By Lea Rittenhouse |Courtesy Photos
After losing three original members in 2010, the remaining members of The Rocketboys, an Austin-based indie-melodic rock band, had to decide to continue or call it quits.
“We had been working really hard, but it got to the point where a couple of the guys changed their mind about wanting to make this their main thing,” says Justin Wiseman, keyboardist and original member. “Starting a band is a lot like starting a business from scratch. You never know how long you’re going to be in the investing in it type stage. We were definitely burning the candle from both ends.”
Despite a brief hiatus following the loss of Dan Wheeler, Mitch Holt and Alex Bhore, the existing trio decided to make a full-force comeback, recording their second full-length album, “Build Anyway,” released last June. Brandon Kinder, singer and guitarist, says the record was largely what motivated their perseverance through the transition.
“We knew we were at least going to write this album no matter what,” he says.
The sophomore release chronicles the emotional journey the band — Josh Campbell, Brandon Kinder and Wiseman — faced following the departure of half the band through honest, sometimes apologetic lyrics and a refreshing spin on their already favored style. The arrangements includes perfect vocal harmonies within the borders of epic, endemic, pop melodies.
“If you listen to the lyrics, it’s pretty stark, but it was just the whole situation of everybody leaving the band and that story from our perspective,” Brandon says while reflecting on the inspiration of the album. “It’s definitely about the guys that left … not real bitterness but just a really frustrating time, you know. We worked really hard and built a lot,” Justin says. “The guys that left are still some of my best friends, so sometimes it’s kind of weird to sing these sometimes kind of hateful songs.”
Previously, the band collaboratively composed songs, but the slimming of members made way for a songwriting reformation that turned out for the better — visions became easier to fine-tune with fewer musicians creating.
“(Before), everyone kind of had their say. There wasn’t one clear leader making all those decisions,” Josh says. “We had to transition away from that because we didn’t really have the people to all get in the room at the same time and just hammer it out until we were all happy, so that was a big hurdle to overcome.”
The album title was inspired by a quote by Kent Keith but made famous by Mother Teresa: “What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.” And that’s exactly what they did. Last year The Rocketboys played at South By Southwest and co-headlined the Invisible Children tour with BEARCAT, as well as other tour dates. The band also added two new members: Josh Rodgers on drums and Kyle Samuel on Guitar.
Although the musical act is still unsigned, they’ve been hard at work since the band’s formation in 2005, having released three EPs and two live DVDs, in addition to their first LP, “20,000 Ghosts,” released in 2009.
The original members casually started the sextet in Abilene while attending Abilene Christian University. The school held a student band showcase event during homecoming week, and Brandon organized a group of musicians and the set list to perform at the event. In need of a name for the informal musical act, he chose Homer Hiccolm and The Rocketboys, inspired by his favorite movie October Sky.
“We played more and more and started thinking we wanted to pursue it more as we got further along in our college career,” Josh says.
In January 2009 they simplified their name to The Rocketboys, and later that year they relocated to Austin.
“As you can imagine with a name like Homer Hiccolm and The Rocketboys, there’s always people spelling it wrong or mispronouncing it,” Brandon says describing the revisions to their name accompanying their first full-length album release. Brandon and Justin say the band’s long-term goal is to make music their sustainable career.
“There’s something about music that can be so rejuvenating to a person. Music is one thing that everybody can agree on,” Brandon says. “You can change a lot of things through music; you can affect people through music.”
Plans for this year are already in the works with a confirmed performance at South By Southwest, tours and another LP in the mix.
To learn more about The Rocketboys or see upcoming tour dates, go to www.therocketboys.com or find them on Facebook.