Badass Band #22

Ready for some more rock n roll?! I know, I know, who isn’t? Badass Band 22 is a hidden GEM of a band, and I was lucky enough to finally catch them live recently. The band is called Roman Candle Wars and there is really no other way to describe them other than as kickass, raging rock n roll.

Again, I found this band because of their name, I am not ashamed to admit that many times this is how I stumble upon bands that I dig. Who wouldn’t be curious about the kind of music a band called Roman Candle Wars would make? So I looked ‘em up, and clicked on ‘Crush Your Quinceanera’ and I was sold. The band is comprised of Greg Azbell- Guitar/Vocals, Dan Eckblad- Guitar/Vocals and Joseph Mota- Drums. Their music doesn’t use a lot of bells and whistles, and to me, that rugged sound just rubs my ear holes in the right way. The other uncommon thing about RCW is the fact that they have no bass player. Joseph solely takes command of the rhythm section, and damn does he it do it well. So well, you don’t even notice the absence of the bass. Dan and Greg both expertly strum away on guitars, alternating intense strumming speeds and sharing/alternating on vocals. Currently they have a five song EP on out on Itunes called ‘Wildfire’ and you can find a couple singles like ‘Holy Hell’ out there. The topics of their tunes range from drugs, to crashing parties, to hell, to rock n roll itself. These guys are masters at writing killer hooks and choruses, and you will quickly find yourself singing along to them.

This band, as with all the Badass Bands really, is one million times better live than they are on their album. I caught the guys at their show last week at Bootleg Theatre and I was not let down. The crowed unfortunately had dispersed a bit between the first band and RCW, but these guys did not let that hinder them or their energy onstage. These guys rage in every sense of the word. They are fun to watch and by the time they caught their stride a couple songs in, they commanded the full attention of everyone in the audience. I doubt these guys will be a ‘hidden gem’ much longer! Greg hooked me up with the news on Wednesday that they will be starting work on recording a new album VERY soon, so be on the lookout for more badass tunes from these guys!

Recently, the guys were kind enough to have an hour long speakerphone session with BBB and I have to say, it was a damn good time! Read on to find out the cool story that goes along with their name, why thier band motto is ‘Join or Die’, and why their shows will blow your mind!

When and why did each of you start playing?

Greg: My sister got a guitar when I was about ten years old and she never played it. So I stole it have been playing ever since.

Joe: I was a sophomore in HS when I started. I think I always kind of wanted to, but there was never a reason for me to do it. Then my friends and I wanted to start a hardcore band and then there was a part for everyone but the drummer, so we all just decided that I was the drummer. I just kept up with it and somehow got good at it.

Dan: I started playing drums when I was younger and played that most of my life until high school when I started playing guitar. In college I met Greg and we started jamming, I played drums and he played guitar. Then I moved out to LA from SD and met Joe who was in a hardcore band but all three of us started playing this pretty garage, raw rock n roll together and that is what it turned into over the last couple years.

Why Roman Candle Wars?

Dan: This one night we were jamming, and we had been doing so for about a month or so and we figured if we were going to be playing gigs soon we would have to have a band name. So we were out on my patio and it was the summertime and we were drinking some beers and talking about what we used to do as kids with like firecrackers and stuff, kind of the lighthearted, things you did with your neighborhood friends before dinner and shit. So Roman Candle Wars was kind of tossed out there and I actually had a bunch of firecrackers in my closet at the time, including Roman Candles. So we went down to this park down the street from my apartment and had a war with firecrackers and Roman Candles. So we did the whole thing and christened ourselves Roman Candle Wars at the same time.

Joe: That was the night we decided to make it official. We just got to the point that we still needed a name. Someone said it, someone accepted it and we all spit shook on it.

Greg: That is basically when everything came together. We kind of made the promise that we were going to see this thing through and make music that we wanted to play. It was in really good spirits and I think this band was a really great, wonderful thing for us to find in the different walks of life we come from. It was a great day and it matched the spirit that we bring to our music, which is just a good time.

You have a pretty unique sound, why opt for no bassist?

Greg: When Dan and I started playing a little over two years ago together, and at the time it was just him on drums and myself on guitar, sometimes him on guitar, but it was just writing and playing music, it wasn’t like let’s start a band. Then Joe comes in and he works out on drums and we moved Dan to guitar permanently. It worked out because Dan pretty much writes all the vocals and its easy on guitar to have him singing all the vocals. It just worked and that was the formula. We were writing a bunch of good stuff. I felt like if we kept adding people that might spoil it. So that’s really where it started from. We did bring a couple different people in at times on bass but it never really gelled the way we had it when it was just the three of us. So it’s been this way ever since and we have done just fine, it has never really hindered us.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How does that differ from what you listen to now?

