“It’s not like the soccer moms are going to dig it either way,” Johno Brown states very matter-of-a-factly. But what do the soccer mom’s dig? Last time I checked the only music they hear is Nickelback pumping through the speakers of their sleek and shiny SUV’s. So it only makes sense that a band as complex and experimental as Brown’s entity, Rockets! may have a hard time cracking through and reaching these artistically defiant creatures of society. But that won’t stop them from writing completely compelling tunes. After all, Brown (the singer and guitarist of Rockets!) admits, “We aren’t trying to be U2 or anything. You get it or you don’t.”
Lucky for you, Rockets! are a band that aren’t so hard to “get.” They have good times, they write about good times, they create good times, they practically have the act of good timing down to an art. As bass/keyboard/harmonica player Emmett Morris explains, “At a lot of band practices they’ll practice and just go home. But we’ll stay over at Zac’s and just chill and jam. One time we watched all three Star Wars and one day we spent five hours walking around farm fields in Lefroy. We brought a backpack of food! That’s how we keep it real. We have fun.” And that says a lot, considering each member of the band have played their fair share of time in dysfunctional bands. They each have an extensive musical background outside of their current project, Barrie/Innisfil, Ontario’s Rockets!. Zac Bishop (drums/synth) has been a member of Eight Eleven, a staple to the Barrie, Ontario post-hardcore scene while Morris is known for his previous work in Tokyo Showdown (well known in Barrie for their aggressive rock) and also just recently joined Eight Eleven, and Brown for his place in Back in the Attic (indie rock darlings). However, this band isn’t the same as their previous outfits. Something just fits.
“Not so much irritated, just bored,” says Bishop when recalling the state of the local music community that pushed him to plunge into unknown musical territory with Rockets!. “It wasn’t that we were trying to do something completely different and new, we were just jamming and having fun.” And it’s this tendency to not take themselves too seriously that has gotten them this far and spawned some of the most honest songwriting to emerge from our troubled times.
Growing up, Bishop’s listening habits changed. He soon found himself enthralled by the thrills of such evolutionary artists like Cursive, The Constantines, and Bloc Party. “So I couldn’t pull that stuff off in Eight Eleven,” the wired youngster explains. “Rockets! was a new vent. It was just about taking a different musical path and finding out about other scenes, meeting new people. Just wanting to know what else is out there.” Meanwhile, Brown was crafting some intricate acoustic ditties in tribute to his newfound love for Bruce Springsteen. “Really it was the gift of the ‘30th Anniversary of Born to Run’ box set,” Brown shares. “When I fell completely in love with Springsteen I gave song writing a shot.” The first song he penned was the gorgeous “Win Hoff the Iceman (Crazy Janie)” which later evolved into a fan favourite complete with handclaps, an insanely catchy chorus, and double kicking break downs.
If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. It’s dangerous, frightening, surprising, risky, yet entirely beautiful. Genre fucking this hard is simply the result of throwing together three talented and diverse artists. “We were into such different music that starting a band seemed like a neat idea,” Bishop says. “It’s all over the place,” Morris begins. “So it’s like one of those Travel-the-World cafes. You can eat some food from Italy, Greece, New York... and Rockets! is like a little buffet. You can get some pop, rock, folk, grab some noisecore stuff, and some double kick metal. We try not to discriminate. We all just come with different ideas in mind and we come together to make one idea and it just works out.”
With such carefree musical boundaries music journalists are left tripping over their lips. How does one describe such an indefinable abuse of genres? How does one simply explain that words aren’t going to cut it this time? “When I say Rockets! play ‘indie’ I mean because that doesn’t actually mean anything. I think Rockets! are much more than that,” Morris states. “Literally, I just don’t know how to say it. I just say, ‘I don’t know’ and it kind of sucks because then you have to think of things that could sound like your band, but you don’t want to do that because nothing will capture how we are.” But, Morris welcomes this challenge. After all labeling music is possibly outdated. “I don’t know if the genre that you can put us under has been created yet and I think it’s cool being able to say that. I see it as a benefit because say I’m in a punk band. Some people may never listen because they’re like, ‘oh I don’t like punk.’ If I tell someone I can’t explain what music we play I’m hoping they will be intrigued enough to give it a listen. Like its got to be something cool if it can’t be explained!”
Unfortunately though, the majority of the world doesn’t think like that. Thus why bands like Nickelback continue to permeate society and the general public may never be able to find the beauty in such unique approaches at music. It’s saddening but it hasn’t stopped Rockets! from creating, and most importantly, sharing. Their new album, We Are The Great Canadian Shield was released in May on Toronto-based label, The Meadows Collective and the nine song masterpiece will prove they are looking for a lot more than to simply ride the Canadian indie hype wave. Songs like “MTV Gary Get in da Pool” or “SOHCAHTOA Skull Slayer” possess a hard-found sincerity. Brown’s ability to write universal anthems will refuse to be overlooked with the right promotion. The modest front man swipes any compliments aside, “I mean... they’re just little stories. Take it as you will.”
Their age is a minimal factor when sized against their talents. Their accomplishments as a band have most definitely successfully hidden the fact that these boys are just fresh out of their high school graduation. But Bishop raises a good point. “We are sometimes ten years younger than the bands we are playing with so if we’re playing with them now, it’s hard to think what we could be doing when we are their age.” It’s actually not that hard to think of at all. If they keep working as hard as they have, they’ll be something of an underground legend by the time they’re 25. As the legendary Jon Landau once wrote, “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” I will take it upon myself to announce, I saw the future of indie rock and its name is Rockets!