Mind Equals Blown staffer Zac Lomas recently interviewed Rookie Town vocalist William Appert in anticipation of their participation on the MEB-sponsored Spring Fling Tour. The two discussed the band’s debut full length, the recording process, and teenagers’ undying love of gang vocals.
MEB: Your name Rookie Town implies a certain sense of youthful community. What does Rookie Town mean to you and how does it play into the lyrical content of your music?
William Appert: It really wasn’t meant to imply much from a thematic or metaphorical standpoint. It owes its namesake to the first stage of an old video game called Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle. Landing on even a marginally okay band name is a trying process. Rookie Town isn’t an utterly preposterous name for a band to affix themselves to, and it passes muster in regards to my personal “over 30 characters in a band name is obviously a poor choice, in that it’s bothersome for folks to say and it makes God shudder” smell test. And Google doesn’t hate it, either. Google is an important partner. Don’t upset Google.
With all that said, one could easily see a rhetorical bridge between our name and our lyrics, particularly the passages dealing with youthful indecision, unease, uncertainty and lack of clarity. But just about every band with members comprised of a certain age speaks to those themes in some capacity. What I’m saying is, every band should be called Rookie Town. And if they’re not called Rookie Town, I’m probably just gonna call them Rookie Town behind their backs.
I’m certainly not opposed to anyone gleaning just about anything they want from our band name though. Good on them. This country needs ruminators.
You guys released your debut full length New Forest Floors in November of last year. What was the recording process like and what challenges did you face in adapting your live sound to the recorded format?
Speaking only for myself, recording blew. We did it over the span of two consecutive weekends in November. Vocals, naturally, are the last piece of the recording puzzle. I belted that mess out pretty damn quick on the second Sunday, which I found pretty physically taxing. The screams on the last song (“Breathe”) left me shaking. I was just gone. I’m a frail guy.
I think we tend to play pretty loud and pretty aggressive. The album sounds a bit more laid back, which is pretty typical of most aggressive or quasi-aggressive bands. There’s a sonic gulf between the studio and the stage. I’m cool with that.
And the guy who recorded us, Ahren Lanfor, is an official Good Dude, Backed Hard. That’s important. It would’ve been so much worse if he’d been a fucker. He’s the anti-fucker. And he’s in a sweet band called Lo’ There Do I See My Brother. Folks needa get on that.
What response have you gotten to the record from fans and, if positive, how has this affirmed what you all do as a band?
Let me just preface this: we are by no demonstrable standard a big/kinda big/a little big/a teensy bit big band. So in terms of the reception I’ve noticed, it’s been on the smaller end. However, some people dig it. Like, dig the ever-living fuck out of it. Like, “Top 10 of the year” material. I had no idea this would happen. It’s hard to gauge and predict the opinions of others with your own music. I thought it would probably just get tossed into the ether and forgotten. I figured the faint amount of attention our previous recordings received would only undermine us. The old stuff sounded like it was recorded in a waterlogged boot. Nothing sounded even passable. It didn’t represent the “vision,” I guess, of where we wanted to be. I thought the folks who happened to already like us, the ones predisposed to enjoy obscure, terribly-recorded ’90s screamo, would meet the new album with a shrug or a “What the shit is this fuckbluster?” The singing is actually singing. We’d been labeled a screamo band–I’d argue mostly based on the merit (or lack thereof) of our old recordings’ production quality–and this new stuff was, well, hard to construe as such. But that didn’t happen. At least to my knowledge, no one has called it a fuckbluster.
On the song “I Bet All the Bats are Hiding in the North and in the East” you open the vocal portion of the track with the line “I’ll come around,” sung in such a traditionally beautiful manner, but then you immediately go into a series of heart-wrenching screams. Clearly, then, in your approach to vocals you make a conscious effort to sing in such a visceral manner, why is this?
I guess I trade in vocal extremes. The singing is singing. The screams and yells are volatile, at least when contextually paired with the cleans. It would be nice if I could occasionally drift into some vague middle ground, but that hasn’t happened yet. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t sound like us if I got there.
Other members of the band also sing and this creates a diverse amalgam of vocals that span the whole album. Can you discuss what these additional vocals add to the vocal dynamics that play such an important role in creating your unique sound?
I feel that if all the vocals were ceded to me it might just invite monotony. Jeremy (our bass player) has a barky yell that works as a sort of median point between my singing and screaming. I take stock in the “spread it out” philosophy, or I’d probably just be spread too thin across all the songs.
