Interview with Bryce Avery of The Rocket Summer
Where does the name “The Rocket Summer” come from?
The name “The Rocket Summer” comes from a book called “The Martian Chronicles.” I was really young when I made my first EP, I was 16 years old, and I was going to try & put it out (try to sell a few copies during chemistry). I was just going to call it “Bryce Avary,” but I wanted it to feel like something more than that, and I don’t think anyone from my school would wear a shirt that said “Bryce Avary” on it. But they might wear a shirt that said a band name! And it’s kind of the norm now, one-man bands who have a band name This was even before I had heard of Dashboard Confessional, so this was in 1996 (makes me sound so old now!). So I named it “The Rocket Summer,” because my friend was reading the Martian Chronicles and he was like “Hey! There’s a chapter called The Rocket Summer! You should name your band that.” And I was like “ok..” (laughs) It was a quick 15-16 year old decision, but it ended up becoming my whole life.
You started writing music in your mid-teens. Which artists influenced you the most?
When I was young, I was really influenced by Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, SuperChunk and Blur…just kind of Indie-pop, emo bands.. That was really what was my biggest influence, I feel like you can hear that more on “Calendar Days.” And then I just started writing! I’ve never really heard a song and then thought “I need to write a song right now!” I’ve never really done that, I just started writing songs. I definitely don’t have any immediate influences that influence my songs so much that you can tell.
Being on a mainstream tour like Warped Tour, what helps to keep you spiritually grounded while on tour?
You know, it’s hard, I’m not going to lie. I think just staying in the Word every day is really important and having people around you that you can pray with. Every single day we pray before we play. And even if that’s the closest we can get to “diving in,” then at least we did that. Every day we try to pray before the day even starts. I just read the Word a lot too. It’s crazy though, because there’s not really people on this tour that are into the same thing, which is fine, I’m completely used to that. It’s fine, I mean we never wanted this to be exclusive to the Christian music industry. We never even went to the Christian music industry. I mean, it’s weird because we’ve tried it a little bit, and we feel like doors just shut on us, so I guess we’re not suppose to do that! I think it’s just God wanting us to do it this way. Staying grounded is really important, Its a really crazy scene out here. There’s just this really sexual vibe going on. Girls just walking around with really revealing tops and really short shorts that say sexual things on them, its a challenge. We’re just trying to be a light out here.
Of Men & Angels came out in February. What kind of feedback have you received on the album?
I feel like I’ve received really good feedback. I’ll be honest, it really hasn’t been as pushed, in terms of our label as my last record was. So a lot of people don’t have it. When we play the new songs live, like 25% of the crowd is singing along and the rest are just standing there. And then we play “Do You Feel,” and the whole crowd erupts. It’s cool, but its kind of a bummer to see the new record go kind of unnoticed. But, the people who have it seem to really love it. I went out to make an album that was really spiritually and emotionally charged, and I wanted it to sound the way it sounds and not necessarily be super shiny, candy, happy music (laughs). I wanted it to be really real, and I feel like this album, more than any other one, has really affected people in a deeper way, in a more intense way than the other records have. I’m just hoping that it becomes as popular as the other ones! We’ve gained a whole new audience from this album, kind of a more older audience. That’s why we’re doing warped tour to be honest, to kind of get out there and do less “scene” stuff. We’re very aware of how important this is to us and to my career and how it’s helped make us who we are. We’ll see when we headline, if it’s as big as it was with the other records. On Warped Tour, I feel like you play for a lot of people, a lot of which might not be your “diehard” fans, and our fans aren’t really the “Warped Tour” type anyway so it’s a great way to get out there and extend your fanbase.
How do you overcome writer’s block? What is the process by which you write your songs?
I’ve never really been in a place where I’ve had writers block. It’s always come fairly easily but I also don’t push myself. I don’t try to write every day. I’ll get these feelings, I will literally be overcome with a feeling that I need to write a song. I’ll spend time on one song for a long time and then put it away for awhile and take it out and see if it still sounds the same to me. How I do it? I play piano or guitar and I generally just kind of try to figure out little ideas and rhythms in my head…there’s really no way of doing it, it just comes in all kinds of ways. The other day I literally had a rhythm go through my head and I had to leave the merch tent, I ran to the bus and I figured out this thing..and I recorded it…and its SO cool. And I’m turning it into a song that I think might eventually be a really important song. Sometimes I’ll just be playing chords and I’ll sing a note over it and write a song that way or I have a lyric go through my head. I’m always available for inspiration and I don’t really ever try to push myself super hard because that’s what then leads to writers block!
A lot of the songs on Of Men & Angels have strong faith-based lyrics. How supportive is Island Def Jam of such an endeavor?
I mean, I guess they’re supportive?!? They have no problem with me singing about my faith. I’ve never had a single issue with them on that, so that’s kind of cool. I think the bottom line with record labels these days is that they just want to sell records. And I think we do have a large fan base of people,where just as many people are believers as non-believers. And I think that’s how things get done in the Kingdom, instead of just playing at churches or whatever. So yeah, I’ve never had a problem with them on that at all. I’ve had other problems, but not with that.
