Thursday ∗ 05 Mar 2009

On losing the grit and grime*

*a version of this was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on March 5 2009.*

It is difficult not to like these guys who make up Red Jumpsuit Apparatus even when they have easily been dismissed as just another emo band. Because in truth, Ronnie Winter (lead vocals), Duke Kitchens (guitar, piano), Joey Westwood (bass), Jon Wilkes (drums) and Matt Carter (guitar), will not presume you like them. They won’t even assume that you know them from Adam. Instead they will ask you with all honesty: “Oh, there are people who know us here?”

This is the kind of humility that one is subjected to on this sit-down interview, that lasts all of 15 minutes but which tells us everything we need to know:these guys read reviews but take all of them with a grain of salt, they are thankful and unabashedly so, their music is all and always emotion(al), and they see themselves as rock ‘n’ roll, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks. And they will, without being oppressive, ask about you your tattoo and if you’re coming to their show. It’s an unabashed honesty that’s as priceless as their social consciousness. In their music, and otherwise.

I: Is there any kind of pressure at all, given the kind of success you had with the first album?

Joey Westwood (JWe): I don’t think so, not really. I think we’re just happy to make a second record, and now that it’s out, obviously we’re all from Florida and we’re in the Philippines now, that’s a good sign, I think. But yeah, we’re just going to tour the world, while we can and support that record, and here we are.

Duke Kitchens (DK): I don’t think there’s any pressure at all, because a lot of the songs, a couple of them were already ideas that we had while we were touring, and we were playing it. So there really is no pressure. If anything it’s been really fun.

I: Do you read the reviews of your albums online?

Ronnie Winter (RW): I don’t really read ITunes because anybody, even if you didn’t buy the album, you can do a review of it? So, that doesn’t make any sense to me, or any musician I’ve met on the face of the earth. But as far as magazine reviews, we had a great review on Alternative Press, which is probably the biggest rock ‘n’ roll magazine for our age group of people, everybody reads AP. They gave us a great review. The only bad reviews we’ve gotten are from people who I don’t really think ever really listen to it, who hated our first album, and who will probably hate our third album, so you know….

I: Because the consensus, I think, is that there seems to be less grit and grime in the second album Lonely Road, than the first one.

RW: Yes, that’s a hundred percent accurate, but you just have to remember where we were in our lives when we wrote our first album. We weren’t successful, we had no money, we had actually lost two different houses, we sacrificed a lot to get to where we were [then], and a lot of the songs were written right out of the trailer, and at that point in time we didn’t have anything. We were very desperate. There was a lot more anger because we were kinda pissed off with our hand in life.

I: Would you call this a move one that’s from desperation to inspiration?

RW: Well, yes, because it’s not going to be the same. Because we’re not going to make up songs. We’re going to write about what’s going on, what’s relevant.

I: From the first album, the song “Guardian Angel” had a tendency to be overplayed, do you think there’s such a thing? It’s become a wedding song for many people in this country, you know.

RW: In the band, that’s not a bad thing to hear. That just means people like your stuff. I don’t think you can overplay a song. If you really like a song, it will be good forever.

JWe: That [it has become a wedding song] is awesome. I actually read an interview of U2, and they said that one of the greatest things of their whole career is that people have used their songs for the most important moments in their lives, like weddings songs, that’s cool you know what I’m saying?

I: It’s been said that you have this whole emo-package down pat. What can you say about that?

JWe and RW: With us, we’re definitely an emotional band, always have been, always will be. As far as the emo scene, I don’t think we have the visual image at all. Our image and our reflection is rock ‘n’ roll. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band with emotional lyrics. There you go.

I: And what do you say to those people who think otherwise?

RW: Then they’re wrong.

I: Given this rock ‘n’ roll influence, if you could perform any song by another artist, what would it be?

JWe: Anything by the Foo Fighters.
ML: The same thing!
RW: Probably any Peter Gabriel song off the So record.
JWi: Some “Red Hot Chili Peppers” so I can groove real hard.
DK: “Only in Dreams” by Weezer.

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