The Rocket Summer: A State of Independence

Photo credit: Cal Knapp

Bryce Avary has declared a massive state of independence!  After a tenure with a major record label, the mastermind behind The Rocket Summer has chosen to take the music on a new and adventurous path.  Launching his own Aviate Records imprint, Avary and The Rocket Summer will unleash the band’s next full length effort entitled Life Will Write The Words!  We recently spoke with Avary on a wide variety of topics ranging from major label mayhem, looking back to the past, his very apparent appreciating of The Rocket Summer fans, the upcoming album, and a chance collaboration with David Archuleta of American Idol.  Read on…

Is there any story or concept behind the CD title Life Will Write The Words?
The title comes from a lyric, and to me, in a sense, that phrase captures a bit of the human experience. I believe there’s a story in everything – there’s a song in everything that we see. We all have a song and a story, but a lot of times we don’t get to write the story – we forget to chose the melody and how the story is sung – how it’s told. We get to suggest that the possibilities are endless and being with this time in my life, it’s totally fitting.

To you, what was the best and worst part about being on a major label?
You know, for me the worst part about it was the handcuffs that you could get put in. I will say that I never really went through what a lot of people go through on the creative side of things. I wrote everything and mostly did what I wanted – but of course I knew the game that I had to play at the same time. It’s not like I was trying to make some kind of crazy weird record that I knew wouldn’t work for them. But the hardest part for me – I went through a bunch of transitions. There were so many regime changes. I had six different A&R people – which that kind of means your point person – your “go-to” guy at that label. I had six different guys come and go. Just to be clear, I’m really grateful for my time there. It was a beautiful experience for a little while – and just like a lot of things in life, it ran its course and became really dark and weird. And I’m extremely grateful for this new situation where I had the opportunity to walk away from the corporate machine. For me, the relationship with my fans is so important – and I don’t like the idea of making a record and wondering if it’s going to come out and then having to wait nine months to a year or a year and a half later And so this is a lot cooler of an opportunity for me to release music in new ways. We released a free live record and we released a free song off this record. I just decided what day it was coming out, and I didn’t have to make sure it went through all of the Justin Bieber plans, you know what I mean? Which he is probably a great guy – that’s not even slightly a dig on him. I’m just saying that it’s a nice feeling to be free when it comes to taking the reins of your own career. So hopefully all of the things that we’re doing giving away stuff – hopefully when the album comes out, fans will support it and pick it up and buy the new record so we can continue doing this. I’m excited to come up with creative ways to release new music.

You recently did a tour where you revisited some of your earlier albums. What was it like playing all those old songs again and did you have to relearn any of them?
Oh my gosh, we definitely had to relearn a lot of them. And there were several songs that we had never even played before. It was a tremendous amount of work on me and especially my band. I went to them and was like, “Hey guys, can we all learn 25 songs to a T and play a two-hour set? And we’re going to do six shows!” And their eyes kind of got really big! But it was amazing, because there’s a lot of people that have never heard those records who are really big fans now. And then there’s people within the natural course of life – those records came out a while ago. We have a lot of fans that have stuck with what I’m doing over the years, and I couldn’t feel more blessed and fortunate to have fans like that. Naturally there are some people who have kids now and are lawyers – and ten years ago were in college when those records came out. It was kind of cool to play those songs and just see so many different pockets of people all over the room. There were the 16-year-old girls and it was the first time they had ever seen The Rocket Summer. And then there’s the 30-year-old people who were kind of like reliving their lives and the memories that are attached to the songs for them. It was a really cool experience! I’m sure I’ll do more of those this year, if not as the years go on.

Has Lisa Loeb heard your cover of Stay and has she ever commented on it?
Oh my gosh – you’re pulling out the old stuff! I think I did a cover of that like almost ten years ago. I didn’t even want to hear it, because I think I was like screaming my guts out and it probably didn’t sound very good. But no, she hasn’t. I always wonder – not about that per say – but I always wonder if Peter Gabriel knows that one of the biggest songs that really launched this thing for me and really set it up in a way for me to do this up until this point – is a song called Brat Pack where I sing about Peter Gabriel. I always wonder if he’s heard about that. Hopefully I get to meet him one day.

