…But This Time a Little More Dirty: An Interview with Rocket By Brian

Quick, before I get labeled as the guy that only writes about Boston bands, check this out: Rocket are five young ladies from the Los Angeles area who record for the premier bubblegum label of our time, Teenacide Records. Their sound is a sort of fuzzed out, sped up version of the Shangri-Las. Their first record for Teenacide (Too Hot To Be Bothered) was a low-budget homage to summertime AM radio, and really captured that compressed, transistor radio sound. On that record, the girls sang, with Teenacide mogul Jim Freek and his friends supplying the musical backing. This time, on the brand new EP Girls with Candy Hearts they play their own instruments, and branch out a bit into songs about falling in love at Guitar Center and about only dating guys in the 818 area code. It’s still plenty sugary, but the sound is a bit bigger and edgier. Here’s my conversation with Lauren White, lead vocalist:

Brian: Can you start by identifying all the current members of the band, names and instruments?
Lauren: The current line up is Lauren White on lead vocals and keytar, Lauren Clark on guitar/background vocals, Chief on bass/background vocals, Kelly Brewer on lead guitar/background vocals, Roxy Rocket on drums.
Brian: Walk me through the process of how Rocket first came into existence, how you got signed to Teenacide, recording the first record, and then why/how the changes in line-up over the last year or so
Lauren: The story of Rocket is long… but I’ll try to make it short and sweet. We started out as three sixteen-year-old girls named Lauren… we met in high school and summer camp. We used to sneak into bars and nightclubs and pretend we were twenty-one. We met Teenacide records owner Jim Freek and told him we were in a band and in the moment called it Rocket. Even though Rocket wasn’t really our band, Jim decided he wanted to record a record with us – the smart entrepreneur that he is. We were like the Monkees – not playing shows, just recording and playing covers and songs people wrote for us. We are all true musicians… but we were young and silly. Since the release of our first album, Too Hot To Be Bothered, Lauren Kunik had to move to New York for school, sadly. We were at a crossroads and decided to add three new members to the band, start writing our own songs and start playing live shows. It was a great idea, actually!
Brian: Did you give any thought to requiring the new members to change their names to “Lauren”?
Lauren: Haha. The idea had crossed our mind to change everyone’s name to Lauren, but we didn’t want to be associated with the Donnas… so we stuck to our real names. We started playing live in Los Angeles September, 2005 with our debut show at the Viper room and since then we’ve been constantly playing, developing a new fan base and evolving musically… we are having the best time ever!
Brian: My six-year old daughter loves the first Rocket CD. Do you hear that from other people, “my kids love you”?
Lauren: Yes, apparently our number one fans range in the ages between one and ten. When they were one-and-a-half years old, my twin nieces wanted to listen to the Rocket CD constantly, to the point that my sister had to literally hide it from them so she could get a break. It’s quite legendary. However, I’m scared with the release of our new EP we won’t be as popular with the children. We don’t sing songs about summer anymore, and there are some more adult undertones, but nothing too obvious. For the most part it’s still kid friendly.
Brian: What else is different about the new CD in comparison to the first one?
Lauren: Well, the new CD is more rock – more glam. It’s still bubblegummy and soaked with pop love, but this time a little more dirty I guess. Not too much though. It’s a mix of originals and covers – including Iggy pop’s “Funtime” and Steve Jones’ “Join the Professionals.” Also, as opposed to the first record, we actually recorded this one in a real studio. The sound is a lot bigger… more listenable.
Brian: Teenacide has got quite a roster now. Do you guys hang out with any of the other Teenacide bands?
Lauren: We love our labelmates… The Holograms are adorable and The Checkers are so awesome – The Shakes are amazing musicians. We are actually playing our first show with the Holograms in February, which will be fun.
Brian: What’s it gonna take to get some of you to tour on the East Coast?
Lauren: Hopefully we’ll make it out to the east coast this year… we need to visit our missing Lauren.
Brian: I know you all have MySpace pages, individually and one for the band. Do you find that to be an effective way for you to communicate with fans, venues, radio stations, etc?
Lauren: MySpace has been by far the most effective promotional tool for Rocket. We have acquired so many devoted fans through there – and it’s odd because they’ve never even seen a live show – but hey, we can’t complain.
Brian: Prior to Rocket, what musical experience did you each have?
Lauren: I grew up playing classical piano. My parents forced me to practice everyday and would sit next to me and watch to make sure I did it! That was for about fifteen years! I hated it when I was young, but now I completely appreciate it. I remember blasting Nirvana from my room and scolding my parents for not forcing me to play guitar… but oh well, it works now especially that I play the keytar in live shows. I also took vocal lessons for about six years of my life and was in madrigals at school – really rock and roll. Lauren Clark’s father was a huge music buff, he plays guitar and Lauren was into it when she was younger. We actually formed our first band when we were fourteen called Dekka – it was all girls as well. Sadly, however, we didn’t go beyond two practices. She’s been studying guitar on and off since she was about eight. Kelly’s father is a musician and expert guitar player – mainly doing studio work. She grew up playing the drums in the school marching band and moved onto guitar her senior year in high school and has been playing ever since. Roxie has been playing drums since middle school – she started off playing in the marching band as well, and has since been in two bands before joining Rocket. Chief is an amazing bass player – seriously hardcore. She’s been playing since she was eleven.
Brian: What kinds of music did you hear around your homes when you were growing up?
Lauren: My parents liked classical, but actually I remember listening to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel and Don McLean with my dad. That was about as cool as it got. Luckily I had an older sister to show me the way. Everyone has really diverse backgrounds, ranging from country to rock to hip-hop. We all try to bring our different influences into our song-writing. Chief is into doom metal, believe it or not.
Brian: I can’t help but think of Nikki and the Corvettes when I hear you guys, and I mean that as a compliment. Is she someone you would consider an influence? Any other female singers/musicians you look up to, or try to emulate?
Lauren: Honestly, Nikki Corvette is not an influence – just because I’ve never really heard any of her music. I’ve only heard good things however and we’ve gotten that comparison before! We are big fans of Blondie, The Bangles, The Go-Gos, the Shangri-las and the Spice Girls… to name a few girls we are influenced by.