking inclusive lineups - and attempting to create safe spaces for women and non-binary people at heavy gigs, not always historically the most accepting of gigging environments, says Pawlak.

“The line-up is dominated by women this time around. It’s great to get people involved and know they’re good friends of ours as well. A lot of people can approach doing “all-female” lineups, specifically advertising them as suchand I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it’s just like, this is just what it should be. So we have ourselves, and supporting, we have Mossy, which obviously, we know Emma, a brilliant, brilliant gal, and Kate [drummer], also a brilliant gal. Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra, a three-piece band from Dublin, awesome, we saw them at Vantastival, absolutely brilliant, brilliant ladies, love them. This all will be then followed by a DJ set from Alexa. She is a member of Staff Party, she’s great.

“Being able to just put on a show like that, of all these awesome gals. It’s great. We’re trying just to include that, normalise that, and let people kind of come to the shows, and let loose. Just normalising the fact that everyone is included there, everyone’s allowed to be there. Sometimes, when I was growing up especially, I felt a little bit left out at some of the metal gigs, a little bit. Like, ‘God, I don’t feel confident enough to be able to step into a mosh pit, or even go up to the stage’. I didn’t feel that confidence, I didn’t feel safe, necessarily to do that, where we’re really trying to kind of have the people up the front, include the people, give the mic out, if we can do it. It’s just those little things, I think, and talking to people, obviously, asking their experiences, seeing how they’re feeling, and stuff like that.”

“I think we’re really sound”, reckons Mullane, when quizzed on his own thoughts.

The Assume Power EP releases on Friday, March 3, via Narrow Door Records, across streaming services, and for download at Red Sun Alert launch the EP at Crack Jenny’s, Lavitt’s Quay, Cork City on Thursday, March 2, with support from Mossy and Pixie Cut Rhythm Orchestra, and a DJ set from Staff Party’s Alexa Newall.

Tickets €10 available here

18s+ - otherwise, all welcome - especially women and non-binary moshers!

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