Badass Band #11
This band is intense, and by intense I mean intensely AWESOME. Taylor Locke & The Roughs were brought to my attention recently, so following my usual process when I catch wind of killer new tunes, I headed over to Itunes to check them out. Well, the first song I clicked on was ‘The Honor Roll’ and the next six minutes and twenty seconds had me floored. I couldn’t even process what I was listening to. There was such a variety of musical genres mixed into ONE SONG, that my ears had trouble categorizing what they were hearing. Now this may sound like a train wreck, but obviously it’s not, because they made it on to BBB. The variety of genres flowed so well together I felt like I was listening to a whole album, or multiple bands over the course of six minutes. THIS is the kind of band I really look for, one that embraces a multitude of genres over the course of a song or album. Too often you pick up a second or third album by a band and it sounds exactly like the ones before it. That or all twelve songs sound like one really long one. Definitely not true for Taylor Locke & The Roughs.
Now, if you know of the band Rooney, then you know who Taylor Locke is. He not only has a most excellent set of pipes, he plays lead guitar and uke, among other instruments. The Roughs portion of the band is made up of Chris Price, Mikey Price, and Joseph Seiders. Chris plays keys as well as guitar. When Chris is on guitar you immediately will find he doesn’t play in the typical way one expects, he plays it laying down in his lap. It’s pretty damn awesome to watch. Joseph and Mikey make up the heart of the band or the rhythm section, banging away at the drums and plugging away on the bass. I would call TLTR what you would get if The Ramones, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, The Kingsmen and an A capella group all had a giant rocking orgy.
Now, I was given the opportunity to interview Taylor Locke today and I’ll be honest, I was nervous and I may have fangirled inside a little before I got him on the phone. However, I pulled myself together and here is all the amazingness that Taylor hooked me up with, savor it folks!
1. When and why did you start playing?
I started playing guitar when I was four years old, I went with my family to Hawaii and I got a ukulele. I thought it would be fun to make music and be up on stage entertaining people. Then when I got home from Hawaii I took my ukulele to school to show it off and a kid smashed it. I probably cried, maybe I didn’t, I was trying to be tough. So my parents, to make me feel better about it, bought me a six-string child size guitar but I was too young to take lessons. The music shop wouldn’t let me at that age. A little later on I did start lessons.
Then I just started trying to put bands together all through Elementary school and Jr. High, other kids were kind of into it, but also had other interests. So I remember, I always had this distinct feeling from ages 9-15 that nobody was going to be as serious about it as I was because I didn’t know anybody who cared about it as much as I did. When I got older and into High School I realized that it was only a matter of meeting people like that. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by very serious, talented, deep, passionate, dedicated musicians for most of my adult life so far.
2. What was the first tune you learned?
I can’t remember, because I was a young, young child. In my guitar lessons they were always trying to get me to learn theory, scales and chords and I always just wanted to play songs. So for me it was always about picking out chord changes and lead guitar licks from records and stuff. My parents played the Beach Boys and the Beatles a lot in the house and for a while I just absorbed what I could and made my own little things.
Later on, it wasn’t until I wasn’t taking guitar lessons anymore, I became a really serious self-taught song learner and learned as many Beatles songs as I could. Those are always fun because you can learn all the fancy chord changes and you can sing along , serenade yourself and be a one man band when the songs are that good. These days with youtube and all the guitar sites, you have to be careful not to use it as a crutch, it can make you lazy. It also doesn’t develop your ear as well, so I also always try to learn songs by ear. It is helpful that there are thousands of guitar nerds out there that will do the work for you if you need to learn some really complicated Queen solo, you can learn it ten minutes instead of an hour, so I do cheat sometimes.
3. Is your family musical?
Not my immediate family, but some of my extended family is. A couple of my uncles, one plays sax, one plays guitar and bass. So there were musical events with them growing up, like jamming and stuff.
4. Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
Oh God, that is a whole separate hour! The Beatles I love because they are just a perfect band. I love Queen because they are really, really eclectic and they always push the boundaries. You can tell there is intelligence in the group and that they were all actually really smart people. Todd Rundgren who is a singer, songwriter, producer, engineer and guitar great because he is really maverick and just always does his own thing. For better or for worse he is always doing the unexpected. I love a lot of producers like Roy Thomas Baker, Jeff Lynne, and George Martin. I love Nirvana, they were such a great band. Kurt Cobain was just such a special talent. Then you have the other guys, Krist and Dave who really were integral as well. I love Cheap Trick because they just carved out their little niche and they just keep going and going. Some albums have a hit that gets on the radio and some albums don’t, but either way they are always on tour. Robin Zander is such a great singer and frontman. I dug Brit Pop in the 90’s, Oasis and Blur, I followed both of those bands during that time. There is a Canadian Group called Sloan that I was just on tour with, and they have been together 20 years now and have ten albums out. They are terrific, I follow them really closely. Some of my close friends are also really great record making musicians. Mike Viola has a new record out and Bleu has a new record out as well. The two of them together had a record out called The Major Labels with another engineer named Ducky Carlisle and that was a fantastic underrated record that I always find myself coming back to. So, kind of my whole world, by design, I have put together to make sure I am surrounded by inspiring people that I sometimes get jealous of or competitive with. However, mainly it’s a healthy kind of thing where I am amazed by the stuff they come up with. It makes me feel like it’s possible to just write a great song out of thin air or turn nothing into something.
5. Describe what it’s like to perform for a crowd.
It can be a lot of different things you know? I have played in a lot of different situations all over the world over the years. I think it’s at its best when you get into a routine or a groove where you are not distracted by the surroundings and are really just doing your job. When you are worried about who is showing up or not, how it sounds, how it looks, how the room is or what you have to do the next morning, I think those are things you try to transcend and just have your hour or half hour or two hours or whatever on stage just be a direct line between you, your instrument, your voice and the people watching. If they are not paying attention, are talking, their back is turned, they are ordering a drink, texting or going to the bathroom, that’s whatever, you cheated out. Whether its five people, five thousand people or fifty thousand people you have a job to do up there and anything less than 100% is a waste of time because no matter if it’s only five people, one of them has a goddamn camera phone and they are posting it to youtube before the show is even over. Then it is forever. Being in top shape musically, vocally and energetically is something you have to do every single time, even if you think its unimportant gig. Even if I think it’s a piece of shit or we didn’t sell enough tickets, or its got a crappy sound system, it’s just not worth my time if I am not doing my job to the fullest no matter what else is going on around me. It’s my goal in live performances to get into the mental state that is about being a delivery system for the songs.
6. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
I don’t make any mistakes. Just kidding! I’m playing with great guys! They are really high level musicians so I don’t worry because it’s like a fucking trapeze artist at the circus with somebody holding a net under them. Those guys, the motor that they are running, I just sail on top of. If I forget one line or flub a passage in a guitar solo it’s not a show stopper because these guys who are in the Roughs with me are a machine. We rehearse very efficiently. You know when I first got Joe Seiders on drums, he asked for a set list via email and he did his own rehearsing at home, then when we came in for the first rehearsal it sounded like most bands seventh rehearsal because he was so ready to go. Mikey knows more about these songs backwards and forwards than I do. He can remind me of chord changes in songs I co-wrote even. I just rely on the foundation and if anything, I am just trying to remember all the lyrics and give a very dedicated vocal performance where I am just emotionally committed to singing each line of the song in the spirit of how the song is meant to be conveyed.
7. Do you get nervous before a performance?
Well, when the Roughs started, being a lead singer was new for me so talking between songs, trying to negotiate the set flow and how much time to take between songs to talk or check guitar tuning, that was a new component to me other than just playing guitar. So, there were definitely some nerves to overcome but I have settled into it so now its less about conquering nerves and more about conquering distractions.
8. How often and for how long do you practice?
It’s not a regular thing. When the band was new there was a lot of rehearsing to be done and when we switched our rhythm section members a couple times. But we did a tour last month and before the tour we rehearsed the week before about four or five times. After that we played every night and one show is like the equivalent of ten rehearsals. Once you have hammered it out night after night consecutively like that, it’s like going to the gym. Its muscle memory you know? Like one day you can only life 20 pounds and the next you can lift 50 pounds. Right now we are not really in rehearsal mode at all because we are playing pretty regularly. The show we have coming at the end of the month, it will have been a few weeks since we have played so I think we will probably rehearse once. The guys are such deep musicians who know the shit so well that it gets to the point that we go to rehearsal, we set up, we plug in, run through the set once, and then maybe there is one or two songs that need a little extra work or something. I am not interested in hammering through the same 12 songs over and over again for four or five hours. I know some bands do that and that works for them but I like to leave a little room for spontaneity. I don’t think they need it that much because they are so good.
9. If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
You can’t really take back file sharing, it’s out there. Music has been really devalued. I understand that it’s great you can check out all this different music if you don’t have the money to and you can still be exposed to things because it’s all there online for free. However, at the same time, if a kid walked into a store and stole a candy bar, a pack of cigarettes or a pair of shoes and came home with them their parents would be like, “No you can’t do that. We are going back to the store to have you apologize. That is stealing and its wrong.”
