TMF meets Rose of Jericho
Formed in 2006, Rose of Jericho have been rocking their home city of San Antonio, Texas with their pleasing mixture of soft rock and ballad-y goodness. Currently unsigned, they’ve been fairly creative in trying to reach a wider audience through the gaming industry. This summer sees them working on their fourth album as they strive to grow in preparation for a small tour. The Digital Fix sits down and gets to the heart of it with guitarist Matt Rasmussen and lead singer Andrea Russie.
It’s the obligatory introduction question, I’m afraid. But I’ll hit you with some corkers later on. Please tell us about the current line-up and how you all first got together.
Matt - I’ve been playing guitar pretty much since I was in the 7th grade, so music has been a big part of my life. In the nineties I was very much into Metallica and Nirvana and I played in a few bands in high school, but it wasn’t until after high school that I really started to try and write my own stuff. I met Andrea at a party through a mutual friend that we both had, and when I heard her sing I immediately knew I wanted to write songs with her. From the very start it worked out great and several of the first songs we worked on together are on the album “Applause of Wings.”
Both Brad Hartman (Bass) and Mon Mercado (Drums) are recent additions to the band, but they are already fitting in great and we are looking forward to playing some shows with the new line-up.
Oh, it’s the “Who inspires/influences you?” question.
Andrea - Matt and I have really different influences that have left their mark on our music. My influences are a strange line up of female artists, from Paula Cole to Amy Lee. I will pretty much listen to anything though.
Matt - Well, like I mentioned in the previous question, when I first started playing I was very much into Metallica and Nirvana. I also liked Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots and Rush. My recent influences include Death Cab for Cutie; And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead; Arcade Fire; Modest Mouse; Snow Patrol, and many more.
You’re named after a plant aren’t you? Not just any plant - a resurrecting plant!
Andrea - Yes, we were contemplating names for the “band” that we were toying around with putting together, and as we were talking about this topic I happened to glance down at my eye cream and one of the ingredients was “rose of Jericho” and I happened to read it out loud and the rest is history. The plant is pretty unique. It can roll around in the desert as a tumble weed for decades, but if you put it into a bowl of water it will come back to life pretty quickly. So, it seemed fitting at the time.
You’ve been active since 2006, with three albums to your name. You had a three year gap between 2007’s “These City Lights” and last year’s “Out of the Maze”. Any particular reasons?
Andrea - Life, it happens. Job changes. Life changes. It does get in the way at times and slow down the recording process.
Matt - The main reason for the gap was just time taken to try and improve ourselves as a band. We recorded our first album, “Applause of Wings” in a bedroom using all of our own equipment and while it sounded good, I definitely was not satisfied with the overall quality of the album. This began my search for a professional recording studio. Of course at the time I had no studio experience and really had no idea what to look for. We ended up getting really lucky when we found Razor’s Edge Sound in Austin, TX. The owner, Kevin Hamilton, had himself been in a signed band and he really took us in and helped us understand the music industry. He produced both “These City Lights” and “Out of the Maze” and really did an amazing job at making our albums sound big label quality.
One of the things I hope to achieve by doing features like this to have unsigned bands provide further insight into how the music industry works. Can you describe the process of getting your music out there, and the difficulties in finding a label to support you?
Matt - The music industry is a weird place. On one side there’s all of these bands trying to get noticed and on the other side there’s the music industry which is made up of the people that are actually making money on music. Until recently I worked a lot to try and get Rose of Jericho noticed by a label, but that is a pretty tough and fruitless job. Getting noticed today is very, very difficult, especially if you don’t already have a connection to the music industry, so I’ve really focused our efforts directly to our fans. Our fans are the ones who keep us going, so I felt we should be focusing all of our efforts there and it has definitely been well received.
That brings me to Rock Band. I first heard you via “Signed With Love”, which, if I may say, I see as being your signature piece. For those not in the know, the Rock Band Network provides bands with an opportunity to get their music translated into the game. How did that kick off, what are your thoughts on the medium and how well has it done for you so far?
Matt - I’ve been playing Rock Band pretty much since the game came out and I’ve always loved it, so when I heard of the possibility of getting a Rose of Jericho song in the game I immediately jumped at the chance. When Rock Band Network first started it was by invitation only, so only a few people could submit songs and one of those groups was Rhythm Authors. I submitted “Buried Cold” to them and from the beginning they really liked it. They charted the song and got it through the process so that “Buried Cold” was available on launch day of the RBN.
