[OC Music Awards Interview] Railroad To Alaska Rocks With Thought-Provoking Alternative Metal
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicked off on January 4th with seven weeks of free showcases at different venues across the county. 35 local artists will compete for the titles of Best Live Band or Best Live Acoustic and a performance slot at the 2011 OC Music Awards, March 5 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!
If music could snake libidinous around the amygdala, deeply puncturing the limbic system with neurochemical intoxicants, releasing a flood of raw endorphins while simultaneously providing cerebral stimulation, Orange County-based alternative metal four-piece, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Railroad to Alaska[/lastfm], would be the sonic vessel for this erotic musical transfusion.
Seeped in cathartic intensity, Railroad to Alaska fuses primal, progressive stoner metal with cerebral, multi-layered art rock. They lyrically express the suffocating angst of societal oppression while subsequently rooting themselves deep into the primordial ooze of the soul, pulling out that ancient need for personal evolution in times of repression, piece by brooding piece.
There is a kind of transcendental pleasure in heavy-rooted, complex pain which most bands can rarely evoke. Railroad to Alaska is one of those rare, dirty gems masquerading as a grunged-out metal band while still appealing to a more sophisticated musical palate. Comprised of Justin Suitor (vocals/guitar), Jeff Lyman (guitar), Justin Morales (vocals/bass), Derek Eglit (drums), Railroad to Alaska has been together for exactly two years, although not always playing balls-out hard rock. They played what Morales called “heartfelt stoner rock.” Suitor elaborated:
[pullquote quote="We want shit to happen at shows. We don't want people to stand around complacent and calm. That's not what our art is about." credit="Justin Morales"]
“The first songs that we started playing two years ago weren’t even remotely close to hard rock. They were soft, strange, folk. We were limited by our capabilities…And we were sort of ashamed by what it would mean if we played super hard rock…When [Justin Morales] joined the band we stepped fully into embracing the hard rock thing and we just started writing harder, faster, meaner and just letting go…Now it’s matured and progressed into something a lot more aggressive and vicious.”
While you can hear each band member’s personal influences in the music (which range from [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jane’s Addiction [/lastfm]to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mars Volta[/lastfm] to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Grateful Dead[/lastfm]), Railroad to Alaska definitely draws major sonic inspiration from two of their major influences: [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Tool[/lastfm] and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mastodon[/lastfm].
Just like Tool, Railroad to Alaska pay homage to more hardcore death metal while retaining an intellectual edge. They are also as lyrically literate as Mastodon, as sludgy and visceral as [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Kyuss[/lastfm], and as sprawling and melodically dichotomous as [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Isis[/lastfm]. Suitor aptly describes their live sound as “like if Alice in Chains and Mastodon were in a dark alley way having a political conversation.”
If this sounds like a potentially dangerous situation, that’s because it is. Railroad to Alaska doesn’t want people to stand around looking pretty at their shows; they want people to let out their inner rage. Morales explained:
“We want shit to happen at shows. We don’t want people to stand around complacent and calm. That’s not what our art is about.”
“It’s always been inside. For me, I’ve been in a lot of different bands for years and I’m not going to trash any of them or anything, but I never really felt very comfortable in a lot of them. Enough to really show people how into it I really am…But now, we all believe in what we’re doing so much that we’re not afraid to completely let loose up there.
[pullquote quote="Everybody's angry. Everybody's upset. Everybody's depressed. That's why I don't buy a lot of happy shit. I don't subscribe when people are playing that stuff. It's hard for me to sell it because I'm not that happy. I don't think anyone is that happy." credit="Justin Suitor"]
“I’m not afraid to almost break my hand on my guitar. The drummer is going to fall down because he’s rocking so hard. And this guy [Justin Suitor] is jumping into the crowd into people’s faces and ripping buttons off people’s jackets.”