With music, it’s like whatever your kid is doing down the hall on his computer in his room is fair game. That is a dangerous attitude. If artists have to get other jobs to support themselves and pay their rent and buy food, then they won’t have time to be as creative as they could or should. I take great pride in buying music, when I go down to Amoeba and spend more than I should on records, I don’t feel guilty. I feel proud because I have invested in something that is going to be a deep experience for me to listen to over and over again. Music is cheap anyway, even before all this. A movie ticket these days these days is like $17, a book is $15, a hardcover is who knows, video games are $50 or $60, a skateboard is $100, but a record is $9.99. So just do it, you know? That’s how I feel.
I also like that vinyl is coming back. The artwork is really great and it’s something that is a really collectable, long term investment. It sounds really great too especially on a good record player and Hi-Fi system.
The other thing I would change, is that right before the industry really burnt out there was something else going on, aside from file sharing and stealing, major labels were frontloading things so hard. They were finding artists who were really young and undeveloped, and instead of giving the artist time to find their voice, they thrust them into working in co-writing sessions with top songwriters, paying tons of money for big shot producers, stylists, video directors, this person and that person. They would put these artists on a conveyor belt and just dress them up with all these resources that they are spending all this money on but then if they didn’t have a huge hit, they would drop the artist. Now these kids are traumatized, and don’t know what they will do to pick up the pieces of their career. If they do have a huge hit, it’s hard for them to follow it because they haven’t figured out their thing yet, they are only eighteen or nineteen years old. Everything has been a team effort with a committee, someone else writes it, someone else produces it, someone else styles it, etc. I just think that taking time with your craft, whether it’s your vocals, instrument playing, your experience on the road, knowing how to put on a show, how to talk to your audience, your songwriting, producing, or getting some home recording technology- which is a great new asset in the last ten or twenty years, is really where it’s at. That is so important. To me, I am so much more interested in someone who really has something to say, that is their own angle, that comes from something that is authentic to them versus someone who won some reality show or was already a famous actor that now has a band. Authenticity has been cast aside in pop media. I want to really know where someone is coming from and I would like to get to know them through their work. Like when you listen to John Lennon’s music, you feel like you are sitting down with John Lennon and listening to him tell you about himself. I like things that are so brutally honest that it is almost uncomfortable. I like people who really reveal themselves in their work, as opposed to Katy Perry dancing around with lollipops and green hair fucking talking about short shorts. I know people are entertained by that, and it serves it purpose. I like to tune out to stupid things now and then and I know not everything is the White album. I get that, but I am not engaged by that. It’s just frustrating because I don’t think it’s the purpose of what the art is really supposed to serve.
10. Tell me about your other band members. How do y’all make it work so well, especially during the creative process?
The group formed after the body of work had been written. Chris Price and I were friends and I was playing in the group Rooney and he was in Price and we were both on Geffen. Both bands were trying to expedite ourselves from the label situation. Rooney was getting out of our deal and Price was getting out of their deal. There was a lot of hold up, so the bands were having pauses in our momentum and simultaneous to that there were personal things going on around the time we were writing the first record. I was getting out of a very long relationship. So we just wrote songs because we had the same taste in music and we liked each other’s ideas a lot. It was over a very long period of time. We would often write a couple songs and I would be on the road with Rooney for months. We would come back and write a little more. We just wrote a bunch of different songs and then there was kind of a light bulb moment where I was like, ‘You know I should just sack up and sing these songs and make a record’. Chris co-produced it with me and we played all the guitars and he also played keys and bass on the first record. I sang the lead vocals and we sang backgrounds together. Then we brought a great drummer in to do the drum tracks. Then we went to Boston to mix the record with a great engineer named Ducky Carlisle.
Boston is where I was really thinking it would be really fun to put a live band together. The drummer from the record really liked the tunes and was excited about it and we got a friend to play bass, Charlotte Froom who used to be in The Likes. So we played a handful of shows around LA and got some really good press. We already had a bunch more songs, we were so inspired by the process that we wrote a bunch again really quickly so we cut back into the studio six or seven months later and did another album. At that time, Mikey and Charlotte we like, ‘Okay, this is not a side project that just plays an occasional weekend gig in town every couple months, this is something you guys really want to do’ and they didn’t really have the time for that. So we played with a few others in the interim until we solidified this lineup of Chris’ brother Mikey on bass and Joe on drums. These are the guys we have played with the longest and were on tour with us. We all plan on making the next record together as a proper band. Chris and I have already written all the songs for the next record we think.