You written tons of songs over the years. If you could pick one song that stands out as your favourite, which one would it be & why?
Probably the song I wrote a couple days ago, because its in my head (laughs). I don’t know if I have any favourites. I think that’s something that maybe at the end of my life or my career, if I’ve been away from it for years than maybe I can re-evaluate it. There are definitely songs that have really big looks, like “Walls” on this new record. “Walls” seemed to really make a big difference in some people’s lives, which is crazy. It’s a really emotional song about how people go through struggles. I like writing songs like that. I like to rock and have fun too, but I really enjoy the songs that change people’s lives and inspire them to get up and do something. I kind of felt like that was what I was trying to do with “Men & Angels.”
Are there any particular artists that you are looking to collaborate with on future records?
Maybe. That’s kind of the future. I’ve never ever collaborated with anyone, so that would be crazy.
**We are interrupted by Travis Clark of We The Kings. They speak about how Bryce missed his on-stage collab with Travis (seems they do it every day, but both played at same time on that day)**
I’d love to collaborate with some pop people to be honest. I’d love to collaborate with Rivers Cuomo (Weezer). I’ve been writing a lot of songs for other people. I’ve written songs for some of the American Idol contestants, we’ll see if those actually see the light of day. Its weird, its like a different time because a lot of people are collaborating, even bands. A lot of bands have professional writers that write their songs now, that always kind of didn’t settle right with me. I’ve never done that, but I just want to do what is best for my music. I would hate for my pride to get in the way and not be open to collaborating with people. I think “The Rocket Summer” is what it is because of the writing…so I kind of have this conflicting thought about collaborating. Maybe that’s why I’ve never had a radio hit though (laughs).
How is the next album cycle looking? What time frame do you think it will be released?
The Lord knows. I’m already way into the next record in terms of writing. But this one has only been out for four months so it’s still really early. It really depends, it’s hard to know. If it were up to me, I would make it happen the second we are done touring here. My label, I don’t know about them.
I know you recorded over 20 songs for this last album, “Of Men And Angels”, Are the remaining 5/6 songs that were recorded ever going to be released/ or at least played live?
Yeah! I think we should release them, like a B-side. I was thinking the other day, do I wait a couple years and put out a huge rarities CD? Or do I just put out an EP this year of the songs that didn’t make the cut? I’m just thinking, something shorter now, or bigger later? And I would say wait, but just the way 2010 is, I feel like you’ve got to strike when irons hot always. People’s attention spans are so short now. I don’t know, some of them are pretty B-sidey. I would hate for it come off as not as good…there is a reason those songs didn’t make the record. Remember the song “The Fight” that I did? That didn’t make the record and that was a big hit. I wish that one had made the record. Well, you can blame the label for making me wait so long, you shouldn’t let someone like me write so much because I’ll record a million songs and I’ll just pick whatever is recent and then songs like “The Fight” don’t make it. When I record an album, just let me put it out. I recorded “Of Men and Angels” and it came out a year later. That’s what I’m talking about right there.
You started a clothing line (Call It Captivate) in 2008. How has that worked for you?
It’s good. It’s a total non-profit thing and a way to raise awareness about causes that don’t necessarily get the looks they deserve. We’re in the middle of re-vamping it so hopefully it will be out by the end of the summer. Call it Captivate is a clothing company that partnered with 7 different charities from AIDS research to poverty awareness to orphanages, etc. Whenever you buy one of our shirts, you get to pick which charity you want to donate to and 25% of the profit from the merchandise goes to that charity. I’ve always had this anti-rock star clothing line thing, so I was trying to think how I could do the opposite of that. Its a way to get people aware of different needs going on.
What does the future hold for The Rocket Summer?
God only knows. We take it day by day. My plans are, I’m going to make more records, tour a lot, get better at songwriting and performing. That’s MY plan, who knows what the real future holds.
Any words of wisdom you would like to share with our Indie Vision Music readers?
Keep music alive. Support the bands that have moved you in some way, because it’s getting harder for a lot of bands and they are dropping like flies. I was just talking to Copeland and they split up. They didn’t want to do it, they had to because people stopped going to their shows and stopped buying their records. And then they did this final tour and it was massive. But it breaks my heart, it’s frustrating. Thank you for your support. I tell our fans that they are easily 50% of this. Without them I couldn’t do it. I’m so grateful, every day I’m so thankful to do this, and I’m so thankful for each person that buys a record, tells someone about it, comes to a show, buys a T-shirt etc. I just feel like I have so long to go, and I don’t want it to ever stop. I see so many of my friends having to split up because of the economy. To do this for real, its your life. That’s why people need to support the music they love. I’m so thankful for what I have right now. Keep music alive, but its in your hands. Its a two-way road to make this happen, those are my words of wisdom.