I’ve been a fan of The Rocket Summer, the brainchild of Bryce Avary, for nearly a decade. From the moment I heard the piano pop rock and impressive vocals of Hello, Good Friend, I knew I had found an artist that would carry me through my adolescence and well into my adulthood.
In 2012 I saw Avary perform in celebration of the release of his fifth album, Life Will Write The Words, here in Los Angeles. But before recording his next album, Avary challenged himself to take a different approach. The multi-instrumentalist retreated to a house in the canyons of Los Angeles to write, record, and mix his next album, Zoetic (out February 26th), by himself.
After almost a year of radio silence, Avary recently spoke with me about what it was like creating Zoetic, what fans can expect from the album, and how he has been preparing to debut the new music.
It’s such a honor to talk to you, Bryce. I’ve been a fan for years. I even had “Do You Feel” written on my hand for my MySpace profile photo, so thanks for that.
Oh wow [laughs]. You’re welcome. That was a long time ago!
Yeah! So I clearly first fell in love with your music when you were doing a lot of power pop, then you moved towards rock, and now Zoetic has this great indie-pop vibe. What was the biggest catalyst for this shift in style? Did you make a conscious decision to explore new territory or was it more natural?
I think it was all of the above. With this record, I wanted to not allow there to be any subconscious lanes to stay in. I wanted to follow the songs that came out. I think I fell back in love with what I originally fell in love with, which was rock.
I wanted to get more experimental with the sounds. It just came out. It wasn’t a conscious effort, though. I wanted to make a record that sounded like what was going on in my head, which was a little more chaotic. I wanted it to rock.
To make a record like that, you had said you wanted to separate yourself and really focus on the music, so you moved to Los Angeles to record it. That seems like a pretty busy city to make a record, so what made you want to come here to record a very isolated process?
It’s interesting how it turned out. I wanted to be in an atmosphere where people were chasing art and there were a bunch of like-minds. I love Texas, it’s my home, but I wanted to be here near the ocean. LA can be crazy busy, but I set up shop in the canyons. I became a hippie for a minute. It was just me and the songs.
When you record, you play all your instruments. It must be great when writing but then pretty daunting when recording everything. Was that a lot on top of writing alone?
I’m fairly used to that. Part of the reason I moved out here was I assumed I’d be collaborating more. I wasn’t expecting to make this record as my own thinktank, but when I came out here, I was quickly met with reality. It was an ambitious body of work I wanted to do, the amount of music and amount of songs and how much I wanted to delve into each one and experiment and take it further. I realized the only way to do that was to do it myself.
It was disappointing as I didn’t really want to do that, but in the end, it was a good thing. I learned so much. I’ve always had engineers. But it was a challenge to learn more about the art of recording and everything that goes with it. It actually made for the most interesting and unique-sounding record I’ve done because I had more time to focus on those things as opposed to drums, guitar, and a piano. I got to make more unique sounds.
You recorded way more songs than made the album, right? How did you pick which songs made the album?
I think it got down to the fact that the whole thing had taken so long and I had almost five albums worth of material. I looked up one day and felt excited about a big portion of it. I narrowed it down to what would be this high-energy, unique album. I’m certain when songs come out later, there will be people who say, “Why wasn’t that on the record?!” But that’s a good problem to have.
Well then, fans will look forward to that! And speaking of high energy, I still remember the first time I saw you live and how energetic your show was. I know you’ve taken the majority of the year off to write and record the new album, so what was it like when you returned to performing last month and how were people reacting to the new tracks?
It was the most tremendous experience. It was probably one of the most fun tours I’ve done, maybe because of the time away. There was a lot of love in the room. It felt different than any other tour we’ve done. It was the most life-giving thing to get to come back to such a warm reception and remember, “Oh my gosh, people actually care about this.”
You can suffer from out of sight, out of mind if you’re in the studio long enough. You’re reminded that there are people waiting for this record, not just me. We played three new songs, and they went over really well. I’m really excited to dive into getting the rest of this new music figured out to take on the road.
And I’m sure fans will be ready to receive it! What can fans expect at shows then this year?
We’ll be hitting the road and taking the album on tour, but we’ll be playing a ton of songs people already know. We are diving into rehearsals now, and we’ll figure that out as we go. We definitely want it to be the next level; that’s always the goal for me. I don’t want to do the same things. I want to push myself to do more.
That’s what this album was. Part of it was a little more selfish than other albums, but I wanted to learn more and explore new territories musically, sonically, lyrically, and that’s what came out. Hopefully people will be into it. I’m an artist, so I have to do that. I could probably make life easier if I just made ear candy, but that wouldn’t be who I am.
Zoetic is available for pre-order now with some one-of-a-kind perks including bundles and autographed setlists available for fans of Avary.
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