The road is a funny place. For a reluctant few itís home while for others itís the story of their lives, a place that puts lines on a young man's face.
Itís been a long road for the Rock and Roll Soldiers. Whatís that you say? The band is hardly 20 years old? Major label debut record with the support of "the machine" behind it? Sure, I give you all of that. But age canít be simply measured by a number on a birth certificate. For these four lads from Eugene, Oregon, youíll see the road in their eyes and on the battered, nearly worn-out blue jeans they wear. Itís in their shaggy manes and sewn haphazardly on their jackets. But more importantly, youíll get a taste of the road each night when RNRS takes the stage and shows you that thereís more to music than just being pissed off.
RNRS is Marty Larson-Xu vocals, Kevin Sciou lead guitar, Oliver Brown drums and Evan Seroffsky bass. I caught up with them in late February when they made a brief stop in Phoenix, Arizona. The band had been out on tour since January 15, creating a buzz for their upcoming major label debut on Atlantic Records. I asked about the tour.
"Itís been really good" Larson-Xu replied enthusiastically. "Itís been hectic. Weíve had shows pretty much every night. Weíre having a day off every seven shows or so. And the drive has been pretty long every night."
"And the weather has been bad. Thereís been a lot of snow," Seroffsky was quick to add.
"Yeah, but other that that the shows have been great," Larson-Xu continued. "Weíre playing to packed houses and really good crowds so itís been worth it."
I asked the band about their rather unusually titled upcoming release.
Larson-Xu explained, "Well itís called ĎSo Many Musicians to Killí and it should be out in April. Weíve been working on it for a long time and weíre really happy with it. We did a lot of the songs and weeded them down to the best ones. The title is a line out of one of our songs, ĎFunny Little Feeling.í Itís kind of tongue-in-cheek really. Nothing to take literally."
RNRS is a fairly young band, yet theyíve had the time to record a couple of EPs, initially released on Gearhead Records and later picked up by East / West. From that point on RNRS became a road band. Theyíve spent a lot of time touring and that, until recently, hasnít necessarily been typical of a young band. But as of late it seems that a lot of bands are hitting the road with their own product and on their own nickel. I asked about the process of just starting out and why they choose to tour so quickly.
"I think touring is definitely one of the most important things as far as building a band," Larson-Xu said. "You need to get yourself out there. People need to see you. And in that way people build more of an attachment towards the band. Touring is the way to go. Weíve been out since way before we were ever signed."
I reminded the band of the costs of being on the road, not only financial, but also with relationships and family.
"Yeah, itís tough," Seroffsky acknowledged.
Somewhat jokingly Larson-Xu added, "There are no relationships, there is no family. Everybody's gone!"
While supporting their EPs, RNRS packed up and moved from Eugene to the big city, Seattle. It was a calculated move designed to give the band a little more visibility. They intended to invade the Seattle music scene with their brand of blues-infused rock. To RNRSís surprise, over the course of a year they were unable to book a single show. I asked about unexpectedly having so much time on their hands.
"Yeah, those were tough times," Larson-Xu confessed. "I guess we practiced a lot because the only shows we played were to ourselves in our basement. We all lived in a house together. It was a full year of doing that and not being able to get any shows. But I donít know if thatís where we grew. I think it was more when we came back to Eugene. Thatís when we got more serious about things."
As Larson-Xu eluded, the next surprise came when RNRS returned to Eugene. The local scene welcomed them as conquering heroes, believing that the band had somehow tamed the big city.
Larson-Xu laughed, "They were all like, ĎOh theyíre coming back! They made it big time in Seattle and now their coming back here!í Little did they know! We couldnít get a show."
I asked about lyrical subject matter, as RNRS tends to write songs about escapism.
"I think a lot of that comes from growing up in Eugene. Itís a pretty small town. But donít get me wrong, I love it, but growing up there can sometimes be a little boring. Some people misunderstand us and think that we donít like our hometown, but we really do love it," Larson-Xu stated.
Since landing their deal with Atlantic Records, RNRS has made a lineup change. I asked about new guitarist, Kevin Sciou, and why the change was necessary.
Acknowledging Sciou with a smile, Larson-Xu explained, "Luke, our original guitar player, didnít want to tour all of the time. He wanted to stay in Eugene and he wanted to start his own band. So thatís how that worked. It was amicable, itís all good. Kevin fits really well so it was an easy transition."
Having exhausted my questions I threw the ball into their court. I asked RNRS if there was anything that they wanted to talk about. The band fell strangely quiet so I prompted them with some topic ideas. World politics, I asked. How about the Olympics? Anyone want to talk cheese?
Seroffsky perked up, "Cheese, I like cheese!"
Larson-Xu began to shake his head, "Evan likes to talk a lot about cheese!"
"I like blue cheese a lot!" Seroffsky said. "Thereís this stuff called Rogue River Blue from Oregon that won number one at the cheese festival."
Larson-Xu leaned over and whispered, "Sometimes we canít get him to stop talking about cheese."
"I also like a lot of goat cheese. Camembert is good too."
At this point we all started to get up from our chairs.
After the interview Larson-Xu and I walked from the backstage dressing room out onto the stage. As we walked toward center stage, we gazed out at the then empty Marquee Theater. Soon the doors would be opening and expectant fans who had been lining up out front for better than an hour would venture in.
Larson-Xu looked at me and commented, "I love playing here. The stage is big, the crowds are great, itís just fun."
He said the words with such honesty that I would never doubt them. But still, after having sat with Rock and Roll Soldiers for about a half-hour, Iím guessing that they would say that about every venue.
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