Can you tell me how you guys got your start?
Yeah, in early 2009 I was going to school at Rochester College, it’s a little Christian college in Michigan and a couple of the guys were going there as well. We used the auditorium there at school and we’d just bring our band equipment in and jam out, just play random stuff. After a while we started taking it seriously because I was about to graduate and the other guys just wanted to play music so we got some more members together. By about mid-summer of 2009 we started touring and we just haven’t stopped. That’s kind of how it started.
How did you guys come up with the name, Rocky Loves Emily?
There’s a movie called The Three Ninja’s and it came out in the early 90’s. Personally, it’s one of my top 5 favorite movies. There’s this little boy in the movie named Rocky. At one point, I was the same age as him, but obviously the character stayed the same age and I’m really old. But, when I was little he was my hero because he was so cool looking and he actually had a crush on this girl named Emily, who I also had a crush on. It just kind of worked, so it was Rocky Loves Emily.
Since you guys basically started everything yourselves—from recording your EPs that you put on Myspace to booking tours—was it hard to figure that all out?
Yeah, it was for sure because a lot of bands get booking agents and publicists and all that stuff from the start but we kind of just wanted to figure out the industry on our own and be hands on. It was almost like those books, like, how to book a tour for dummies, we just had to figure it out. We made a lot of weird decisions early on and we eventually found our way. Now we kind of have a system that we go by.
And you guys are considered the Hot Topic band now?
I don’t know if we’re officially considered that, but a lot of the managers at Hot Topic are just like, ‘You guys are here all of the time.’ We’re like the house band or something. I don’t even know how many we played, sometimes two in one day. It was ridiculous, but they’re amazing I love Hot Topic.
Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of getting signed to Tooth and Nail? I know you guys had to drive across the country.
Tooth and Nail had received our CD earlier in April of this year—of 2010. Actually, we first gave it to Mike, our A&R guy, at a Copeland show because we were touring and we were in Seattle. We saw Copeland’s last tour and I pretty much cried. Our A&R guy came up to us and said he had heard of us and he was interested. We ended up hearing back from him. Like, we didn’t hear back from him after that appearance, but we got a phone call about a month later like, ‘hey drive from Detroit to Seattle in two days if you’re actually serious about signing to Tooth & Nail.’ We were like ‘Are you kidding?’ It basically came out of nowhere. So we dropped everything and basically jumped in a van that we didn’t think that was going to make it, but it did.
How did that feel then?
It’s not exactly like what you’d expect. I think a lot of kids that grow up dreaming about what it would be like to have a record label sign you, it’s not exactly like what you’d expect, but it is really cool. I can’t explain it, it’s more of a proud feeling. You feel so blessed by God that he would give you that opportunity. We don’t deserve it at all, we seriously suck. There are so many bands out there that deserve it more than we do, but God, for some reason, gave us that opportunity and we’re going to run with it.
I guess some people probably think that they’re going to bring out balloons and a huge paycheck when you get signed, but it’s probably not really like that.
No, not at all. I mean, they treat you really good. Tooth & Nail is my favorite record label. All of our needs are taken care of. It’s more of a calm setting. We eventually signed the papers later at the studio in Seattle when we were recording our EP and it was a really calm feeling since we had already been talking about getting signed for about three months. We just expected it, you know what I mean?
What kind of touring are you doing?
We actually just got off the road. We were doing the Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife tour. I came up with the name, I’m kind of proud of it. We did the whole East coast and in January we’re gearing up to do the same route again.
So you’ll be doing East coast again?
Yeah, maybe a little bit in the Midwest, but we’re going to try to stick to the same market awhile.
Can you tell me a little bit about what went into making American Dream?
Yeah, we started demoing it out this summer at a cabin, actually in Michigan that our drummer’s family owns. So we went up there a few times, just the guys, and had bonfires and acoustic guitars and we demoed out a bunch of ideas and then by the end of the summer, Tooth & Nail flew us across the country—but this time on a plane so that was nice—to Seattle and we recorded with producer Casey Bates. He’s done like, Chiodos and stuff, so we were freaking out because we love those guys. We just love their music so much so to get to go with the guy that masterminded their record, we were like ‘Holy Crap’! When we met him, he was so cool and such a nice guy and now we’re really good friends with him.
Do you think he pushed you guys in different directions than you would have done yourself?
Not at all actually. He pretty much took the project that we demoed out and just recorded it. We didn’t really have a lot of time to just sit down with him, but he really just dug what we were doing I think. He was like, ‘Dude, let’s do this.’ But he definitely did stuff mixing-wise and sound engineering-wise on our tones and stuff that we would have never thought of and we were so blessed that he did.
What is it about the ideal of an American dream that made you sit down, think about it and try to figure out how to share that with an audience?
I think it was actually the fact that, I don’t know being in a band and being like early twenties, there’s a lot of pressure from society to settle down and stop wandering around in a broken down van and get a normal job. I was thinking about that and everyone calls that ‘The American Dream,’ like settling down and raising a family and all of those things. I really like those things and I would like to do that, but for me I feel that my calling in life is very opposite of that. I was thinking one day ‘Does that make me not American? Does that make me not living my dream just because I’m not doing the status quo?’ Then I realized that this is my American dream, it’s maybe not the American dream, but it’s still my pursuit of happiness, my pursuit of doing what’s right. I guess that’s why I called it American Dream because it still is my American dream even though it isn’t what’s normal.
