Interview: The Rocket Summer
By Jesii Dee
The Rocket Summer is currently touring in support of their sixth release, Zoetic, and will be making a stop here in Phoenix on Tuesday, May 10th at The Rebel Lounge. The man behind the band, and in some cases the man that is the entire band, Bryce Avary, took some time to chat about the tour, the new record, and even gave a shout out to his favorite burritos.
JESII: You were in Phoenix recently in November, and released your new record in February. Have you gotten any sleep yet in 2016?
BRYCE: You know it’s been really…not a whole lot. It’s been pretty busy because when we did that tour it was just like, shaking off the dust because I’d been away for a little bit. We were playing like two or three new songs and previewing what was to come. When we got off the tour, we had to do so much before the record came out, and then it came out. We did a pretty large tour that just ended, and now we’re doing the second leg of it in similar places that we did in November, some of my favorite places. So yeah, not a whole lot of rest.
That only drives me nuts like first thing in the morning. You know when you wake up and it’s the only time of day that I question everything. Like we were up until 3 or 4am, we stopped rehearsal at 3am, and then had to get up at 9am. Waking up this morning was just that moment of “UGH! What job can I have that I can just sleep all the time?” I got out of bed and was like “Oh my gosh, I get to go play rock n roll and have all these incredible fans, like in Arizona, and I can’t wait to see them.” So it’s a pretty short-lived thing, I think everyone goes through that, questioning their lives when they first wake up.
JESII: Going back to your tour, the video recaps that I’ve seen look like it’s a ton of fun so far. The video for the live song recorded in Marfa is such a unique space. Do you have any more special things planned like that, either similar to Marfa or any special events while you’re traveling across the country for this leg of the tour?
BRYCE: Thank you, I don’t know we’ll see what we come across. The Marfa thing was a pretty off the cuff, on a whim sort of a situation. We were just driving to Houston for the first show, and I love Marfa, and I was like, “We should pass through.” And then while we were on our way there, our sound guy was like, “Hey dude, you should play a song,” and I thought that was a fantastic idea. So I just jumped out and played it. I love that spontaneous stuff! I just filmed another song on top of a building in LA for this company called The Giving Keys, so maybe it’s becoming a theme, just songs all over the place.
JESII: Can you tell me how and why you got involved with The Giving Keys, and how you’re incorporating and supporting their work on your tour?
BRYCE: We heard about them a couple years ago. What they’re doing is awesome: they’ve created a lot of jobs for people and they are changing people’s lives. They’re providing jobs by spreading hope through keys given to other people to encourage them. The album Zoetic, the word means “alive, vital.” You can take that however you want, but to me that's an encouraging word and we partnered with them to make fifty keys or so that all say Zoetic. We’re selling them on our tour, and I think we’ll have some in Arizona I hope. They go pretty fast!
JESII: Zoetic to me at least sounds a little more modern than previous releases. It parts ways with the piano ballads, which I do love. Your overall positive messages that have been woven through from the beginning, going back to Hello Good Friend, are still prevalent. Even with the name of the new record. As a writer, do you find that core theme shows itself first, or that you have a pile of songs that you then find common threads between to put together?
BRYCE: I don’t know where the super positive thing came from, but I felt that way and I certainly feel its power. You know, there's life in words, and there is death in words. With Zoetic, it has a little more storytelling aspect, and maybe it isn’t as resolved as my records in the past where before, at the end everything was going to be alright. With this one, it’s not quite that complete package. Music is really powerful; I don’t know where that positivity comes from, or maybe that’s how I’m wired.
There’s something specific that comes out that is unique to The Rocket Summer: maybe it’s rooted in, sort of, hopeful. Everyone goes through things, as I certainly did, then you go through these tough seasons and you realize the power of the music. Not trying to be so dark, but music can keep you from killing yourself, and even a small amount of it can make that difference. At the end of the day, it’s really powerful for a band that tries to push themselves to make art, and music is art, where there is a deeper layer to all of this, beyond the music. That’s important.
JESII: You went direct to your fans using Pledge Music with this release. Can you walk me through the decision to go that route, and experience of that?
BRYCE: It was really cool! We used to live in a different era - we all did - and now the fans get to be involved. We don’t have an industry machine, so it’s about as DIY as it gets. Fans are all I have; they are the reason that I play music. We just thought it was a no-brainer. It was a way to get fans involved and to pre-order the record, and that the reward wasn’t just a cool shirt. We were able to offer more interesting things like a chance to go get coffee, or a band can come play a show with us, and the handwritten lyrics. I think I got carpal-tunnel from that. Physically writing the lyrics took a really long time. I could only do like five a day. You know, nowadays I do everything on my computer or my phone, so that was a big undertaking.
I just feel so fortunate to have people support it and tell me how much the music means to them. My fans are all I have, and it’s what keeps me going. I mean, I would still write if I didn’t have them because I don’t think I have a chance to not write. But them being there gives it all a purpose.
JESII: What are you looking forward to in Arizona more: Burritos or Tacos?
BRYCE: Ha! I think I need to be sponsored by the brand of Annie’s Organic Burritos, because I have them seriously every day. So for Arizona, it could be tacos. I might change it up. We’ll see.
The Rocket Summer will be playing in Phoenix on Tuesday, May 10th at The Rebel Lounge. Tickets & VIP are available here.