By: Heidi Darby
[Editor's Note: Spare Notes is a Weekly music feature highlighting outtakes and personal stories from bands who just finished working their asses off to put out new music.]
Robert Jon & the Wreck generate a southern-infused, classic rock sound that's both authentic and infectious. The past three months revealed a whirlwind of opportunity for the local five-piece, who built up enough momentum to earn the OC Music Award for Best Live Band, complete a new EP, and lock in a cross-country Spring tour. The group recently released their single, "Rhythm of the Road," as a precursor to the new EP, due out in June. The single is currently available, for free download Thanks to their strong songwriting chops, memorable live energy, and keyboardist with a penchant for picking up his board and jamming with it against his head, Robert Jon & the Wreck offer substantial performances. Long-haired, bearded front man Robert Jon went from solo-artist to collective band member, and it's working to everyone's benefit.
On life after winning Best Live Band at the 2013 OC Music Awards….
Robert Jon: The morning after the awards show we got in a van and drove twenty hours to Austin, Texas, and then we played five shows for SXSW so it's been pretty good. Right now we're taking a few days in Oklahoma City before we head over to Nashville. The greatest benefit [from the OCMA's] has been exposure. People are seeing all these different bands they might not have gone out to see before. I feel like for us, it got people to see us play and see what we do live in a different aspect, rather than say, the Detroit Bar on a Monday night. It brings everybody in the music community together.
On releasing their single "Rhythm of The Road" and working with producer Warren Huart of Aerosmith fame…
RJ: We picked "Rhythm of the Road" to be our first single because it's what we do. We're a touring band and we try to tour as much as we can. The actual words of the song are really what we live by and the overall sound is what we want people to get excited for. [Warren Huart] was our producer and was there when we tracked everything, working everything out. We came in with the songs pretty much ready to go. There wasn't a lot of adding new parts or making the song a different song. It was more of making sure the parts that we played sounded good, as a producer would do. Our drummer interned at his studio for a couple months.
When we were trying to find a producer for the EP, our drummer basically emailed Warren and asked him who we should contact. We said "here's our budget, we know we can't do it with you because your budgets are crazy and you do major label stuff, but who would you suggest that's a rock man who could produce us in LA?" He responded in an email, "Well, I would love to do it." That was kind of a shock for us, he has some credits behind him, and he was willing to do it on our budget. [Chuckling] So we went with him.
On being a Southern-fried rock band in traditionally punk territory…
RJ: A lot of our members -at least three- grew up in the punk scene. They can tell you every punk band there is. From my childhood, even though I was raised in Southern California, my Dad listened to old gospel groups and country-style stuff. I think at that young age I was subconsciously filtering that stuff in. Me, and our guitarist Chris Butcher, we like our country a lot. We were here on the patio writing our country songs today. I think we're just a different breed. There's people in Orange County who love punk, and a lot of the punk lovers still like the country aspect of Johnny Cash-type country. You know, not so much mainstream "I still love her, but she's gone" kind of stuff. I think old acoustic country is closer to punk rock than everyone thinks.
On playing Warped Tour dates via their OC Music Award win…
RJ: We're probably not the warped tour band everybody would think of, but we did it in high school and if 13 year-old screamo girls don't dig it, I bet their dads will. We're stoked.
*Robert Jon and the Wreck, "Rhythm of the Road"