There're those who believe rock 'n' roll's righteous days are over. They think real rock bands can't attain MTV acclaim on their own, and that commercials, teen soaps, and ring tones are the only recourse for those craving mainstream attention. Then there's the faction prescribing that indie career survival is possible through relentless touring and earnest songwriting. The Rock 'n' Roll Soldiers are gripping both sacks.
Since 2000, they've paid the dues: 8:00 p.m. Tuesday night slots; being supremely grateful when a couple of cuties tell them "You rocked!"; shipping basement demos to indie labels.
But unlike most scruffy garage bands, the first label to say "maybe" was a major (Atlantic). By 2003, these just-outta-teendom rummies were running beyond their Eugene, Oregon, digs to bigtime L.A. studios or NYC celeb soirées, and tour points in between. Soon they were nipples-deep in the "biz" world of rerecording ad nauseam, barely getting releases out (a CD comp of two Gearhead vinyl EPs) before doing a Verizon commercial.
The reasons for the hype shenanigans are obvious to even the dunderheaded junior A&R types. Here're four young lookers cutting slashing glam-punk packed with hefty anthemic hooks, a vibe that can easily swing from classic Stones swagger to neogarage pound—topped with a scarf-swaddled 6-foot-2 singer, Marty Larson-Xu, who crows about the essentials: girls and hate. So why the delay on a full-length? Larson-Xu opines, "[Atlantic] wants to make sure they've got a couple of 'singles' before they release it. We've recorded enough for two and a half albums of stuff that we feel is totally good shit, but I guess there is always room for improvement." He adds that even as they make a major label home, the band still live a pretty indie lifestyle: "We've been touring in our shitty van all summer with no A/C. We crashed and lost our trailer, all of that."
The constant road time—often label-tossed on bills with emo also-rans—has proved the Soldiers are committed to the cause. "Yeah, we've done some tours that aren't our type of thing," says Larson-Xu. "[But] we went on tour with Kasabian and it was great; we ended up getting pretty crazy with [the band]. I mean shit, I've become friends with Steve Perry from Journey, and he took me to see the Rolling Stones with him. We got backstage and there's Charlie Watts about two feet from me. I was shitting my pants!"
The fanboy fervor hasn't deflated. For all the decadent demeanor, at heart the Soldiers are plain dying to make a great record like their heroes. "Basically," explains Larson-Xu, "we've recorded the bulk of the album, so it's mostly down to nailing the last couple of songs." He adds his creative process as of late has been as follows: "I go down to the Best Western in L.A. and sit around sweating all day and night in my underwear until I come up with some hazy idea for a song. Then I drink wine and eat some Thai takeout, then we demo the song. If it comes out good, we go in and do it for real in the studio. If not, then I go back to my room and start the process all over again. Our A&R guy hears the song after it's done and makes his suggestions. This process has definitely made me a better songwriter, and there won't be any filler on the record."
But is the label bushwhacking taking a toll? "I've been getting kind of discouraged lately because it's been going on for so long," admits Larson-Xu. "I hit a wall once where I decided our band had failed, and I was going to go on a killing spree, then go live with the Sherpas. But now I'm focused on finishing the album and telling everyone to fuck off."
Only recently hitting drinking age, the Soldiers are getting schooled quick-like. If it's true that ring tones and the O.C. soundtrack are the only way to reach the masses, any suggestions for kids who might be considering that route? "They better know what they are getting into," warns Larson-Xu. "It's not as glamorous as it may seem. It's important to not rely on the label to do anything for you. Make sure you are touring all the time and making fans on your own."firstname.lastname@example.org