And yeah, there are a lot of gang vocal parts. I like gang vocal parts. “Gang sings” is probably more accurate, right? Beats the shit outta me. Either way, they’re fun, and I don’t think we arrange them in there thoughtlessly. I haven’t heard any complaints. But then, invariably the only people who listen to new bands are teenagers, and all teenagers like gang vocals.
This is probably the smartest preference any teenager could cling to. And it bodes well for our band. Win-win.
You guys draw from varied genres, including, most notably, post-hardcore, pop-punk and in some instances old school hardcore. What are some of your greatest influences and how do they inspire you to continually strive to evolve as a band?
This is a tough-y. Honestly, we kinda just fell into the music we’re making. There weren’t any preconceived notions of where we’d take it. Obviously, some fellers wanna make music that bares more than a passing resemblance to The Boss (Bruce Springsteen). Or At the Gates. Hoorah for that. Actually, these aforementioned fellers should be deriving influence from Atom and His Package, but hey, that’s their journey.
I should probably compile a list of all the bands we’ve been compared to. All lined up together, I think any would-be listener would be incredulous at best. Maybe they’d just laugh.
I dunno if remnants of their sound break through, but mewithoutYou is God. Maybe At the Drive-In is in there somewhere as well. Vocally and lyrically, I don’t keep any artist in mind, particularly At the Drive-In. Cedric Bixler-Zavala is most assuredly an agent of Satan. I don’t know anything about this Carly Rae Jepsen, but I’m guessing even she writes more substantive lyrics than his dismal, haphazardly composed stream of bullshit. I’ve heard the Sean Murphy/Verse comparison to the screamed vocals. I’ll take it. He’s a perfect vocalist.
I just write what I think makes sense for the song. It’s abundantly evident in the lyrics, but I have somewhat of a thing for nature. So I guess nature is an influence, as irredeemably silly and childish as that sounds. I feel the relationship dynamic is weighted in her favor though. I know she’s just biding her time until a better suitor comes along. Then maybe I can start writing about girls.
Here is my top 5. Just because. It’s 2013 and I’m not afraid to tell the world (let’s not make this weird): Saves the Day, Jimmy Eat World, Five Iron Frenzy, R.E.M., Crime in Stereo. There’s probably some Crime in Stereo in our sound. There should probably be some Crime in Stereo in everyone’s sound.
This is only barely related, but here is good reason to like and listen to Fireworks. My brother talked Five Iron Frenzy and Squad Five-O with ‘em in some parking lot after a canceled show in 2006. It may’ve been their first real tour, I dunno. But you know those guys are legit as fuck. It made me wanna listen to ‘em just off the FIF and Squad talk alone. But their EP was meh. Flash forward a number of years and now they have Gospel and I’ll go on record as claiming that album to pretty much be a masterpiece. Holy potato
fuck, is that a good one.
So, in response to the initial question, Fireworks pulled a David Fincher.
You’re joining the Spring Fling Tour this April, which Mind Equals Blown happens to be sponsoring. You’re only on that tour for a few dates, but what are your expectations going into that?
Not getting a cold shoulder is always a plus. I like talking music with people. Hopefully I can talk music. We get to go to Eugene, Oregon. That’s very cool. I used to think of Oregon as our state’s loathsome little brother, but I dunno, I’ve witnessed some really beautiful scenery down there over the last couple of years. But Portland? It needs to cut that shit out.
What does the future hold for Rookie Town as far as more recordings, tours, etc. go? Have you been writing any new music or has the current focus been on touring in support of New Forest Floors and getting your music out there to people who have yet to hear it?
We have two new songs completely finished, both of which I’m incredibly pleased with. We’ll probably have six songs recorded by the end of summer. One of our guitarists (Gabe) will be out playing bass for Second to Last for the next month on this tour, so we’ll wait until he gets back to pick things up.
We wanna get New Forest Floors out on vinyl this year, definitely. Not doing that would be stupid. And touring. Fuck jobs. Yes, touring sounds very okay right now. I can’t really say what the other guys want aside from that.
My focus is this: I wanna be on No Sleep Records. Don’t take that as a statement that implicitly trumpets our self-worth. It’s not that we by any stretch of the imagination deserve to be on that label. It’s just that I want to be on it. Someday. If I were Aladdin that would probably be one of my three wishes. We’re a new band, and we need to get out there and, you know, get shit started. But that’s what I want. No Sleep Records. That dude doesn’t fuck around. That is the coolest record label.
Thank you for taking the time to talk, we wish you the best of luck on tour.
Who’s excited for Metal Gear Solid 5? Me!