11. How do you incorporate so many different musical genres into your songs and make them flow together so well? I’m talking for example, The Honor Roll.
We had done a lot of different styles already so we sat down to do this one with a deliberate concept in mind. It is not the kind of thing that just happens by accident, it is very much by design. We challenged ourselves to do it, just to see if we could. It was written over the course of a few different sessions, our traditional songs we write in one go in about two or three hours. We rarely like to leave things unfinished but that took a few different sit downs. We came up with the theme of it being a five or six part sweep that would directly nod to various musical influences and then to tie it together lyrically. We tied it to different characters or people. We opened with William Mason which is a Beach Boys meets Queen kind of a capella/harmony signing, he is a depressed elderly man looking back on his life. Then we have Cindy which obviously comes from The Ramones, youthful punk rock yet still pop. Cindy is a reckless partier, rock and roll type chick. Then there is Owen, which is a nod to Todd Rundgren and late/middle period Beatles, some psychedelic stuff we like, you know Pink Floyd style. Owen is kind of a philosophical thing about a person who’s ego is getting the best of them. Then that goes into Monica which is a nod to Led Zeppelin musicality and that is about another badass party girl.
We wanted each section to be a shocking departure from the one before it. So going from a capella singing into a Ramones speed punk thing is obviously a jarring juxtaposition. Then going into the psychedelic-like jam is jarring, then going into like a fucking metal thing is jarring again. But after that we slam on the breaks to this acoustic finger picking type love song. The outro is like riding off into the sunset, a little slide guitar and piano, a instrumental piece, a little like the outro to Layla. It was also a nod to our friends The Major Labels. We borrowed a little piece from a song of theirs we really liked.
It was really a way to showcase some eclecticism, like we would get to the regular pop tunes later on the album. To be honest, it has a polarizing effect, either people are dazzled by it or they think it’s too much.
12. What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?
I’m working on a home studio in my garage, which is a huge undertaking. I am working with an amazing British studio designer and we are styling the interior of the studio to almost look like a mini-venue. Basically like an old theatre. We are putting up some lights and cameras to maybe do like a web show or web concerts. But first things first, as soon as the room is done we are certainly going to make a third record right away. For the rest of this year we are playing LA, Vegas, Orange County, SF and some all ages shows, so just sticking to the West Coast while the studio is being completed.
Last book you read?
I read this book called ‘Silverlake’ that takes place in the neighborhood where I live. It’s a novel. I also read a Cheap Trick Biography and Keith Richard’s ‘Life’. I read a ton of music books. I have to force myself to delve myself into fiction once in a while or non-fiction that isn’t music related.
Last movie you saw?
I can’t remember. I see a lot of comedies. I love Bridesmaids. I see a lot of that kind of thing.
One song you never get tired of.
Sloan- ‘Follow the Leader’- I listen to this a lot.
Todd Rundgren- ‘The Love of the Common Man’- There is never a wrong occasion for it, it’s melancholy but somehow uplifting at the same time. It always seems to work for me.
If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?
Jack Bauer from 24.
What is something no one knows about you but you wish more people did know?
It’s hard for me to develop hobbies and interests outside of music. My life is records, guitars, songs and albums. It’s so challenging for me to take in other things. I think there is a strength and a weakness to that. The weakness is I miss a lot of things. The strength of it is I go really, really deep within my field so I feel qualified to be doing that I am doing because it is not casual, it’s my whole existence.
Best prank you have ever pulled?
I hate to see people humiliated, it makes me so uncomfortable but I do have one really good one. The Roughs went on tour with our friend Bleu, who has a singer named Lindsey Ray. Well, it was her first tour and she wasn’t aware of the end of tour pranks. So, on the last night we stuffed the capsule of her mic with sardines, motor oil, pepper, smelling salts, every kind of fucked up object we could imagine, and when she got on stage she didn’t realize where it was coming from. She didn’t throw up or anything but she kept stopping her show and asking what the fuck that smell was. We have it on video somewhere.
Taylor was kind enough to take 45 minutes out of his Saturday afternoon for this interview. I could have listened to this guy talk about music for hours, no joke. THANK YOU SO MUCH TAYLOR!
Taylor Locke & The Roughs have a show coming up THIS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21st at Bootleg Theater! Check ‘em out! I will not be making this show, but you can bet your ass I’ll be at the next one!!
Follow TLTR on Twitter: @theroughs or ‘Like’ them on Facebook!
You should also keep glued to the always awesome High Voltage Magazine for more details! They have been posting about this event recently! You can follow High Voltage on twitter @highvoltagemag or ‘Like’ them on Facebook.