Of Men, Angels and Absolutely No Disco Sticks: An Interview with The Rocket Summer

To Bryce Avary’s future children–move along, nothing here to see. As for everyone else–on February 23rd, 2010, prepare to receive a gift from above, as The Rocket Summer returns with its fourth album, ‘Of Men and Angels.’ If the three songs (Light, Walls, Hills & Valleys) streaming on his official site are an indication of the overall mood, this is likely to be one of the feel-good productions of this young year (I mean, this is the guy who wrote So Much Love). Bryce’s one man project is powered by a huge heart, mind-numbing musical skill and incredible insight. Buzznet had the good fortune to be able to talk to him about the album, having a reputation for infallible positivity, and openness as an artist who embraces social networks.

Buzznet: Where are you going to be on the day your new album is released, and how are you going to celebrate?

Bryce Avary: I believe I will be in NYC for some press stuff. I’ll probably celebrate by going and buying it somewhere!

Buzznet: Can you tell us a story about one of the songs on the album?

Bryce: The first song is a song called Roses and it’s about faith. The chorus lyrics are “Keep holding on / All I got is holding onto these roses / The thorns will keep on digging but my soul believes… please.” I think it sets up the record well musically and lyrically.

Buzznet: You have a reputation for being the nicest, most positive artist in the scene–has a fan ever caught you on a bad day? Do you even HAVE bad days?Bryce: This is definitely the biggest misconception about me. I mean, being the “nicest guy” is obviously a great reputation, and I’d like to think a fraction of that is true to some degree as being hopeful and a loving person is in fact a huge deal to me, but yes, of course I have bad days… to say the least. You might think I’m a bit of a loon when I say this, but I am a very spiritual person … which equates to me being a warrior for the kingdom as they say… which equates to me most definitely sometimes having difficult days – difficult months. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” That’s obviously getting very heavy, very fast, but the assumption of me not having bad days and my life being all innocent and sweet and polished couldnt be further from the reality that is my so many parts of my life. Every single person in my personal life would tell you that. I think that my positivity through these things however – my constant fight for that is simply a testament to God in my life. But I’ll move on from that super heavy subject. As far as a fan catching me on a bad day, I’m sure that has happened many times, but they’d probably rarely ever know it. TRS fans mean the world to me so even if I’m having a bad day I try to put that aside and realize how beautiful it is that I even have fans. I’m seriously so blessed and I couldn’t be happier to have such incredible fans.

Buzznet: When did you decide to learn how to play every instrument and fly solo versus just joining a band?

Bryce: When I was 12 I just fell in love with learning how to play music. I had wanted to my whole life but I didn’t have any instrument in my house as my parents aren’t musical people. Music, rock and roll was this foreign thing. I would see Michael Jackson on TV and just be in awe. I finally got a guitar and immediately was infatuated, obsessed. Around the same time my friend had a drum set and we would just take turns jamming with each other. At this point I was about to enter 8th grade and this was too late to join school band as you had to join in 6th and 7th. Most kids at this point, if anything were leaving band as this is when “Band Nerd vs Popular” kinda came into effect, but all I wanted to do was join. I begged the teacher to let me try out and she loved my passion so she let me in as a percussionist although it was against the rules. She put me in the “concert band” which was the “d team” of band you could say, but I was just stoked to be in it. All state tryouts were 2 months later and so I decided to give it a shot. I actually ended up ranking number 1 in the entire district, including at my school where I was in the worst band. It was crazy, it was something that really meant a lot to me, gave me a lot of encouragement that I was on the right track and to keep going. I think at that point what was obvious to me started getting obvious to my parents, I was going to do music even if it killed me! A couple years later I had this idea to start making records with all the gear I had in my room, my drums, guitars, keyboards. And I guess the rest is history. There’s something very freeing and beautiful to me about creating something from scratch. It literally is a reflection of my heart, my total expression and I think that’s cool as a listener, it’s so easy to connect with the artist. It’s also not a cakewalk at all. It takes an incredible amount of work as you could imagine, and I push myself to be efficient and worthy on each instrument. I honestly wouldn’t be doing it if somehow it was just me trying to do it, but some producer was really fixing every bit of it. I tried the band thing too before I started making records. Granted, I was 14 years old, but it was impossible to find people that were as passionate as I was about making great music and being in a real band. For everyone else It was always second to social life, school stuff. For me it was all I knew I wanted. I wanted to be in a real rock band, I wanted to tour and I knew I had to start early. I remember once I convinced my parents to let me stay home from school because I needed to write songs. That only worked once, but I did it! When I have kids one day I hope they don’t google this, future google this, “foogle” this and read this interview. “Hey dad, I want to be a pro gamer, I need to skip school and play this video game all day!” haha.