If one had met the band members a few years ago, they might be surprised by the level of artistic aggression infused in their sound. Suitor explained the rather tentative roots of Railroad to Alaska and the origin of their mysterious name:
“It was actually a line from a song that I wrote a long time ago and there was a period where I didn’t want to share music of mine–like four or five years ago. One of my friend’s who is actually involved in the band–he does art and writes lyrics for us–he pushed me to put music on MySpace. It was a big step.”
“[Railroad to Alaska] is a metaphor and political in nature. Alaska is a state of mind and also a place that you wouldn’t want to find yourself. The wilderness. The arctic cold. Somewhere you would find yourself after you embarked on a journey trying to unravel what reality really is in terms of politics, business, and the way the human condition affects everything we do. It’s sort of conspiratorial in a way.”
“Like say, where I was going to being looking into the government cover up on 9/11, if there was one. Months later in a fit of madness, I’d be swept from my bed by jack-booted guards and a black bag placed over my head and taken to this mythological prison camp in the arctic cold where I’d never be heard from again. That kind of idea.”
Railroad to Alaska is a reaction to not only the pervasive conservative repression of the world or the inherent lies explained in government conspiracy theories, but also a testament to the dire need of more hard rocking bands in Southern California to buck the hipster, indie-folk band trend. While discussing the overly saccharine nature of some popular rock music these days, Suitor voiced his opinion on trite displays of happiness:
[pullquote quote="Once you start looking at the events with the proper perspective, you're on the Railroad to Alaska. If you don't look back and you keep going, you'll find yourself in that place. All alone. Silenced with your own thoughts." credit="Justin Suitor"]
“Everybody’s angry. Everybody’s upset. Everybody’s depressed. That’s why I don’t buy a lot of happy shit. I don’t subscribe when people are playing that stuff. It’s hard for me to sell it because I’m not that happy. I don’t think anyone is that happy.”
However, there are local bands that inspire them, especially other up-and-coming hard rock or metal bands.
“The band that has come up that’s given us the feeling that there is a hard rock scene that we can be a part of is Omaha. They’re really good..I would like to see more of that happen. I would like to see more bands be aggressive and try to get a rise out of people instead of trying to make people cry. Or actually, make them cry from pain as opposed to tugging on their heartstrings.”
Morales agreed, saying this created surprised at being nominated for the OC Music Awards:
“That’s why we were kind of surprised to be a part of it. It just didn’t seem like there was a lot of room for a harder hitting band that likes to break drum sticks. It didn’t seem plausible. And all of a sudden, we are and we have our night with other bands that are hard in their own way.”
In the end, whether society accepts the musical talents of this groundbreaking band or not, hopefully their music will inspire deep, philosophical thought, or as Suitor eloquently said:
“Once you start looking at the events with the proper perspective, you’re on the Railroad to Alaska. If you don’t look back and you keep going, you’ll find yourself in that place. All alone. Silenced with your own thoughts.”
[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Railroad to Alaska[/lastfm]-“The Real Thing”
The 2011 Showcase Series runs every Tuesday night, January 4 -February 15 with stops at:
Five Showcase Series finalists in each live category will then move on to the Showcase Series Finals.
2011 Best Live Band winner will receive a performance slot on the four Southern Califonia Vans Warped Tour stops!
Night Five of the OC Music Awards Showcase Series features nominees for Best Live Band on Tuesday, February 1st at the Tiki Bar.
READ MORE INTERVIEWS ON KROQ.COM FROM SHOWCASE NIGHT 5 BANDS:
Friday, January 21st-She Screams Remedy
Saturday, January 22nd-Seedless
Sunday, January 23rd-Railroad to Alaska
Monday, January 24th- Pistolero
Tuesday, January 25th-Entice
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Cast your vote and enter to win a massive prize pack from the OC Music Awards partners (To be Announced). Voting will begin on December 27 and will be open through the last Showcase on February 15. The votes will be tallied and the band with highest score will automatically move on to their Series Finals! Click here to vote
LEARN MORE AT: OCMUSICAWARDS.COM