If you could open up for any band either now or who has existed, who would it be and why? Maybe even a package tour…
Hmm. I would want it to be – I’m really wracking my brain right now. We’ve had an opportunity to open for some great bands like on festivals. We’ve played festivals with Radiohead before, so it’s kind of ‘Where do you go from there?” I think it would be really cool to open for Jimmy Eat World – who we have opened for before actually – but Jimmy Eat World circa the Clarity era. The Promise Ring circa the same era – Sunny Day Real Estate and maybe That Dog. Bands from ’99-through 2000. When they were putting out those records, like Nothing Feels Good and Clarity – it would be really cool I think to relive that. And maybe Superchunk during the Indoor Living record.

What was it like working with David Archuleta of American Idol and how did this alliance come about?
Oh man, he’s such a good kid – a good dude – a tremendous vocalist. I actually ran into him – it’s so weird man! I had this really weird thing happen one night where I was hanging out with friends and somehow we ended up bumping into Paula Abdul. And long story short – and of the weirdest things I could explain – but Paula Abdul ended up in my rental car with me in a parking garage – and we listened to my entire record Of Men And Angels. And then the very next night was the American Idol finale – and I was in the studio making a song called The Fight. And I got invited to that, and I was like “Well I can’t go, but maybe I’ll try to go to the after party.” I had to work. So I went to the after party and I ran into David Archuleta. It was a really humbling experience and flattering at the same time, because a lot of those American Idol people were coming up and wanting to take photos and stuff – which I thought was kind of the most surreal thing because I’m not famous or anything. But it really put even more into perspective how crazy that American Idol thing is, because it’s literally just guys and girls that go to shows that have great vocals – they tried out and made it onto the show and within a couple of months they’re superstars. And so I was meeting a bunch of those American Idol people, and they were explaining how they had been to a bunch of Rocket Summer shows. And David Archuleta was a big fan. He just asked me if I would ever write a song for him, and I had never really done that. It was a cool experience to put myself in somebody else’s shoes and try to write a totally different song for his demographics. He came over to my house. We went and ate Thai food and wrote a little pop jam. And it was fun! (Editor’s Note: The song was called Stomping The Roses)

What advice would you give talented new bands today looking for a record deal?
First of all, you have to have fun – you have to be inspired by music and you have to do it for the right reasons. There’s so many bands now that just want to be famous and are doing whatever they can do to make that happen. I suppose to each his own. Musical integrity has been a really big deal for me my whole career – and almost to a fault. But you know, I think obviously really try to take advantage of the social media stuff. It makes me sound really old, but I didn’t have that when I was starting. I couldn’t even imagine how much easier that could have been – or maybe it’s been harder because it’s like over saturated. But I would just take full advantage of that and just really try to do something original. Invest in your fans and invest in pushing yourself. Steve Lillywhite – a big producer who’s a friend of mine – told me a quote that Bono told him about what John Lennon said. He said that John was writing a song and he played it for his friends – and he asked his friends, “So, what’s your favorite part of the song?” And his friends go, “That part of the song! The chorus is the best part of the song!” And John Lennon said, “Cool! So I’m going to make that the verse and write an even better chorus!” And to me, that idea blew my mind, because it really is hard work if you want to take it to the next level. And sometimes, songs come really easily and it’s a very spiritually, amazing, mysterious thing – and sometimes it just takes a lot of toiling away and chipping away at writing. It kind of really comes down to that. So never give up! I feel like the kid on the bike who gives the speech after he learns to ride the bike.

Do you have any messages for your fans?
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Through the ups and downs, the fans have been the only constant thing and have absolutely carried this. The new record comes out June 5th called Life Will Write The Words. We’re doing a headlining tour around that, and I would love to see everybody. And thanks for being a part of this!

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

The Rocket Summer Official Home Page

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