OC Music Awards 2012: Robert Jon & The Wreck Get Down With Lively Americana Blues-Rock
Celebrating its 11th anniversary, the OC Music Awards kicks off on January 3rd 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 2012 OC Music Awards, March 3 at the Grove of Anaheim. And, the voting is open now!
[pullquote quote="We thought really hard and long about what the and 'the something' was going to be. We put up an online poll for all of our fans and we had three options and the one that actually won was already taken, so we went with 'The Wreck" because it was the second choice--and we liked it better. "]“We wouldn’t call him a tyrant. We call him a fearless leader. That’s the second time I’ve compared you to Kim Jong Il in an interview,” exclaimed lead guitarist Kyle Michael Neal, one of “The Wreck” in the Orange County rock ‘n roll band [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Robert Jon & The Wreck[/lastfm], after I joked about the dynamic of frontman Robert Jon Burrison with his band.
Amidst a half-hour of hilarious repartee, the conversation on Burrison being a “dictator” (for the record, he’s a totally friendly person) started after I asked the Americana blues-rock band how they got the second part of their name “and the Wreck.”
“We thought really hard and long about what the and ‘the something’ was going to be. We put up an online poll for all of our fans and we had three options and the one that actually won was already taken, so we went with ‘The Wreck” because it was the second choice–and we liked it better,” said Burrison.
The “winning” taken name? “Blue River Boys.” The other option? “The Tag-A-Longs.” Burrison admitted, “If the Tag-A-Longs had won, it wouldn’t have worked. I would have said no.”
“We already have enough band insecurity like, ‘Oh, why can’t I be Robert Jon. I’m just a tag-a-long,'” joked Neal. “So, basically, the election was rigged. You gave the options of a name you wouldn’t use, a name that was already taken, and ‘The Wreck.’ This is like one of those rigged elections. You get to choose this one or the same one! No choices for you.”
[pullquote quote="Nothing will make you appreciate a hotel more than doing two weeks of sleeping on a hardwood floor in random places...Then when you finally call it and say, 'Alright, we're doing a hotel tonight,' it doesn't matter if it's like one queen bed. You'll find a way to be comfortable. "]All this was in good fun of course. It’s hard to imagine a band that spent about two and a half months in a van on tour, constantly on top of each other, relying on each other for daily entertainment and support, not to engage in forms of sarcastic tough love revelry.
Burrison, Neal, keyboard player Steve Maggoira, bassist Derrick Wong, and drummer Andrew Espantman did exactly that last year, booking the show themselves with Neal filling in empty dates from his backseat “office,” and making videos of the whole thing–which they’ve uploaded to their band YouTube.
“There was a couple near deaths,” quipped Neal. Near deaths including a flash flood at a Chicago venue called the Elbo Room where the band had to wade through “three inches of water” around the basement-style stage, saving their gear by putting it on tables.
In a feat unseen with a lot of bands in the digital age of music marketing, Robert Jon & The Wreck did their tour old-school style by “couch surfing” and crashing with”friends and family all over the place.”
They rarely stayed in hotels, but Neal said it was a luxury the band became grateful for.
“Nothing will make you appreciate a hotel more than doing two weeks of sleeping on a hardwood floor in random places,” elucidated Neal. “Then when you finally call it and say, ‘Alright, we’re doing a hotel tonight,’ it doesn’t matter if it’s like one queen bed. You’ll find a way to be comfortable.”
When asked what they did to alleviate the boredom of months on the road, Maggoira–who lost his phone in the great Chicago flash flood–said that he watched Netflix on his “new smartphone” while Neal “played ungodly amounts of Tetris.”
“I went into this tour as like a Tetris novice,” Neal elaborated. “I came out like a zen master of Tetris. I don’t even think about it anymore. If I’m bored, I’m just like playing Tetris and having conversations…My spatial-reasoning is amazing now…I could take a job as a grocery store packer any day. I feel like I could handle that. References? Oh, I play a lot of Tetris.”
Only together since about 2010, the tour seems to have bonded the band rather than rip them apart from personal differences or quirks-even though they can’t agree on whether they like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Conor Oberst[/lastfm] of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bright Eyes[/lastfm].
“All of us have a vast set of influences,” Burrison explained. He lists musicians like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ray Lamontagne[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Elliot Smith[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Damien Rice[/lastfm],[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Foo Fighters[/lastfm], and[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Kings of Leon[/lastfm] who have “played a big role.”
Maggiora is a fan of[lastfm link_type="artist_info"] Thrice [/lastfm], “local bands” and “anybody that’s on the street just working it. That passion is something that I latch onto. And it helps if the music’s good too.”
“And the [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Black Keys [/lastfm]obviously,” Burrison concludes. “They should go without mention though,” Maggoira replied.
[pullquote quote="I will admit that it was partly a ploy to get girls in the beginning, but eventually I realized that a guitar is not just good for getting girls...There are other things you can do with it too. "]“I listen to a lot of classic rock, a lot of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Zeppelin[/lastfm], a lot of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Tom Petty[/lastfm],” elaborated Neal. “I love [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jack Whit[/lastfm]e and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Conor Oberst[/lastfm]. Those are two people who I’ve listened to consistently for a long time now.“
With that, Neal turned around to Burrison who was inaudibly expressing his disgust and said, “I don’t care what you say: I love Conor Oberst. He’s amazing.”
“I’m not a fan of Conor Oberst,” said Burrison dryly. “Well, sometimes people are wrong,” replied Neal.
“Sometimes they are,” responded Burrison, everyone bursting out into laughter.
When asked when they decided to be musicians, Neal replied that he didn’t grow up in a “musical family,” but that his natural singing inclinations prompted his parents to buy him a guitar.
“I will admit that it was partly a ploy to get girls in the beginning, but eventually I realized that a guitar is not just good for getting girls,” confessed Neal. “There are other things you can do with it too.”
If you are looking for more “girl getting” advice from Neal, he recommends having “tons and tons of money” and “just general swagger.”
“I believe that’s what the kids are calling it these days,” jests Neal.