Interview: The Rocket Summer – "I had no ambitions other than to make a great record"
Thu, 25 Mar 2010 14:26:26
The Rocket Summer Videos
If you're from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, there's a good chance that you have a soft spot for Pantera.
The Rocket Summer's Bryce Avary laughs, "We've played 'Walk' a few times live at Rocket Summer shows, believe it our not! I've been known to bust out some metal!"
That's not surprising given the wall of warm riffs that often buttresses up Avary's soaring melodies on The Rocket Summer's latest offering, Of Men and Angels. Avary knows his way around a fretboard and the album's epic scope definitely has its "heavy" moments. However, Of Men and Angels is "heartfelt" more than anything. It's a modern alt rock opus in the truest sense—from the pensive piano poetry of "Walls" to the spacey harmonies a la Hum that make "Roses" and "Hills and Valleys" so engaging.
Bryce caught up with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about Of Men and Angels, some parallels to a quirky Greg Kinnear flick and getting away from it all to write some awesome tunes.
Do you feel like Of Men and Angels preserves The Rocket Summer sound while simultaneously evolving it?
Production-wise, I wanted to make a record that sounded very big, but I wanted to do it in an organic way with a lot of integrity. It's a real record in terms of the sound of it all and how we went about doing it. There was very little chopping on the drums and no auto-tune on the vocals. Lyrically, I write from my heart. I tried to write great songs that would hopefully strike a chord with different people that I haven't before—really honest songs. If we get some hits out of it, cool. If not, same old, we'll keep rockin'—rockin' in the free world [Laughs].
Did you go into the record with certain lyrical stories in mind or did the music dictate the words?
I always write from my life and from stories that are happening to me. I primarily wrote this record in my house in the suburbs of Texas—away from all things L.A. and New York. That had something to do with the sound. I was in this warm state all the time [Laughs]. I tried to strip everything away, and I had no other ambitions than to make a great record—one that had a lot of substance and was actually meaningful as opposed to just being really catchy.
If you were to compare Of Men and Angels to a movie, what would you compare it to?
Oh wow! I just saw a movie with Greg Kinnear where he invents the windshield wiper. It totally gets stolen from him, he fights his whole life and he gets it in the end. It's called Flash of Genius. Maybe, I'll compare Of Men and Angels to that—on a shotgun answer to a question that requires lots of thinking [Laughs]. This album's common themes involve fighting the fight and struggles, but having this uncanny faith that things will turn out a certain way and keeping your chin up. It's about remembering what God's done in my life. The album is very real in a sense.
What's the story behind "Walls"?
That song is about when you have something in your life that you can't quite seem to get a grip on no matter how hard you try, how much you pray or how much you work at something. Whether it's depression or success; it could be a million different things. It's about the importance of people and relationships—to me, how God works through people and how that feels. That song is really direct. The best songs are the ones that aren't contrived at all. That's definitely "Walls," to me.
What's up with "Light?"
I wrote that song while I was in the studio. I kind of endured a lot of issues while we were recording. Clearly, everything worked out. We had some people come and go from certain places. In 2009, a lot of people lost their jobs within our management, label and stuff like that. It made things a bit difficult. I was concerned, and I was thinking about it so that song is a very spiritual song. It's about surrendering your life to God and staying on the path. On this record, there's a lot of struggle, but it's cool to look back on it and see what's happening now. Things are panning out—the record is out, and it's a big step up for us. I'm just thankful to get to do this, man. There's still so much potential for this to grow in so many ways.