Dan: Growing up we all listened to a lot of oldies rock, like that you listen to on KROQ. I know Joe and I went to the same HS, and we were both into the hardcore scene. Greg and I both dig The White Stripes. We all definitely enjoy Queens of the Stone age and a lot of similar rock n roll and that comes up a lot through our music and inspirations.

Joe: I guess the first type of music that really caught my attention was punk, pop punk, Blink, NFG, Green Day. Especially Blink drummer-wise, Travis Barker was always an inspiration to me and many people. He made me first want to pay attention to drums. Dan is right, in HS I got way into hardcore metal music and that type of shit. Then after that I really started liking a lot me classic rock like Led Zeppelin and Guns N Roses. Oh and Marilyn Manson for sure!

Greg: The boys definitely said it. We listen to a lot of old stuff. Growing up to start, it was pretty much Weezer. That was what I listened to a lot. I really loved The Blue Album and Pinkerton, those made big impressions on me. Radiohead as well. I got into a lot more psychedelic, spacey shit when I got into HS. All the old school, classic stuff like Cream, Hendrix, Clapton, etc. I was all over that shit. The bands that really brought us together were The White Stripes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Dead Weather and pretty much anything Jack White. The excitement all three of us got over those bands was really the spark that started Roman Candle Wars. We all kind of like the same music at the same time.

Do you get nervous before a performance?

Joe: FUCK yeah. Throughout the day I am such a weirdo. I don’t really want to talk about it. Like a couple hours before I get really nervous, and then it gets to the point maybe where we have arrived and loaded in. I get anxious and want to get it over with. By that time you just want to get out the gate and just go hard as hell.

Greg: It kind of depends on the show or like if we have played the venue a lot of times. You just want to go out there and do your best. Certain shows, like the show we had at The Satellite in LA was a big show for me and I was nervous like a week before. It always changed for me but I am always excited to perform and do what we do.

Dan: There are definitely some things to get nervous about, especially at a new venue. I just really want to get out there. I usually get more anxious than nervous. But there has definitely been a couple of times when I’ve thrown up in the parking lot a couple times before we went on. Ultimately though it’s a rush, through the whole night even after the show.

Greg: One of the funny things we have found, our very first gig was at this dive bar near where we grew up and basically we were supposed to go on at a certain time and then they pushed us back like two hours. Everyone that had come to the bar that night was there to see us and the owner was just acting this way because there were actually people there and we got really mad. We got really frustrated about the fact that we were supposed to go and we all got so pissed off. It turned out to be one of our best performances because we were all so mad. It was the best thing he could have done to us. When we get mad or frustrated we play a better show and I think keeping things on a knife’s edge is really important. We really all shine the best when we are at that point.

Any rituals before a show?

Dan: Before show when we are really, really feeling it, like when we spit in our hands, shook on it and looked each other in the eyes. We just really try to hold each other accountable. We have some random weird stuff we do like write on walls, etc. but it’s always random.

Greg: I don’t think we have something we always do before a show. We just mentally check in with what we are going to do. It’s kind of a day long process. The whole day is spent getting ready for that show, whether its warming up or whatever.

Joe: I think every one of us has our own thing, whether it be warming up or whatever. If I have time I like to put my headphones on and do some work on my pad. Basically, just get my hands warmed up because that is a huge thing for me. I am a perfectionist and if I am not warmed up for a show I am not going to be in the right mood and its going to be harder for me out of the gate. It’s a lot of pressure but your just want to be on your game. We put pressure on each one of ourselves, but if you don’t then I guess you aren’t really trying, you know?

Describe your show visually & musically for those who have never been.

Greg: One thing that we always get is, well, we play REALLY loud. Joseph plays really hard so drummer-wise its really intense and he really grabs your attention. It’s just in your face drum beats. Guitar wise it’s just really loud rock n roll. It’s a pretty wild time. Like all these bands out here in Silverlake really do all this theatrical, synchronized, planned out stuff and that is not really what we do. I think the music is the show. I think we play better live than on our recordings and I always want it to be that way.

Dan: What was that twitter comment about our show?

Greg: OH! We got this comment recently on twitter, it was someone who had gone to our show and they said something like, “Lead footed rock n roll and it sounded like a war was going on the stage.” How cool is that? I think other people always describe us best.

Joe: Again it goes back to that pressure thing, if I am on my game, then these guys will be on their game. I went to Musicians Institute, I didn’t graduate or anything. I went for about a year, but that is when I really learned that bands really rely on the drums or the drum/bass combo to set and keep the tempo. If I fuck up it could throw off one of these guys. The harder I play the more fun it is for me, you just have to go 100.

Dan: We have had some wild shows and got great feedback after.

Joe: Dan bashed his head against by bass drum once!