What is your favorite song off of the album?
I keep getting this question and it’s so tough. My instinct is to say “American Dream,” which is the title track, just because it’s my favorite lyrical work—it was a huge load off of my shoulders just to write that track. But, it’s probably a tie between “American Dream” and the third track, which is called “See Her Again.” I really just like the instrumentation of that song.
Was “See Her Again” written about a certain person then?
Not necessarily, it’s more of just an idea I had in my head that I just kind of went with.
Since the album just came out, how does it feel to see it packaged neatly and know it’s on iTunes and in Hot Topic?
It’s really an incredible feeling. It’s a very emotional feeling. I’ve never had a record properly packaged and in a store. It feels like a huge blessing and it’s something that I don’t deserve and I remind myself of that every day. It only came out yesterday and I’ve already gone twice now to see it, just in a store, you know? I have to keep reminding myself that this could just be a fleeting moment, I mean, who knows. Maybe tomorrow nobody will give a crap, but for the time being I really thank God for it.
How do you guys write your songs, individually or as a group?
I actually originally was the guitarist in this band. I used to play guitar and sing so I started the band kind of writing the songs, but when I just shifted into vocals I still write the main parts on guitar and then I’ll write the lyrics and the melody and from there the guys will kind of do their magic and make it more cohesive. They’ll add different structures. Our drummer will completely change the feel with something he’ll put on drums. So it starts with me, just making the skeleton and they kind of make it more like a body.
Do they ever input on your lyrical content then?
For sure, all the time. Sometimes I’ll write a line and I’ll be like, ‘Dude, isn’t this so cool?’ and then they’ll be like, ‘No.’ So then it’s back to the drawing board. But, we’re all best friends so nothing gets weird.
That’s what I wondered, if it ever get’s hard being around the same guys all of the time.
No, maybe we’re just weird and like each other. Every day we wake up and we’re pretty stoked to be around each other.
Being a vocalist, what do you do to make a connection with the fans from the stage?
I think for me, instead of the term “putting on a show” I try to be more sincere and really interact with what’s happening in the crowd instead of doing the same things and telling the same jokes. Every night is a different show and I think kids realize that too because I’m actually talking about what’s going on and looking out into the crowd making eye contact. Sometimes in between songs, I’ll chat with somebody in the crowd and it’s all sincere. If something strikes my eye and I think it’s funny, I’m going to point it out. It’s just kind of how I am, I’m not really good at sticking to a schedule or a flat way of doing something. I think for me it makes it fun, but I don’t know about the crowd. I have fun on stage so I hope they have fun too.
What other bands do you feel like have influenced you guys in your sound?
That’s a good question. Honestly like, I’m going to throw back really far, but I really like the songwriting structures of people like Tom Petty and Brian Adams and the way their guitar riffs and vocals fit together. I think they set the tone for a lot of bands today whether the bands realize it or not. I’ve started going way back and listening to old CD’s that my mom would listen to growing up like Tom Petty and Brian Adams. That was a big influence going into the studio and I think because of that we probably sound like a few bands that are happening right now, but we’re really trying to do something that’s our own whether people think so or not.
What is something that most Rocky Loves Emily fans wouldn’t know about you personally.
I have this really nasty birth mark, no I’m just kidding. I don’t know, can you break it into a category.
Just something that no one knows that’s kind of quirky?
Probably unlike most lead singers, I would much rather—a lot of other band’s lead singers like to go out and party, but I’m way more of a homebody. After a show and just talking with fans and stuff of course, I’d rather just sit in my room and watch a movie by myself. I’m just way more internal and I’m not into the spotlight—I’m just a homebody type of guy.
Do your beliefs play into your lyrical content at all?
I don’t think that I purposefully do it and I’m not really setting out to write lyrics necessarily that are evangelical in any way. I don’t think somebody is going to listen to our record…I’m trying to choose my words carefully. I do think that because I’m a Christian and we’re all Christians, regardless of whether we try not to make our music Christian—not that we try not to—but even if I did try not to it just bleeds through because it’s who we are. I feel like it’s going to happen regardless of what I try to set out to do because God’s in me. I think it is in there, but you just have to look for it.
If it’s not too personal, how did you become a Christian?
Oh, it’s not too personal. I can answer that. I was raised in a Christian family and I went to a private Christian school my entire life, like even in college, which is probably unfortunate because I’m really awkward. I was actually in a bath tub when I just decided. I was six-years-old in a bubble bath like, ‘I want to be a Christian.’ I just prayed in the bubble bath and I got out and I was like, ‘Hey mom, I’m a Christian now,’ and she was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ I think she already thought that I was.
In the future what is something you’d really love Rocky Loves Emily to be known for, that you’d like to set you apart?
That’s an awesome question. I think I’ve learned a lot since we’ve recorded this EP and I think we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves. We would really love to be known as a band that is just sincere and loves the lord and in conversation, shows that to people. Not necessarily in music or we’re not going to be—I don’t know, who knows what we’re going to be. Maybe just a band that isn’t ashamed to say that they love God and isn’t ashamed to live that lifestyle. I don’t know, if somebody walked away from our show saying, ‘Those guys are super weird, but at least they’re not ashamed to be saying what they’re saying.’ That would be pretty tight, you know, because we’d be planting a seed. But, it’s tough to say that though. I’ll be honest, I can’t say that we live even close to that, but in an ideal world I think our hearts always want that.
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