For The Rocketboys, 2012 was a resilient journey. After nearly calling it quits when half the band parted ways in early 2011, the remaining three members resuscitated the acclaimed melodic rock band with a lush, cathartic album: “Build Anyway.”
Since “Build Anyway,” The Rocketboys have not skipped a beat with a year of US touring in 2012, a brand new Total Recall-inspired music video, a month long tour in July 2013 in support of Relient K and The Almost, and a rapidly expanding collection of new material for the band’s third LP.
Still inspired by the Mother Teresa quote that gave life to the band after nearly calling it quits, “What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight: build anyway,” The Rocketboys continue to build.
Video for "Marching to the Palace":
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Justin Wiseman - Keyboards.
Brandon Kinder - Vocals / Guitar / Piano
Josh Campbell - Bass
Kyle Samuel - Guitar
Josh Rodgers - Drums
Build Anyway (2012)
Wellwisher EP (2010)
20,000 Ghosts (2009)
Live at Antone's CD/DVD (2008)
Sing, Bird, Sing EP (2007)
Build Anyway Review
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Rock ‘n’ roll has been inspired by crazier things than a Mother Teresa quote, to be sure, but the Ro...Rock ‘n’ roll has been inspired by crazier things than a Mother Teresa quote, to be sure, but the Rocketboys aren’t really about crazy. On their latest album, Build Anyway, the guys are about simplicity, about quiet build, subdued reflection, pulsing melody and the subtle surprise of a sing-a-long. Which makes the two famous sentences that inspired both Teresa’s devotees and the Austin indie rockers pretty perfect, if not exceptionally rockin’: “What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.”
Funneled through the band’s recent history, the message is a pointed one. Originally known as Homer Hiccolm & the Rocketboys, per the Jake Gyllenhaal movie and its real-life inspiration, the band has slimmed down its name and its lineup since 2010 EP Wellwisher, losing two original members before trudging toward a full-length follow-up. And then there were three: Re-imagined by remaining members Josh Campbell, Brandon Kinder and Justin Wiseman, the result is a sparse, structured and ultimately ambitious album charged by loss and propelled by collaboration.
Mixed by C.K. Eiriksson (U2, Phish), the album breaks the surface of summer pop early on with delicate, self-referential opener “Bloodless.” “It’s hard because I’m bloodless,” Kinder croons dreamily through a field of brass. And while he doesn’t actually sing much else on that one, the line carries throughout the remaining songs, which build on each other like expertly placed Jenga blocks. From “Bloodless”’s timid organ to “Marching to the Palace”’s weightless chorus, Build Anyway finds frequent footing in a blend of heavy content and heavier layers framed in endlessly energetic melodies.
Jaunty piano, extended intros, lush outros and rising choruses feature heavily, allowing the guys to craft texture from within, saturate it in sound and then eventually, lavishly, redoubling the efforts in a crescendo. The soundscape is sunny, if the lyrics are not: “These are hard times now,” Kinder sings, later navigating a terrain dotted by lies, heartbreak and growing pains. (Come to think of it, the word “hard” might be the most frequent flyer on the album.) As the band channels a progressively larger swatch of insight and personal challenge, its once tight grip on the album’s direction grows fuzzier. On “Hallowed Ground,” whispered lyrics melt into polite piano and then into foggy ambience, only to be renewed in the galloping drums and heart-sore proclamations of album closer “The Best.”
Its finale offers Build Anyway’s only whiff of over-compensation. Dominated by sweeping crests, every song could be interpreted as a ballad, and most would fit easily on the shelf next to Band of Horses and Bon Iver. Is it self-serious? Frequently. Lovely? Consistently. Road trip-ready? Definitely.
20,000 Ghosts Review
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(myspace.com/rocketboys) The Rocketboys, named for a book by Homer Hickam Jr. about a young boy’s ...(myspace.com/rocketboys)
The Rocketboys, named for a
book by Homer Hickam Jr. about a young boy’s pursuit
of amateur rocketry, deliver a new release that’s both airy and focused. The Austin-byway-
of-Abilene band’s ambient sound is reminiscent of both Coldplay and Fleet Foxes. It’s fresh with rich textures, like the lead guitar on “Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune” or the underlying drumbeats of “I Saw a Stone.”
With his alto range, approaching falsetto at times, singer Brandon Kinder creates an
ethereal, almost spiritual, tone. There’s no doubt that this is a rock band, but the
Rocketboys are often at their most captivating when they’re featuring Kinder at keyboards
during some of the quieter numbers, as in “Sights and Sounds.” CINDY ROYAL
"20,000 Ghosts" one of 8 criminally underrated albums of 2009
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When it comes to songwriting, the line between “earnest” and “overly-earnest” is a thin one indeed. ...When it comes to songwriting, the line between “earnest” and “overly-earnest” is a thin one indeed. On their latest album, 20,000 Ghosts, the Rocketboys always stay on just the right side of said line, creating rich anthems that are as infectious as they are sincere. It’s a perfect album for Arcade Fire fans who need a fix before next year.