I think RBN has been really great for us in general. It’s given us exposure to people all over the world that we would have never had contact with before so I’ve very much done everything I can to keep Rose of Jericho active on the network. To date we have 10 songs on there.
Also I wanted to comment on rhythm gaming in general to say that I’m very much a fan of it. I know there are some artists that oppose it or feel that it is a band influence, but I’ve always been a huge fan of the idea. Anytime that people can be exposed to music, especially new music, is a good thing and I think games like Rock Band are just providing another way for people to experience music.
Don’t leave us hanging, will there be more songs on the way? Heart of It, Romancing the Ordinary, All in My Head? (I know, I’m selfish).
Matt - Hah! Well I can say that there will definitely be more Rose of Jericho on the Rock Band Network. Now whether the songs are off of “Out of the Maze” or off the new album that we are recording this fall, well I guess you’ll just have to wait and see…
What would you say are the driving themes behind your music? They seem quite from-the-heart.
Matt - I think that Andrea will be able to answer this one the best since I don’t really write much of the lyrics. The one song that I can comment on is “Distant Shores” since I did write the lyrics for that one. When I write lyrics I kind of write the music and the words at the same time. If you listen to some of our demos they are pretty funny ’cause I’ll sing the melody as I hear it with the guitar part and I’ll just kind of mumble out words as they come to my mind. Half the time it’s just gibberish. Then I’ll go back and listen to what I recorded and turn the gibberish into the words, so I can honestly say that when I write lyrics I have no themes in mind; it’s just what spews out of my brain at the time.
Andrea - I think like most writers I try and pull from what I know, what I've experienced, what people around me have experienced, though I have on occasion completely made something up out of the blue. When it comes time to write lyrics and I find myself stuck I pull out my “writing folder” which is a loose collection of phrases jotted down on things such as old receipts, envelopes, napkins, or whatever else I could find at the time when a phrase strikes me.
Matt, You mention “Distant Shores“. Musically I think it's one of the more distinct tracks from “Out of the Maze“. When I first heard the guitar riff Jack Off Jill immediately sprang to mind - a band I used to listen to a lot when “Clear Hearts Grey Flowers” surfaced. Feels a bit more edgier/darker perhaps to the rest of the tracks on your latest album. Any particular mindset there when you came up with it?
Matt - I think I really have a wide range when it comes to writing. Sometimes I like faster pop stuff, sometimes darker, more metal stuff; it really varies. I know when I wrote “Distant Shores” it was somewhat inspired by the System of a Down cover of the song “The Metro” by Berlin. It had that kind of weird, quirkiness to it where it almost feels like you’re listening to three different songs all at the same time. When I presented it to Andrea she definitely gave me a look like, “What the hell did I just listen to?”
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming fourth album?
Matt - I can tell you that it’s going to be awesome! Seriously though I think it’s really going to be great for both our current fans and new fans. It’s still Rose of Jericho but also the natural growth from where we left off at “Out of the Maze.” We are definitely having fun writing the songs and we are very excited to get it out to you guys ’cause I think it’s some of the best stuff we have done yet.
Andrea - It will be out hopefully in January or February. We are hoping to get into the studio next month to start the recording process.
How are plans coming along for touring?
Matt - It’s going well. We’ve already started booking shows in our hometown of San Antonio and it won’t be long before we move to other areas. The best place to keep up with shows is on our website www.roseofjericho.com.
Which current band would you love to support on tour?
Matt - Man, there are so many groups I’d love to play with. Rush is a big one for me since they’ve been my musical heroes since I was a kid. I would also love to play with Paramore or Evanescence.
Describe an average day for you guys. When not in the studio, how do you wind down?
Matt - We are pretty much couch potatoes. If we’re not working then watching movies on Netflix streaming or playing video games is what we tend to do. I’ve wasted a lot of time playing Mass Effect 1 and 2, Borderlands, and Dragon Age. We also like to play with fans on Rock Band as well.
For more information on Rose of Jericho check out their website here. You can also send some “likes” their way through the official Facebook page.