Dan: We get down, we get dirty, we get on the ground, I hit my head on the bass drum, have had whole crowds yell “Fuck You” or chanted. Be bring a lot of energy to our shows.

How does your creative process typically work? What inspires you?

Dan: That is all over the table. We have had everything from we are kind of jamming at someone’s place and its very impromptu. Rock n roll is pretty improv. We have also done some songs like ‘Slide Song’ have stories that go with them that were brought to the table and worked on. After, the lyrics get worked on and structured. All three of us basically always write each song together.

Greg: I agree with Dan. The one thing I can say about songwriting with this band is that it’s really easy. I really feel lucky to play with Dan and Joseph. They both bring something to the writing table that I don’t. All of us really bring something to it for every song. Each one is unique. Each song is kind of a project song, ‘Crush Your Quinceanera’ was like that, back in the day when we first started, we played it very different. It went through some shows and got meatier and nastier and then we recorded it. We take one song at a time and perfect it, and then we move on.

Joe: The writing, the stories, it’s just a day to day thing that inspires them. It could be anything, partying, girls, emotions, jokes, inside jokes, we are all smartass motherfuckers. ‘Crush your Quinceanera’ at the time we had a groove down and Dan had some lyrics written but one day (Dan lived on a second story in this apartment complex) and his neighbors below were a huge family of Mexicans so it was always like Sunday and Monday they were always raging. So Dan jumps up on his balcony to like sit up on it, and we are kind of drunk, and I was like “Be careful, you’ll fall down and crush their quinceanera!”. So yeah, I mean that became a favorite among us and fans, it was just me being a smartass. It comes from all different angles and in the end it’s a huge collaborative effort between all of us.

What do you think you biggest break or greatest opportunity has been in your career so far?

Greg: We get really , really excited about new opportunities. Like this was important to us and we were really excited to do this. Like last year, we really wanted to play The Viper Room and we played the gigs we had to play to get there. So the first time we got to play there and saw our name on the marquee it was just like something we could check off the things to do. We could move on and set new goals. We just get excited about whatever is next. Another thing was we just played at The Satellite and just to get into that venue was really big for us, I mean we just live down the street. It was just a really exciting thing to say that we have done it. Every time we accomplish something that we set in our minds, that is part of the reason why we do it. We all want everything and we want it right now so if we can get anything, I think that satisfies us. I do every day what I want to do, I get to play music and play rock n roll and there is nothing better in the world than that. I am exactly what I want to be. I think that as long as I am on course and doing what my passions are then I don’t need anything else.

Dan: As far as opportunities that have come our way, definitely excited about the network we have met and made here in LA. We have a great producer Jason Achilles Muzilis and from him we met a lot of other really cool rockers whom have been doing this LA scene for a while now. The last year has really been great as far as opportunities go because a lot of the shows we have played have been with these guys.

Joe: Working with Jason Mezilis was a big opportunity. I mean, we got in there and it was like magical. He bonded with us and he really pushed us to not be pussies and what we got definitely resembles what we do. A lot of the bands we can call our homies now, just through networking is amazing. I mean I looked up Sabrosa Purr when I was still at MI and downloaded their tunes and they were so fresh and just great rock n roll. Now we can call them our friends just through networking, after accidentally getting on the same lineup as them at Silverlake Lounge one night and introducing ourselves. They are so humble and welcoming and that’s been a real blessing knowing them and everyone else we have come across.

Greg: I just want to back up what Joseph said about Jason. Doing our ‘Wildfire’ EP with him was really a great experience. He was a blessing to work with. We went in kind of blind and his studio is in downtown LA and it’s called Organic Audio Recorders. They do everything on tape there so it’s like you’re going everything back in the sixties. I think it gives the recordings a really vintage vibe which is what we wanted. Jason really was just the right person for us to meet at the right time. We were new to LA, we had only been living here a couple of months and we needed to pull some tracks together. He is still a huge part of our lives. He is a real motivator. That is probably the most important thing to happen to us so far. Also, about Sabrosa Purr, we regularly go to each other’s shows. They really support what we do and they really support what we do so we try to get their name out there as much as possible. Will their lead singer, he has been a real mentor to all of us. They are great friends of ours. I think they’re the best band in LA.

What are you working on now, and what can we expect from you in the coming year?

Joe: Collabo with Kanye!

Greg: 2012 for us, is really about getting out there and meeting new people in music. This band is really just limited by the exposure we have so, I really just feel like the more exposure the more fans. We have a lot of stuff on the back burner that could have easily got on the recording we did last year. We also have some new stuff. I know we are all itching to get back in the studio and lay some new stuff down. We have hit a new level with our music, I think we know who we are now as a band and are really unified. It going to be a lot of really hard driving songs mixed in with the retro, psychedelic stuff. There is a lot still up in the air but definitely some really good music coming in 2012.

