By: Kyle Kinsey
Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing the vocalist/guitar player of one of my favorite bands, Rozwell Kid. He gave me plenty of insight on the band’s origin, the creative process, and even their previous experiences at Fest. As I (nervously) asked my questions, he responded with overwhelming modesty and positivity. If you’re a fan of Rozwell Kid, check out the full interview below. If you’re not, what are you waiting for?
Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of your band?
We’ve been a band since October 2011, which was our first show. I’d been writing for Rozwell Kid before that and I think I put out the first record before we started playing live, but we consider that first show to be, like, the birthday of the band as it is now. We’re coming up on our seventh anniversary! But yeah, it started as a solo project. I was playing in some other bands and I just had a couple of songs laying around that I wanted to document, and it really just started as a recording and writing project, I didn’t have any plans to play shows or tour or anything like that. But after I put the first record out on Bandcamp, a couple of guys who I’d been involved with in one capacity or another around town and in this region – my bands would play shows with their bands or I’ve seen them – It happened to be that they were all recording a record in the basement of the house that I lived in at the time that this came out, and our guitar player Adam played them a couple tracks from the record and they were like, ‘If you ever want to play this live just let us know and we’re down to clown,’ I called their bluff, and they followed through. So yeah, that’s how it all worked out.
So, did you record the first record yourself?
I didn’t record it myself or engineer it myself. My friend Brian Spragg in Morgantown, WV, he actually has a pedal company now. He builds guitar pedals called Bookworm Effects. He was doing recording in Morgantown, and you know, our bands had played a bunch together, I’d recorded some stuff with him in the past, and originally the idea was gonna be a split seven inch with his band and then these songs that I had. That never panned out, but I did two tracks with him and liked the way it sounded so I was like, ‘Why don’t we just make this a full record?’ So, in my time off between work and bands, I would drive to Morgantown and track a couple more songs at a time. Over the course of a couple months, I had a full length done. I played everything on the record, but he recorded everything. I didn’t really have any plans for it, it was just sort of a document of this music and I was like, ‘Cool, I’ll just put it on Bandcamp for free and whatever happens, happens.’ That’s where it all took off from.
How about the origin of your band name?
It’s really a non-story [laughs], it’s really dumb. The root of the idea, I guess, came from these novelty dog tags my mom got me as a present when I was a kid. She was a junior high English teacher and she would always take the eighth-grade class on a trip to Washington, D.C. and she would always try to bring me back a souvenir. One year, she brought me back these novelty dog tags that she got from some kiosk somewhere. I was really into aliens at the time, you know, as most 12-year-old boys are or whatever, or just 12-year-olds in general. She tried to appeal to that, so she got these dog tags that said, ‘Jordan Hudkins Roswell, New Mexico: Alien Boy.’ And that just sort of got conflated and turned into Rozwell Kid, and I spelled it with a Z.
You guys are originally from West Virginia. Was there a strong music scene or did you need to travel elsewhere to kickstart your career?
We definitely had to travel, you know there’s not a huge spotlight on West Virginia, nobody’s turning to West Virginia for the ‘hot new shit’ or whatever, but to say there was no scene here would be a disservice. There was a lot of really cool stuff going on at the time, but if you wanted anyone to pay attention you kind of had to get out and travel. We got lucky that when our third record came out, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die asked us to open for them on a U.S. tour. We had done some regional touring before that, but that was the first time that we ever had a reason to really go out and go to the West Coast and the Midwest for the first time. So, yeah, that’s when we stepped out of our comfort zone and really started hitting, quote-on-quote, ‘the road.’ From that, we got a booking agent and other touring offers, so it just kind of snowballed from there and we just kept saying ‘yes’ to things and doing things, and eventually we had done like three full U.S. tours in nine months or something really stupid like that. It was a lot, but it was fun. And like I said, there was a lot of cool stuff going on in West Virginia. It was like little pockets throughout the state. There was no centralized scene, it was more of like a statewide scene and everybody knew everybody in all the bands in all the towns around the state. But like I said, if you wanted anyone to pay attention you had to get out and get in their face.
