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Rocky Votolato - 01.25.12

Interviewed by: Lueda Alia (01/25/12)
Thank you Rocky for all the amazing tunes and for always working with AP.net; thank you Ever Kipp for being one of the nicest (and best!) publicists out there, and thank you Eva for being a trooper and transcribing this in record time.


You have been around for quite sometime now, andTelevision of Saints is your seventh album in thirteen years. How do you think you've grown as a musician during the course of your career?

Thatís crazy when you put it that way. Seven albums in thirteen years. I didnít realize that Iíve been doing this for that long. At this point, I feel really grateful to have been able to keep making records for this long. My music has definitely changed and grown over that time. Surprisingly, the feeling and intention behind it has been the same. That hasnít changed. That consistency is whatís allowed me to continue to do this for as long as I have and still enjoy what Iím doing and still feel like I have something to contribute.

This new album was actually funded through Kickstarter, which is a hot topic on Absolute Punk lately. Could you tell us about your experience with it? What made you choose that route instead of releasing the record on Barsuk?

I think Kickstarter is pretty amazing. Itís a really innovative idea and a great platform for new artists and artists who maybe donít have a record deal to self-release an album. Itís a great way to get your core fan base involved in what youíre creating. It was so much fun. Doing it was a really cool experience. Working with Kickstarter was great. They made everything really straightforward and easy to understand. I did it in conjunction with my management team and they helped me out with how we were going to do it, but itís a really direct connection to your fans. Thatís what I like about it.

I was finished with my contract with Barsuk Records when True Devotion came out. I was in negotiations with them to sign a new deal and we couldnít get a deal together that made sense. Itís nothing against Barsuk. I love those guys and we have a really great relationship. Iíll be working with them on back catalog stuff. With where I am in my career, it just made more sense for me to do it myself.

It worked out extremely well. We almost doubled the goal on Kickstarter. We raised around $38,000 in thirty days. My mind was blown. My goal was for $20,000. I figured that was a modest amount. I knew it would cost me more than that to get the album out with manufacturing and publicity and all the things that go into basically becoming your own record label. Itís really allowed me to be in a much stronger position to go ahead and get this album out and get ready to go out and start touring.

You have one of the most dedicated fanbases out there, which I imagine is constantly growing. Given that so many people adore your music and hold you to a certain standard, do you ever feel pressure having to meet certain expectations?

Thatís an internal game. I donít see it that way. If anything, I feel like it takes all the pressure away. All the records Iíve released are stylistically different and people have stuck with me throughout that. I feel like the more people that listen, the more pressure is taken off. Itís good to know that there are people there. I donít think of it as trying to work harder to impress people or keep older fans on board.

Iím my greatest critic. I have to find a way to make an album that I love. Iíve always tried to make something that Iíll love not only now, but also ten years from now. Iím not trying to be a fad or an overnight success. Iím trying to make connections with people. I want to make music thatís real. I want it to speak to people about their lives. I want it to be meaningful in a way that doesnít disappear the minute someone new pops up. I may not reach as many people as quickly, but they payoff in the long run is that people have a more meaningful experience.

Back in 2010 we ran a contest for a "Rocky Living Room Show" that had many of our readers ecstatic. You have actually done many similar shows since, which is not only a great way to connect with fans, but a clever business strategy too. Is that something you kept in mind when you started doing them?

Itís about quality over quantity. I want to have a really personal and intimate connection with each person that digs my music and is into my albums and who come to see me play. I want them to feel that itís a meaningful experience. I want to do whatever I can to make every fan of my music feel special and like I care. Itís not an act. I really appreciated it when the bands that I listened to made me feel that way. Thatís how I got involved in music in the first place. Relating to music on that level had a huge impact on my life. It gave me a reason to keep going and get out of bed in the morning. Itís all about that for me. I keep approaching it that way and people really respond to that.

I donít think much about the economy and business strategy behind this. I feel lucky because I already have myself figured out and have my career going. My manager and I work really hard. We talk about what weíre doing every day. Itís fun now though. We donít sit around and talk about how the music industry is falling apart. I donít even think about it. I think you can get overwhelmed and fearful pretty quickly if you started thinking about all the negatives. Thereís always innovation and thereís always someone succeeding, even in a bad economy. I try not to worry about the things I canít control. Iíd rather focus on having fun and hopefully making good albums.


Meeting your wife, who was absolutely lovely, made your show feel all that more intimate. And everyone we have talked to has nothing but great things to say about her too. So now we're curious -- does she plan to keep touring with you?


We actually just celebrated our twelve-year anniversary! In this world, I feel like itís such an accomplishment to keep a relationship together. The last few years weíve toured together a lot. Weíve been trying to figure out how weíre going to make it work. We havenít figured out if sheíll be on the next U.S. tour. She wonít be coming on the European tour though. We have kids so itís necessary for someone to be home with them. Iím really grateful when it works out that she can come though. I definitely value my family above and beyond my music career. That keeps me grounded. It helps to make a foundation for the music Iím making and the connections Iím trying to make.