The Rocketboys @ CMJ
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The Rocketboys, who played before Forté, had several moments during their set that felt like they wo...The Rocketboys, who played before Forté, had several moments during their set that felt like they would burst through the Living Room’s walls. The scruffy, Austin-based sextet with a penchant for flannel and pretty melodies on vintage gear are doing their best work with the latter. A few bars from Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” snuck into keyboardist Justin Wiseman’s warmup notes, and elements of the recent Kings of Leon’s material colored what followed. Singer Brandon Kinder, who alternated between guitar and keys, has an amazing mouth to watch. He opened it wide, and let it fly when delivering the chorus from the epic “Heartbeat.” “I’d sell you out in a heartbeat, ’cause you can defend yourself,” he crooned. The onslaught even got John Forté nodding in appreciation, and earned the Rocketboys an additional gig on the same stage later in the evening.
Unsigned Doesn't Mean Unimpressive For The Rocketboys
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Every so often we get wind of an unsigned band that has us scratching our heads with a puzzled gaze....Every so often we get wind of an unsigned band that has us scratching our heads with a puzzled gaze. Formed in Abilene and now residing in Austin, Texas, The Rocketboys have a sound as expansive as the open road and lyrics deep as a Southwest sunrise.
Lofty melodies encircle broad indie folk rock compositions on The Rocketboys' debut album, 20,000 Ghosts. Working in the same vein as acts like Band of Horses, Arcade Fire and Explosions in the Sky, The Rocketboys mix history, a knack for finely tuned songwriting, and cinematic instrumentation. It's unbelievable that a band with this much depth and skill remains unsigned, but we think their days of obscurity are numbered. A listen to 20,000 Ghosts, or The Rocketboys previous two EPs, reveals a band that writes from the heart and plays from the gut. If passion is any indicator of success, then The Rocketboys are poised for a flourishing career.
Debut album, Tour Fueling Rocketboys
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Mitch Holt and Brandon Kinder, the two Memphians in the now Austin, Texas-based rock band the Rocket...Mitch Holt and Brandon Kinder, the two Memphians in the now Austin, Texas-based rock band the Rocketboys, never played much together when they were students together at Harding Academy.
"Brandon was in a relatively successful band locally called Dora, and I was in a couple of bands, none of which are worth mentioning," says guitarist Holt. "We had jammed or whatever, but we had never played in a band together or anything."
But when they coincidentally found themselves attending the same college in tiny Abilene, Texas, the pair struck up a musical partnership that has resulted in the fast-rising Rocketboys. The five-piece band returns to the Bluff City tonight to play at the Young Avenue Deli, a show that is being billed as a local release party for the group's full-length debut, 20,000 Ghosts. The stop is just the third in a 30-city tour the band has launched to promote the self-released 20,000 Ghosts, a run that also includes highly coveted slots at the new music festival Next Big Nashville and at the Paste magazine party at the CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival in New York City.
When Holt and Kinder first started the Rocketboys at Abilene Christian College in 2005, the group packed a very different sonic punch from the tight, epic, densely layered sound it offers today. What began as a two-man songwriting project, with Kinder playing keyboards and singing vocals, slowly expanded to include another guitar and a cellist. The writing itself also grew as the band members learned more and more about the craft and the compromises of collaboration.
"When you first start off, you write a song just because it sounds cool and it doesn't often have structure or the other qualities that make it a good song," says Holt. "But we've developed the ability to work together to make songs make sense structurally as well as just sound good."
The band made its debut at an Abilene battle of the bands. At the time they did not have a official name, so on the contest application form Kinder quickly wrote down one he had been harboring since high school, Homer Hiccolm & the Rocketboys, inspired by the movie "October Sky," itself based on the memoirs of former NASA engineer Homer Hickam.
"I was watching that movie in high school, and they showed a newspaper headline that said something like 'Homer Hickam and his Rocketboys,' and I thought then, 'If I'm ever in another band -- I don't care what kind of music we play -- I'm going to name it that,' " says Kinder. "It just sounded like a band name, and I though I better grab it before someone else did."
From their base in Abilene, the group recorded a pair of EPs and two live albums while band members -- including fellow Abilene Christian College students Daniel Wheeler (guitar), Justin Wiseman (keyboards), and Josh Campbell (bass) -- finished their degrees. (While considering a permanent drummer, the band tours with Texas percussionist Alex Bhore.) In January, the band -- including significant others such as Holt's soon-to-be bride -- moved to Austin.
"Abilene is a great town, but it's a very small, West Texas town," says Kinder. "There's just lot more to do here, a lot more opportunity, especially on the music and professional levels."
The new location also occasioned a new name, with the band dropping the Homer Hiccolm moniker to become simply the Rocketboys.
"It worked for a long time, but it was time to change," says Kinder, who despite his affection for the name for years had to endure people calling him Homer. "With all these new changes -- the move, making our first full-length, we kind of decided it was a now or never kind of deal."