I’ve noticed on each of your albums, the production quality has gotten tighter. How were the mixing and recording processes different on your latest album than previous ones?
The first record, like I was saying, that was recorded literally in a bedroom. So, we were limited by the space and the time and gear and stuff like that. The second album, Unmacho, that was the first record we recorded as a band, and we did it all in one space, but it was still a basement in Pittsburg. And then Too Shabby was the first time we ever recorded in a proper studio, and that was with our friend Justin Francis. He engineered Precious Art too, but with Too Shabby, we were kind of working around his schedule and what we could do, and we did it in the studio over Memorial Day weekend that year, like 2014 I guess, to get most of that stuff done. It was really fast-paced, like really quick, in-and-out, we know these songs, let’s go in, let’s track it, let’s do it. On Precious Art, it was the same studio, same engineer, but this time we had ten days in the studio. So, it wasn’t as much of get in and get out as quickly as possible, we actually had some time to experiment with some different sounds and different tones, restructuring songs a little bit, just sort of playing around. I like to say we didn’t have enough time to ruin anything, but we had just enough time to get weird with it in certain places. Time and the space we’re working in would be the most influential variables that would change how the record sounds, so that’s probably what you’re hearing.
One of my favorite songs off the new album is “Michael Keaton”. I really like the lyrics in that song, I think they’re funny as hell and relatable. What’s the inspiration behind that song, and how accurate is the story you tell?
So, the story of Michael Keaton all came from a memory that I have from my childhood where I was really into Batman, like the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. I had just learned in preschool about using the phonebook. I grew up in a tiny town in the middle of West Virginia of like 500 people, like it was a really small town. So, we have the phonebook for the town, and I remember being really frustrated as like a five-year-old that I couldn’t find Michael Keaton’s phone number in the phonebook ’cause I wanted to call him up and tell him what a good job he did in Batman. I couldn’t wrap my head around why he wasn’t in there ’cause they told me in preschool if you want to find someone’s phone number, look at their last name first, and then find their first name, then there’s their number, give them a call. So, I was like this pissed off little five-year-old who couldn’t find Michael Keaton’s phone number in the phonebook. So, I remembered that one day, and I just sort of brainstormed on that idea. Originally, I wanted to write a script for a movie that was gonna be about these kids in the late ’80s, early ’90s, who all come from different backgrounds and they all have different home lives, but the one thing they bond over is how much they love the new Batman movie. It brings them together, and so to escape their lives in the Northeast they decide that they’re just gonna hitchhike across the country to California to meet Michael Keaton because it’s gonna make everything better. And it was gonna be like a Stand By Me sort of coming of age tale of these kids crossing the American plains to Hollywood. Then I was thinking maybe one of their moms comes to find them in California and falls in love with Michael Keaton. I don’t know, I had all these ideas and I wanted to write a movie, but then I realized I don’t know shit about writing movie scripts. But I do know how to kind of write songs, so I was like, ‘Well, I’ll just write a song about it.’ So that’s where that came from.
When my friend first introduced me to your music, he described it as “early Weezer, but heavier.” What do you think about that description?
I’ve heard the Weezer comparison a lot at this point. At first, I thought it was really cool, then I went through a brief period where I was annoyed by it, and now I’ve come back around. I just heard it so much so rapidly that I was like, ‘Oh my god, I get it.’ But I’ve come back around to where I actually appreciate it now. And I understand that, you know, there’s so much music in the world and there’s so much new shit going on at any time, and everyone’s time is precious. If you’re going to try to convince someone to spend the time to listen to something new, or give some band the time of day, you need a relatable point to come in and say, well you know, this is where you can start to form your head around it, and then spend some time with it, maybe you’ll like it maybe you won’t. Honestly, the Weezer influence is huge on me. I love that band, I’ve been a huge fan of Weezer since I was in high school and there are worse things to be compared to as far as I’m concerned. [Laughs] So, I’m totally cool with it now, I embrace it. I think it’s great. And if you’re a Weezer fan then I hope you would like Rozwell Kid because they’re a big influence on us.
Do you have any other influences you’d like to talk about?