Buzznet: Having that much creative control over an entire record must be super satisfying–but who do you go to when you feel stuck, or want some feedback?

Bryce: Well, while I produce the records, I make sure that I surround myself with someone to push me. Tell me when they think its not good enough and I could do better. On this album that was my friend CJ who co-produced and engineered the album, as well as my wife who has great ears and might be my hardest critic, I’ll bounce ideas off of close friends that I respect musically. It’s not entirely me completely alone in a room, but almost. As far as feeling “stuck”, the only times that that’s happened has been when I’m feeling some sort of corporate pressure from a very non inspiring place to write something that competes with the controversial “I kissed a girls” and ride my disco sticks and stuff. When its something that feels very forced on my end for the sake of trying to have a hit. Since that method isn’t something I really believe in, naturally those forced moments only result in something crappy so I avoid them. I just do what I do.

Buzznet: Of Men and Angels was ready awhile ago, but the release date kept getting pushed–have to quell any desires to leak your own album? Bryce: Haha. Yeah it’s taken a very long time, and that’s a whole other story, but the bottom line is that it is coming out. The good part about this is naturally, my creative juices cycle kicks in generally several months after I’ve made a record, after I’ve had a couple months to walk away. And since the album was essentially done in March 09, the creative cycle kicked in months ago. I’m already finding myself jamming on new ideas for the next one daily. It’s obviously far too soon to even speak about that, but hopefully this wait I’ve endured, the wait that trs fans have endured will end up resulting in another album much sooner than the space between Do You Feel and this one. It would be rad to not have to wait 2 and a half years after this release… but maybe one and a half. That sounds more like it.

Buzznet: Has the interaction on facebook and twitter changed the dynamic between you and your fans?

Bryce: I like it a lot. I think it has enhanced personal connection. Fan interaction has always been such a big part of TRS and now it’s that much easier to really embrace it with Twitter and Facebook. I love seeing what our fans are like by their tweets and I love how immediate the response is when you ask a question or announce something. With the decline of myspace however, I do find myself having to do 3 times as much work to reach not as many people. That was the beautiful thing about everyone being at one place, all the time, and everyone wanting to put individual songs on their profile pages. But se la vi. It’s 2010, I’m sure 10 years from now we’ll have all gone through 10 more new ideas. I guess all you can say is bring it and be prepared. The days of just putting out a record and mystery playing a huge part of it are pretty much dead and gone. I do think mystery is important to a degree though. I dont want to know that my favorite artist is doing his taxes, but at the same time maybe a part of me would actually love to know what his/her favorite Starbucks drink is. It’s a give and take thing, this whole new way.

Buzznet: Are you ever intimidated by the instant feedback you can get via social media and the internet?

Bryce: I’m intimidated by God’s love and his blessing of putting these people in my life. It’s unreal to post something on facebook and start hitting refresh every 3 seconds and your watching all these comments come up. I always try and make sure to read every one.

Buzznet: Aside from finally unleashing your new music and touring, what are your goals for 2010?

Bryce: To soak it up. To embrace it like my best friend that’s been away for a while. Having to wait definitely makes the heart grow fonder and my heart has grown even more fond of music and our fans. I also have some ideas up my sleeve, things that are going to help people. We’ll see though… I’m a very go get em, idea kind of person. But I just need to take it one day at a time. I’ve been working on that however for over 20 years. I can’t help it.

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Pre-order Of Men and Angels here.