What was it like working with Casey Foubert again?

Heís great to work with. Weíve worked on my last four or five albums together, so we have our relationship figured out. I produced and engineered a lot of this record myself. He mixed it remotely. I sent him the tracks on a hard drive. He then mixed it and sent them to me. That was during the Matt Pond PA tour. I would get the mixes and listen to them before the show. It was pretty crazy.

I worked on this record for a really long time. I started recording back in early 2011 and finished at the end of the year. Itís a crazy process. With the last records, Casey and I would meet up at a studio and mix the songs together. I really enjoyed working with him this time though. Heís so talented. He played a lot of instruments on the album and did some overdubbing. It was great working with him again.

Your last album, True Devotion, was written after you had gone through a pretty dark period. How would you describe the mood of this album?

Itís a lot lighter. I still feel like thereís quite a bit of struggle in the songs and in the record. I think that you can definitely hear that. Iím so excited about this record though. I think itís my favorite thing Iíve ever done. Iíve never said that about an album. I really believe itís my favorite. It was able to communicate exactly what I wanted to. I had never been as involved with the engineering aspect as I was with this record. A lot of it was just me working on it by myself. Iím really happy with how it turned out. I feel like I was able to say what I wanted to say.

There are a lot of characters struggling to make it and make a better life for themselves. Itís got a real working class vibe. Itís not so dark though. I was in such a dark period when I made True Devotion. This one had a little more space around it. It has a better perspective of hope. Iím just really happy with the way it turned out.

I havenít felt this excited about an album since Makers. Thatís my other favorite. I love all the albums Iíve made, but there are definitely ones that didnít completely hit the mark of what I was trying to make. Youíre not going to hit it out of the park on every single album. Every once in a while, one comes out thatís exactly right and it feels like you got exactly what you wanted from it. Iím really grateful that I have that feeling right now.

Our Seattle readers are dying to know, so we might as well ask -- what are some of your favorite bands from Seattle?

I like Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground. Theyíre super good. Even though theyíre not playing anymore, my brotherís band, The Blood Brothers. Itís so different from my music. Theyíre one of my favorite bands from Seattle. Iím hoping theyíll get back together at some point. I like a lot of older bands, like Red Stars Theory. Theyíre a little more obscure. Everyone knows Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie. Iíve known those guys for years. It was fun playing shows with them before they were super huge and watching them grow up. Sunny Day Real Estate is also one of my favorites. Link and Murder City Devils are also great.

Reunions seem to be the latest trend, with beloved bands like Refused and At The Drive In reuniting. I asked you five years ago, and it seems fitting to ask you again now, especially since your brother Cody helped with recording this album: is there any chance of Waxwing making a comeback?

I think thereís a good chance of it. Cody moved back to Seattle, which helps out a lot. He was living in Portland. Now that heís here, we get to hang out a lot more. He was really involved with Television of Saints, so of course we started talking about some reunion shows. We might do another album. I donít know when itíll happen, but I hope it does. Iím still really close with everyone in the band. Weíd all love to do it.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 10 of 10.
11:36 AM on 01/25/12
#2
Lueda Alia
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One of the nicest (and best) musicians ever.
11:36 AM on 01/25/12
#3
Kyle Huntington
GIVEN TO THE WILD
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Really great interview. Well done to all involved in this mass feature, particularly Eda. Great news.
11:53 AM on 01/25/12
#4
Eva Friedman
Keep Calm And Carry On
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This is definitely one of my favorites. Rocky's the nicest guy ever
02:09 PM on 01/25/12
#5
pleasedontpanic
I believe. Help my unbelief.
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Love this dude. He consistently puts out great music and is such a solid dude! Loved the interview and am really digging the new song.
02:16 PM on 01/25/12
#6
Eva Friedman
Keep Calm And Carry On
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Love this dude. He consistently puts out great music and is such a solid dude! Loved the interview and am really digging the new song.

Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it!
07:16 PM on 01/25/12
#7
KingsCrossing
What are you waiting for?
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Awesome interview. Seems like a great guy.
12:26 AM on 01/26/12
#8
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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Such a good interview. One of the best that I've read anywhere recently.
11:19 AM on 01/26/12
#9
surgerone
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waxwing reunion = YES.
12:02 AM on 02/22/12
cut!print
Keep me simple, unplug my head.
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I met Rocky's brother last week, he was hanging out at the bar of the restaurant I work at, I guess he lives in the same area as me. It was amusing actually because he started talking to me about music and I found it odd at first because nobody ever wants to talk about music anymore, at least where I live. So we got to talking and he was interested in what artists I listen to so I gave him my iPod to check out and he saw Rocky on it and said, "you have my brother on here, that's cool."
Nothing exciting just a cool scenario that happened :)
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