Catchy my interview with The Rocket Summer over at Mammoth Press. Bryce Avary chats about making Of Men And Angels, the frustration of delays, staying sunny amidst life's ups and downs, and the importance of love.
In the music world, Bryce Avary sticks out as something of an anomaly. He taught himself to play the guitar and drums as a kid, and by the age of 16 he had self-released his first EP as The Rocket Summer. Nine years and three LPs later, he has scored a major label record deal, won Yahoo! Music’s “Who’s Next?” competition, and graced the cover of Alternative Press. Perhaps most startling, however, is that he writes and records all of the material himself.
It is increasingly common for today’s artists to rely on others to write songs for them, exemplified by the American Idol craze. Instead Avary, who writes on both guitar and piano, opted for a different route.
“I don’t like manufactured pop music whatsoever,” Avary said in an interview before last Wednesday’s show at the Music Box. “I mean, I like poppy melodies and stuff, but writing from your heart is something that’s a huge part of what I’m about.”
Avary’s sincerity and passion, which are translated into the band’s bouncy live shows, has been the cornerstone of The Rocket Summer since its beginning. Currently co-headlining the Alternative Press tour with All Time Low, Avary spent years of touring and hard work to get to where he is today. Along the way, people gradually came onboard, and the band developed quite a rabid following as a result.
“It’s a more intimate, loyal kind of fan base, rather than as opposed to some flavor of the week,” Avary noted. “I don’t know where we’d be without them. It is the foundation of our band.”
Many of its fans have also connected with the band on a deeper level, embracing its authentic and positive lyrics. Songs like “So, In This Hour…” deal with Avary’s relationship with God, while others, including “A Song Is Not A Business Plan,” criticize today’s musical landscape. With modern pop music usually permeated by materialism and hollow instincts, Avary makes it a point to avoid such contrivances.
“It definitely is in the forefront of my brain a lot of the time when I’m writing songs just how much songs actually mean to people,” Avary said. “To be able to use them as a tool and bring hope to people – it’s just crazy that songs can do that.”
After signing with Island Records, it appeared Avary would finally get the opportunity to test that out on a larger scale. His major label debut, Do You Feel, was released last July and sold a solid 15,000 copies its first week out. Despite the strong start, the label never gave it much of a push, which seemingly left The Rocket Summer out in the cold.
“It’s been really weird to know that we have a record that has the potential to be kind of a big record,” Avary said. “There’s been a lot of big changes up at Island Def Jam. A lot of people were fired. It kind of screwed us a little bit, so I don’t know. We’ll see. It might just be another Rocket Summer record that the masses don’t hear, but at the end of the day we still have amazing fans and a loyal audience. I guess that’s all that matters.”
Avary, who has acquired something of a reputation for being overly sunny and upbeat, knows how to be grateful to have a music career in the first place. Now with a set band lineup in place for the first time in The Rocket Summer’s career, this is all Avary’s ever wanted, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
“I’m a songwriter and I’m a performer – it’s what I do. I don’t really know what I’d do other than that, as far as an occupation goes,” Avary confessed. “I just sincerely hope that our fans will grow with us and stick with me. I’ll keep making records as long as they stay with us, as long as there’s an audience there, and that’s something that I hope never goes away.”
My interview with The Rocket Summer is online now at MammothPress.com. In it, do-it-all frontman Bryce Avary talks about his unique writing process and his experiences with record labels, today’s music scene and the band’s dedicated fan base.
Fresh off their opening stint for Fall Out Boy during this summer’s Honda Civic Tour, The Academy Is… is now in the midst of the first headlining tour in support of their second album, Santi. Boasting three very good opening bands, all of which were solid live, last Friday night’s stop of the Sleeping With Giants Tour at Anaheim’s House Of Blues is likely to be one of the best shows this fall.
Starting the night off was San Luis Obispo’s own Sherwood, who turned in a 30-minute set of seven delectable pop-rock songs. “Never Ready To Leave” got things going right off the bat, led by the dual vocal exchange of lead singer/bassist Nate Henry and singer/guitarist Dan Koch. For the rest of the time, they drew almost exclusively from their latest release A Different Light (the only old song was “Learn To Sing”), with highlights including “The Best In Me,” “Song In My Head,” and the stirring closer “For The Longest Time,” which showed off Henry’s vocal range. My only complaint was the similarity between this set list and those from their last two tours. It would have been nice to see them switch things up more or better yet receive an extended playing time. Nevertheless, it was another impressive display.
After Sherwood was The Rocket Summer, who stole the show with a 30-minute set simply bursting forth with energy. From the first song “Break It Out,” they had the whole place moving, and it never let up from there. Whether it was oldies “Around The Clock” and “Brat Pack” or new stuff like “Do You Feel” and “So Much Love,” it was all fantastically done, easily turning into the highlight of the evening. Lead singer Bryce Avary is one of the most energetic frontman I’ve seen, constantly moving around and giving his all while never missing a note in the process. Switching off from guitar to piano almost every other song, he showcased his extraordinary musical talents, even playing the drums during one transition. The only disappointment was once again how short the set was. The release of this summer’s Do You Feel and a live show that can’t be missed should ensure it won’t stay that way for much longer.
Armor For Sleep was given the difficult task of following up The Rocket Summer. While they weren’t able to match their effort, they still put together a solid nine-song, 40-minute outing. Kicking things off in high fashion was “The Truth About Heaven,” displaying a harder rock sound than the rest of bands on the bill. They went on to play several favorites off of their last release What To Do When You Are Dead, with obvious standouts being “Remember To Feel Real,” “Stay On The Ground” and “Car Underwater.” The New Jersey outfit also showcased a handful of new tunes off of next month’s Smile For Them, indicating a heavier direction on tracks such as “Williamsburg” and “Smile For The Camera.” Throughout the set, singer/guitarist Ben Jorgensen delivered consistent vocals, and the other band members sounded tight musically. Even though it was the weakest performance of the night, it was by no means a bad one, and proved why they have now achieved major label status.
Closing the night was The Academy Is…, who put on an entertaining show over the course of their 75-minute set. The Chicago quintet started things off in style with “Same Blood” before transitioning to older songs “Attention” and “Slow Down.” This proved to be a trademark of the night as the band split 18 songs evenly between their two albums. All of their best songs were included too, from the old (“The Phrase That Pays,” “Black Mamba,” “Down And Out,”) to the new (“We’ve Got A Big Mess On Our Hands,” “Bulls In Brooklyn,” “Neighbors,” “Seed”). They closed with “Checkmarks,” one of their finest songs to date, before coming out to encore with the b-side “40 Steps” and an impassioned performance of “Almost Here,” which ended things perfectly.
Frontman William Beckett’s rock persona was also on full display the entire night, which was quite amusing. Whether strutting around on stage or posing atop the risers, he demonstrated a remarkable presence, and it seemed he was able to work the crowd into a frenzy with the simple twist of his hand. Despite the antics, he never came across as arrogant or ungrateful, and his vocals were spot on for almost every song. The rest of the band, while not nearly as fun to watch, performed well in his shadow.
It baffles me how The Academy Is… has not received more mainstream attention, especially considering how they are among Fall Out Boy’s inner circle and Beckett can actually sing and perform live (unlike Panic!’s Brendon Urie). With their set, they not only showed off the musical diversity of Santi but played almost everything off of their debut as well, which was more than enough to please both old and new fans alike. Coupled with three other great up-and-coming bands, including an amazing showing from The Rocket Summer, it turned out to be quite the night for music.