Absolutely. When I was forming my musical opinions, around 15 or 16, when I was getting into my own shit for the first time, I was a huge fan of the Punk-O-Rama compilations just because they’re dirt cheap and all the songs on it were like these melodic, insane pop-punk songs that I just loved, and I couldn’t get enough of it. And so, from there, I got really into NOFX and Rancid and, you know, the Fat Wreck and Epitaph bands. And at the same time, I was listening to Green Day nonstop ’cause they were the first band that really introduced me to that world. And then I got really into Real Big Fish for a long time, like ska was a big thing for me for a while. And then I started getting into like, I guess, more classic shit like The Beatles and The Who and things like that. So, it’s just sort of been a constant flow from one thing to another, kind of taking little parts of everything as I go along. What I like, holding onto that. What I don’t like, forgetting about it.
If you could play with any band, who would it be?
I’d be down to go on that Weezer Cruise, that’d be cool. I’ve never been on a cruise ship before, but it’s just like Weezer and a bunch of bands that they take on this cruise ship and then you just play, like, four shows on a cruise. I would love to go on a cruise ship and play some rock ‘n’ roll. Everybody’s doing it. There was like a Paramore cruise, then there was a 311 cruise last year, and I think there was a Sugar Ray cruise, I’m not sure. But yeah, all these bands are doing cruises. I’d also love to play with the Aquabats, that would be a dream come true.
What were your previous experiences at Fest like?
They’ve always been incredible. I had never been before we got invited to play, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Everybody told me it was really cool, and I went in thinking, ‘alright, this is gonna be cool, everybody says it’s gonna be a fun time.’ But I had no idea just how electric the town would be during that weekend. Everyone, everywhere, all these shows, all these bands! I made so many friends at Fest, met so many good people, so many good bands and saw so many good shows. People telling me that Fest was really cool was like the understatement of the century. Actually experiencing it was like, ‘woah, this is fucking insane!’ The first time we played was at Dirty Nelly’s, and I didn’t think anybody was gonna be there ’cause we had never played Florida before. But then, in true Fest-fashion, everyone in town that weekend is there to see music and there to see the shit that they like. All these kids showed up to our show and it was mind-blowing. It was the first time that I had ever felt like I was playing music for a crowd of people who wanted to see me, who wanted to see our band, like people who actually liked what we were doing. We weren’t opening for somebody, we weren’t just a bar-band in the corner, it was the first time it was like, ‘Oh my god, these people actually like this music and they want to see us play it! This is incredible.’ It sounds dramatic in hindsight, but I remember when we finished that set at Dirty Nelly’s for the 50 people that were there, it felt like an arena at that point. I just remember loading out to the van, and I believe I said out loud to someone else in the band, ‘If you told me we could never play another show, I would be happy.’ I was that blown away by the response and just how nice and positive and fun the vibe was, and just the fact that anybody gave a shit about what we were doing, it was so cool. It was a very important moment for me and I’ll remember it forever.
What’s the craziest show you’ve ever played?
The year after that when we came back for our second time at Fest, that might be one of the craziest shows we’ve ever played. We played at Boca Fiesta the second year, and in my normal pessimistic fashion I showed up thinking, ‘Last year was great, no one’s going to care this year. This is a slightly bigger venue, there’s gonna be hardly anybody here. Oh well, we’ll do our best, it’ll be fun.’ And then it, like, filled up with people and these people were ready to rage and it was wild. Someone fell on top of my mic stand and literally broke it in half. It was just nuts, and it’s definitely one of the crazier shows we’ve ever played. Again, that award goes to Fest.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Fest this year?
I honestly haven’t even really checked the schedule yet, I don’t know. [Laughs] I saw when we were planning and was like, ‘Cool, now I know what we’re doing and how I can plan that weekend,’ but I really haven’t looked around. I know that we’re going on a tour with Prince Daddy & The Hyena after Fest and I know they’re gonna be there, and unfortunately I think we’re playing at the same time, but if I had the chance I would go see them ’cause they’re great. But I’m gonna get to see them every night for a couple of weeks after that so don’t feel bad for me.
Catch them at Bo Diddley at 7:20pm on Saturday, October 27 at Fest!