All these life changes are reflected in 20,000 Ghosts, an album of Coldplay-style pop anthems that Kinder, the chief lyricist, describes as a contemplative, reflective effort. The title comes from a quote attributed to reformed slave trader and "Amazing Grace" composer John Newton, who said he was haunted by the ghosts of the thousands of Africans he helped put in chains.
"That idea of 20,000 ghost was really interesting to us because a lot of the songs we were already writing were about the past," says Kinder. "Not necessarily in a haunting manner in every song, but in the sense that the past makes us who we are today. We just thought that was a powerful idea for the album."
Early ACL: The Rocketboys, Asleep at the Wheel
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The Rocketboys was a perfect kickoff to my ACL experience. The Abilene band won the inaugural Sound ...The Rocketboys was a perfect kickoff to my ACL experience. The Abilene band won the inaugural Sound and the Jury online contest, selected to perform at ACL via a mix of celebrity judges and online votes.
Heartfelt power chords and emotive vocals reverberated throughout the park, and frontman Brandon Kinder has a voice tailor-made for big things in the pop world. The band's look was stylishly scruffy, but there was no pretense or posturing. It was music that simply made you feel good. Heartbeat pulsed with a unique rock moodiness.
The Rocketboys conveniently have a charmingly titled EP, Sing, Bird, Sing, due Sept. 27 .
The Rocketboys -- ACL
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"It's pretty sweet that the first time I come to Austin City Limits I get to go for free AND play." ..."It's pretty sweet that the first time I come to Austin City Limits I get to go for free AND play."
I'd say it's hard to disagree with Josh Campbell's sentiment. The bassist for Homer Hiccolm & the Rocketboys is reflecting on just having played an early afternoon slot at the 2007 Austin City Limits Music Festival. A stellar set and one that wouldn't have existed if it weren't for Dell's The Sound & The Jury competition.
Sound & The Jury took the ages old Battle Of The Bands concept and brought it into the blogosphere, with more than 600 bands from around the world uploading their music for everyone to hear and, ultimately, vote on. As Dell's David Clifton told me, "At the end, the cream rises to the top," and there floating on top of the crop is The Rocketboys.
"Here's this band from Albilene, Texas," Clifton said "And now they're playing ACL Fest in front of thousands of people."
"It's pretty overwhelming," according to keyboardist Justin Wiseman "Pretty phenomenal, really."
"I've seen so many awesome bands on this (Dell) stage in the past 3 or 4 years I've been going," says guitarist Mitchell Holt "It's just weird to play almost."
Holt isn't exaggerating either, as I've probably been in the same crowd as he, watching Sam Roberts Band, Ghostland Obervatory and the Benevento-Russo Duo in year's past. In fact, just a few hours after the Rocketboys cleared their gear, the Dell Stage was graced by major acts like Peter, Bjorn and John, M.I.A. and The Gotan Project. It also featured sets from Common and The Decemberists.
The Dell Stage seems more like a launching pad to stardom than a stage.
The Texan 6 piece band had me hooked from note one on Wednesday night. The contest's final 5 bands took the stage at Austin's legendary Antone's. The first finalists, Blue Flashing Light, seemed more intent on mugging for the cameras than playing anything listenable and I could tell I wasn't the only one in the nearly sold out crowd who was worrying about the rest of the night. Enter the Rocketboys to save the day. Their songs feature intricately layered melodies topped coupled with powerful vocals from Brandon Kinder. It all makes for some of the best music I heard all weekend and their tune "Heartbeat" was constantly blasting from our hotel room post-Fest. After their Antone's set, my friends and I left. Partly because of jetlag, but mostly because we knew they would win and we were right.
That night kicked off a whirlwind few days for the Rocketboys (at my count, five shows in four days including multitudes of press obligations) and it never would have happened if it weren't for their friend Jeff. "He's really music savvy and told us we should enter this (Sound & The Jury) contest. He thought we could win", Holt told me.
Holt, who has Boston ties, says the band wasn't as initially confident as their friend but were grateful for his motivation. "I texted him after we won and told him I felt like he should be getting one of these laptops (in addition to playing the fest, Dell also hooked up their winners with laptops)."
If Jeff was plied with free drinks for life from the band I wouldn't be surprised, as all of the guys seem equal parts grateful and gracious at the position they were thrust into. Case in point: On Thursday morning my friends and I stumbled upon Kinder and Wiseman on 6th Street. We introduced ourselves and congratulated them on their Antone's show and their win at no point mentioning I was covering ACL Fest. Flash forward to immediately after their set at ACL. Kinder happened upon me back stage and said, "Hey, Jeff right? How are your friends Dave and Dave?"
Either Kinder has some sort of Rain Main meets Cam Jansen-esque photographic memory OR he's just a good dude in a great band. I'm leaning towards the latter and trust me, it won't be long before you have the names of The Rocketboys ingrained into your memory.
Jeff Israel, MyMusicBoston
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