The Rocket Summer are back. Or, more accurately, The Rocket Summer never went anywhere.
The Rocket Summer, the brainchild of musician Bryce Avary, hasn’t been in the public eye much since wrapping up touring for 2012’s Life Will Write The Words, with the only new music released in the meantime being a Christmas EP. But don’t mistake that absence for any sort of break.
“I didn’t really take time off, I was working the whole time,” said Avary. “I ended up making five albums’ worth of material and looked up and I had been working on it for a year. But I was working the whole time, I wasn’t just chilling. I’ve never worked harder in my life.”
The catalyst for the sessions that would produce the new songs was a change of scenery for Avary, one that had a variety of motives behind it.
“I moved to California,” said Avary. “I wanted to find some new inspiration for the tunes. I just wanted to be in a place where art was in the air and people were chasing it. I’m really inspired by my surroundings and what’s going on around me and it affects my music.”
With five full-length The Rocket Summer records under his belt since the release of the debut Calendar Days, Avary has etched his name as a heavyweight in the pop rock world. He is the mastermind behind the band, playing every instrument on every record, traversing different sonic styles over the years and garnering acclaim all along the way. It would have been easy for Avary to strap back in and make the spiritual successor to Life Will Write The Words. But that’s not what he did. Avary took a different approach.
“I just followed the songs that were coming out,” said Avary. “I didn’t allow there to be any sort of barrier that might subconsciously have been there in the past. It was literally just me saying ‘I’m going to make music.’”
Approaching the songs in such a manner brought up some interesting decisions for Avary, while at the same time pushing him.
“I was even considering not using the name The Rocket Summer,” said Avary. “I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned. I went through a phase were I wasn’t sure if it was a side project or what. And that allowed some processes to go down that ultimately led me to realize that it is absolutely a Rocket Summer record.
“I know it’s like a really normal thing that people are doing where they ditch their names and start new things, but my favorite bands didn’t do that. They just evolved. I figured the more punk rock thing is just to evolve.”
Along with the decision to use The Rocket Summer moniker was the acceptance by Avary that he was wandering into uncharted territory with his new endeavors.
“I just really felt comfortable with not having a sense of what I was doing,” said Avary. “What I knew was that I was figuring it out as I went.”
Part of Avary’s initial plan for making the move to California was to collaborate with other artists. But as he embarked on his newfound process, it became clear that the task at hand was ballooning into a behemoth, one that forced him to alter his original plans.
“It came down to like ‘Do I want to make a record really fast that’s kind of dumbed down, or do I want to make a record that’s really well thought out that I’m going to have to do myself?’”
The fruits of Avary’s evolving process appeared as a glut of new songs that spanned the sonic spectrum. He then began chiseling them down to pull out the sounds he wanted for what would become the new record, titled Zoetic.
“I made a bunch of different sounding songs that accumulated and then narrowed it down to this aggressive-leaning record, which is what this album is,” said Avary. “It’s this high-energy, electrified rock record. When it came down to picking songs, I liked the idea of putting out a record with a little more bite to it. There’s definitely some slower, sweeter jams that didn’t make the record, but I just really fell in love with gritty guitars and rock-‘n-roll again.”
Arguably the most outright aggressive album of his career, Zoetic is also aided by Avary reaching back into his band’s past.
“Early on everything was really nuanced and had interesting parts and then with Do You Feel everything was about the songs,” said Avary. “I didn’t care about the parts as much. I mean, I cared, I put my life into that record, but it was kind of like filling sound as opposed to this time I fell back in love with intricate layers.”
That little bit of bite brings the album to life, as it is the band’s most gripping release to date. Part of the appeal is the wide array of sounds that appear on the album. Many tracks feature a moody electronic pulse to them, even using beatboxing samples, provided by Avary himself. But above all else, Zoetic has a strong backbone comprised of that gritty rock edge.
“There are a lot more sampled, electronic sounds and drums, but it’s absolutely the most guitar-driven record that I’ve ever made,” said Avary. “I just think it sounds like its own things and that’s what I’m most proud of.”
With Zoetic, Avary is offering fans a unique opportunity with the pre-order. Through PledgeMusic, fans can pre-order the album as well as a variety of experiences, ranging from the basic CD/vinyl/shirt bundles to handwritten lyrics sheets to signed equipment to even going record shopping with Avary or joining the band on stage.
“We just thought it was an awesome idea to include fans in a way that was never done,” said Avary. “The Rocket Summer started at a time where you put out a record, you tour, and that was it. It’s different now. So we just said ‘How rad would it be to make the pre-order look different?’ I thought it was a good way to connect with fans more than anything.”
With the release of the album will come touring, something that Avary prides The Rocket Summer on. The Rocket Summer is without a doubt one of the most impressive live acts I’ve had the pleasure of seeing (The first time I saw them was, in fact, my first show ever. It was headlined by Forever The Sickest Kids, but I tend to leave that detail out).
“Live music is everything to me,” said Avary. “I think just everyone in a room together, singing and sharing that collective pulse is so much more powerful than anything else. I certainly come alive on stage in that atmosphere. It’s the most pure, real reaction that I have on stage.”
For Avary, the anticipation of heading back out on the road is huge, as is the anticipation of sharing the new songs live and seeing how they translate.
“I’m really excited,” said Avary. “A little overwhelmed just because it’s the most layered and nuanced album I’ve ever made. I think that the live versions of this album more so than any other one will take on more of it’s own life.”
Zoetic is destined to make waves upon its release. It is a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stifled world of pop rock. It feeds into the basic pop thirst that The Rocket Summer has quenched for over a decade, while introducing a complex web of layers and intricacies that crash into the raw rock backbone that Avary has weaved throughout. The years of work that Avary has put into these songs are abundantly evident, and the result is a treat.
“I want fans to take away whatever they want to take away from it,” said Avary. “I think that was the freedom of this album. I think with some of the other albums there was definitely a feeling that I wanted people to feel when they listened to it, whereas this record is a creative expression for me. I don’t know how people will take it. I hope they take it and feel alive and makes them feel something, but they can figure out what that something is.”
The Rocket Summer may not have gone anywhere, but Zoetic is a resounding alarm that they are back.