After a whirlwind sold-out UK tour with Black Stone Cherry, Rival Sons are charging full-steam ahead into the spotlight, gaining many fans all over the globe. I recently requested an email interview with Robin, the band’s bassist, and he graciously accepted; and this is what we he had to say.
Sammu – Hiya. Cheers ahead of time for allowing me this interview.
Rival Sons has just finished up a round of sold-out UK dates supporting Black Stone Cherry. Now you’re moving on to Europe. How has it been for you so far and how well have you been received in each country? Judging by the London show very well it seems!
Robin – Extremely well! It’s truly amazing to be going to all these cities -countries even- I’ve never been to and filling up rooms – most have been sold-out too, and when not sold-out, it sure fills full up in there! The Germans and Scandinavians thus far have been NUTS.
S – Rival Sons is a decent mix of blues and hard rock which could easily sit comfortably in the throngs of latter day bands like The Answer and Graveyard, and more classic artists like Led Zep. How do you set yourself apart from other musicians in your genre?
R – By not trying to be anyone but ourselves. Sure, we like Led Zeppelin, like the Answer must like AC/DC, and Graveyard must like Sabbath, but I don’t think any of the bands mentioned are really like one another at all. Different people have different life experiences, and therefore sound completely different! And you can hear it. Even the best Charlie Parker impersonator, will only ever be an impersonator. We set ourselves apart by continuing on, living, and growing.
S – You guys formed in LA, California. What’s the music scene out there like? Are Americans digging the classic rock sound?
R – Yeah, sure, they’re digging. The good ones who actually seek-out music: the “Diggers.” Good choice of word. Scratch culture uses that word for vinyl DJ’s that search-out every dusty estate sale… The scene in general is a little stilted, though; a lot of complacency in my generation. The “xy’s or whatever it is we’re called”. [sic] Social media and all make it more difficult to even have a ‘scene’ – unless by ‘scene’ you mean ‘Facebook likes,’ and in that case: the scene is POPPIN’!
S – Earache Records is a heavy/extreme metal-orientated record label based in Nottingham UK and New York. How did you guys end up on the billing?
R – With money to record. We were very content to be ‘above the system’ or whatever, and not have a label – until we couldn’t afford to record the way we wanted to. Earache stepped up to the plate, and we inked a really great deal – for both of us, I hope.
S – Before The Fire was your first album which was self-released, while Pressure And Time was released via Earache Records. How different was it bringing out albums in these circumstances?
R – About as different as you’d expect. Pressure and Time is in stores, and had a giant PR push, while Before the Fire is this Easter egg that people get to discover if they know where and why to look for it. I’ve always been a fence-sitter. I think it’s awesome that we do both!
S – I read that, as people, you advocate veganism and spirituality which is admirable! Do you portray this or other beliefs in the music you create? Is there a message you feel should be put across in the entire music industry?
R – We live it, I wouldn’t say we ‘advocate,’ unless you ask us as an interested friend in-person, we’ll tell you our views on it. But using a soap-box of rock is not something we’re into. No hidden messages here. Unless you hear one. In which case that’s on you.
S – Who are the band influenced by, and who are you influenced by in terms of composition and as a bass player? Do you have any guilty pleasures hidden on your MP3s?
R – We really got into The Creation recently – a very obvious influence on The Who and the Yardbirds. We’re really into the Staple Singers, again. Bill Withers, The Monks, The Black Keys. As a bass-player, composer, I obviously like to have a very solid groove, and I prefer songs with a little something to them: a cool bridge, or a clever key-change. I’m well-schooled in Music History and Theory (I actually think I might have a minor in Theory) so I have a deep appreciation for form and information. But I’m just as comfortable with free-form, and plain ol’ dumb RIFFS. I’m not that guilty about my pleasures: I love R. Kelly. I love Shostakovich string quartets. Even some Barenaked Ladies when the time is right. Jim Creegan is a SICK bass player. My iPod is a cornucopia of corny, a respite of ridiculousness.
S – What gear do you use to create your distinctive sound?
R – My Ears, Fingers and Soul.
S – What songs do you feel represents your personal style most? Are there songs you enjoy performing more so than others?
R – “This is How We Do It,” by Montell Jordan. What’s that? Oh! One of OUR songs? Okay, ummm. Maybe, “Torture.” The bassline in the verses I’m pretty proud of, and then I fully support during the chorus. And for a song I like performing more, probably, “Young Love,” IF the audience is ours. The swing in that track is undeniable, even though it’s a pretty knucklehead song – but it’s got that cool bridge, too. I also like “On My Way,” live as it gives me a lot of room to fill out the chords while Scott’s soloing. I get away with some serious shit in that one live – and no one ever knows – you’ll be the first.
S – What do you find most interesting about the recording process? Do you have a preference between playing live and being in the studio? From people’s responses I find they consider studio time to be more like homework and the live performances as recess, so to speak. Would you find that an accurate portrayal?
R – It’s the opposite for me. Studio is ALL recess – Live can feel like work, if you’ve been travelling for so long you forget where you come from, and what your address is. I’m a total studio guy. I live for it. The exploration, and the capture of that energy is one of the most exciting things ever. Every now and again you get that feeling from a good exploratory jam – but then it’s only encapsulated by the people who hear it – even if there’s a live recording, it’s never the same.
S – What is it like opening for Black Stone Cherry? Who else have you enjoyed playing alongside and did they teach you anything on tour?
R – It was great. There’re all really nice guys, and everyone got along well. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing with, I’m more interested in how we do. Though, opening for AC/DC is a pretty big highlight of my career.
S – Of all the rock bands that have split up, or disbanded etc., what band would you most like to see reform and why?
R – Any of Miles’ incarnations. Either quintet. Either electric group. I just wish I could’ve seen Miles. James Brown, too. In terms of bands whose members are still alive, I dunno… Man, I can’t think of any – Ask me next time – I’ll do some homework.
S – Is there any advice you can offer to aspiring musicians?
R – Listen more. Play less
S – Many thanks for taking time out to answer my questions. Good luck for the rest of the tour, and see you guys again soon!
R – Cheers, Sammu – take’er’easy
Read a review of their antics at the London date of their tour here:
Catch Rival Sons back in the UK at Download Festival from June 8th.
All photos are used with permission and remain the property of Earache.