Dan: Like Greg was saying, we will definitely be recording this Spring but every live show we have included at least 2 or 3 new songs in our sets that haven’t been recorded yet. We are definitely bursting with new material and have a lot of tricks up our sleeves.

Joe: Playing more shows in new spots and also return to places we have already played like The Satellite, that was a fun time. Recording is always a huge thing for us, it keeps us going.

If your band had a slogan what would it be?

Greg: The one I always say is ‘Join or Die’. That is a banner we have always flown under.

Joe: That and ‘Everybody Wang Chung Tonight!’. No, ‘Join or Die’ is a huge mentality for us. That’s what we want, everybody on our side, accepting what we’re doing.

Dan: I definitely think if you have seen our posters, we definitely have a propaganda type attitude and approach. Our posters are old school artwork that we make into an eye catcher.

If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry, what would it be?

Joe: Making it to where we can get paid more! You know what, I think the music industry needs a change. From what I hear, it’s just a lot of fucking bullshit. You know, you can hang onto people making money right now, good for them if I was getting their paycheck I would be stoked, but it’s hard to survive as a rock band right now. I think there is a certain jolt that is coming that is well deserved.

Greg: I think the consensus we get a lot is there is not really a lot of good music out there. You can create a whole article about what I think the problems are with the music industry but when it comes down to it, it’s not what we wish would change, it’s what are we going to do to change it. What are we going to do as a band to change the music scene? And get people to come out to shows again, knowing they are going to see really good stuff. That is why we like playing with Sabrosa Purr, those guys are professionals. Professionalism is important out there, people get so lost in the celebrity mentality and how many records they sell so they are not focusing enough on their art. We want to make music that means something and lasts the test of time because its authentic and genuine. That’s what people want but they don’t really know it yet. This change in music is teetering right now, we see this on flux of really good music and really talented people getting back to the forefront of what modern American music is. We want to be a part of that. It’s not some reality TV show that tells you that you’re famous, its hard work, playing a lot of shows and being genuine at every single one of them.

Random Portion

One song you never get tired of.

Joe: ‘All Apologies’ Nirvana

Dan: ‘My Material Issue’ Valerie Mosby

Greg: ‘Only in Dreams’ Weezer

What is the best live show you have ever gone to?

Dan: The White Stripes at the Santa Barbara Bowl with The Kills.

Greg: Arcade Fire at Coachella in like 2005. One of the guys in the band climbed the rigging and was 50 ft up playing it with drumsticks in a motorcycle helmet and a cape! Musically, it was like the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.

Joe: Recent one, Queens of the Stone Age at the Wiltern . I stumbled upon Queens really late, and really grew into a huge fan of theirs and they have definitely influenced us and our music. So when I saw that and heard those songs live it was great. The Wiltern is one of my favorite venues in LA, I saw Marilyn Manson there once and that was another really great show.

Favorite movie?

Unanimous band favorite movie- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Favorite things to do NOT musically related.

Greg: That’s a good question because we don’t do much outside of music really.

Dan: We go to Venice and hang out, or Hollywood.

Joe: We live on the East side, and we grew up like 20 minutes from the beach so we cruise out to the Coast whenever we have the gas we cruise to Venice or Neptune’s Net. It so worth it to get closer to the water.

If you could be a fictional character, who would you be?

Greg: The Dude from The Big Lebowski

Joe: Batman

Best prank you have ever pulled?

Greg: When we moved in Dan brought this old digital watch that he had, and it’s like a little beep, beep timex like from middle school. Well it goes off every night at 10:45, the alarm goes off. So we started hiding it and whomever found the watch got to hide it next. It ended up turning into this pretty elaborate game or trying to hide this watch throughout the watch. It’s an ongoing game of trying to find the digital watch and the only time you can find it is as 10:45 at night.

Pet Peeves?

Joe: There are so many things that piss me off.

Dan: When your set gets pushed back and you get fucked because of it.

What kind of jobs did you have before you were in the music industry?

Dan: The last few years I have been all over the place with our employment, because you’re putting more than half of your work time into the band so it can be difficult to be locked into a 9 to 5. The last few years I have worked with my Dad at his construction company doing plastering, I have delivered pizzas in Beverly Hills, manual labor, all sorts of things.

Greg: Same as with Dan. Every musician I know, we all work, nobody I know just lives off their music. You can’t. Even bands that have more experience and play more shows than us, they have day jobs too. It’s just the reality of the music industry right now. I work for a soap company and I do graphic design. I have worked at Apple, been a bus boy, everything.

Joe: I have had all sorts of shit. I have delivered pizzas, delivered auto parts, worked at Kinko’s, right now I work on Melrose at a skateboard shop.

You can check our RCW here:

Twitter: @romancandlewars




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