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The best kept secret in music


In a small back room in the alternative Southside art gallery Eggspace, three of the four members of RPG -- drummer Mike Marunde and guitarists Matt Conner and John Partin, recline with beers on a dingy sofa and shoot the breeze before practice. (Bassist Tony Brown is at work this evening.) In the next room over American Grizzly is recording some demos, so the conversation stops and starts every time the band cranks into one of their songs. But this is OK, because if there's one thing to know about RPG, it's that they like their airspace to be loud. Their love of volume got them shut down at the Warsaw Tavern in Philadelphia just last month only a couple songs into their set. "They told us to turn down or stop," says Partin. "We opted to stop."

Whatever you think about RPG, you have to admire their principles. The past year has seen the Richmond rock band forging a path across the Northeast and leaving a trail of blown-out eardrums, empty beer cans and drunk and happy fans. Their excellent debut record, Full Time (which comes with the suggestion "Play Loud" on the back cover), harkens back to a time when the motor city was burning with bands like MC5 and Stooges playing stripped-down, balls-out rock. RPG makes their own brand of proto-punk and vintage garage rock that's just as heavy, raw and visceral. On Full Time guitars reel and lurch through fuzz, the drum kit is beaten unmercifully, and Conner's singing style is a large part snarls and swagger. The record is fast, brutal, and taut, with the majority of the tracks clocking in around three minutes.
Lyrically RPG can defty categorization. Their tongue lashings on 20-year old idiots and lazy punks are great to sing along to, but try saying "It's like onomatopoeia the way you crash bam boom" after a few rounds.
People, take notice. RPG is working on the hearts and minds of listeners everywhere they go. The ubiquitous RPG t-shirt is more proof of their eminence. Iann Robinson, news correspondent on MTV2, has worn his with pride on air. So did the members of Lamb of God when they appeared on MTV's "Headbanger's Ball." Alabama Thunderpussy sports the RPG tee in their video, and Japan's Electric Eel Shock had one on when they appeared on MTV.

"We get a lot of MTV t-shirt exposure," Conner says. "Our friends are doing all the marketing for us." Business is moving right along, with new users being added to the band's message board every day (where most of the talk centers around football and fond reminisces on shows) and sales of Full Time creeping towards the 4,000 mark. Not bad for a band doing it all by themselves. Even hard rock fans in Amish country know the words to RPG's songs, which is both strange and pretty awesome.

Though Full Time is a mighty record, RPG is meant to be heard live, preferably close enough to the stage so that the band members can throw beer on you in between songs. All hell breaks lose at these shows. Not too long ago during a cover of Fear's "I Love Living in the City," the band's friend Tucci crashed and smashed his kneecap, but kept on rocking. "He was stoked," Partin laughs. All part of the RPG package -- blood, sweat, volume, hysteria, and a little onomatopoeia. - Richmond.com

Full Time (Arclight)
An Interview with vocalist/guitarist Matt Conner
By Brian Varney

How's the weather in Richmond?
I hope none of you guys got hurt or lost stuff in all the Old Testament-style flooding you guys had a coupla weeks back.
It's getting cold here about now. The flooding is over with, thank you very much. Crazy shit, that flooding. Tony (Brown, bass) almost got swept away in it, but had the good sense and the balls to climb up a thirty-foot railroad trestle to safety as his van was washed away and destroyed. We found out where the van ended up by seeing it on CNN the morning after the flood.

Tell me about this HBO pilot thing you did. How'd you manage to score that gig and what are the chances it will actually air?
The show is a creation of the production company that did the Real Sex series and the G-String Divas series, and it focuses on bands and how they do their respective things. The producers are quite confident that it'll air, but I suppose it's their job to exude overconfidence about their "vehicle." We're just waiting to see what happens.

I read a few things about the HBO pilot on your website and all of them mention Nikki Nova and link to her website. Thankfully, I decided to click the link and was treated to a bunch of naked pictures of a woman, presumably Nikki Nova. Who is she and how is she related to the HBO thing? Do you guys know her?
Naked women are good for getting your attention, no? Nikki is a very nice, intelligent woman that happens to take her clothes off for a living. She's hosted some shows for the Playboy Channel, which I unfortunately don't have, and done some films that you may have seen on Cinemax late at night. The Chief (aka Mike Marunde, drums) went to high school with her and had the good sense to be romantically involved with her back then. He also had the even better sense to stay in her good graces after it was over. She's a fan of the band, and when she got the offer to host the show for HBO, she thought of us, which was very nice of her.

I know you guys shopped for a label to release your debut album, Full Time, for quite awhile before finally deciding to release it yourselves last year. Now that you've hooked up with Arclight, why did you decide to re-release the album rather than simply make a new one? Did the original pressing sell out very quickly or something?
The self-release thing had its good and bad points, the good points being that we owned everything and got to make the record the way we wanted. However, distribution was rather limited, and as we quickly approached the end of our supply of CDs, we still hadn't gotten it out to as many people as we wanted. We talked to quite a few labels, but no one was willing or able to do things the way we wanted, that is until we talked to Mauro and David at Arclight. They were very receptive to our proposal to re-release Full Time with a bonus DVD called High Performance that's got some great live footage, most of which was shot by our good friend Denise Korycki, and some other great stuff that I can't divulge right now. I will tell you, though, that it's a documentary done by Richmond wunderkind Matthew Flowers. You'll just have to get it, watch it, and see for yourself.

I heard you've had some problems with the manufacturing of the High Performance DVD, something to do with the use of a song in it. What was the problem?
There's this rap group from Virginia Beach called Clipse that we all really dig, and there's a scene in the DVD that has one of their songs playing in the background. The pressing plant said we couldn't use the song without permission, so there wassome hoop jumping with their management. After they saw the DVD, they claimed to be impressed enough to let us use the song.

So when can we expect a new album from RPG?
If all goes the way we want, we'll be recording in the beginning of 2005 with a guy that we've wanted to work with for a long time. The new songs have us very excited. I think they'll make for a solid listen.

As anyone who's seen RPG live knows, you guys are big proponents of high volume at your live shows. Has being an extremely loud band been a conscious part of the band's identity, or is it something that just sorta happened?
We always wanted to be loud, but the full stacks came about after we did our first tour. Our buddies in ATP (Alabama Thunderpussy) were kind enough to take us out for the first time, and we ended up using their stacks. If you play guitar or bass and ever get to play through a big loud rig that moves your shirt when you play standing near it, it's hard to settle for anything else after that. We think loud is good because it makes the music inescapable, even if you're in the parking lot of the club.

From an outsider's perspective, it seems your hometown of Richmond, Virginia has a pretty fruitful underground music scene. Is it a good town to be a band in?
It's a good town to be a human in. The standard of living is l - Lollipop Magazine

Spectacularly hairy Virginia thunderchuckers RPG play Super Seventies arena rock better than most arena rock bands did IN the 70’s, man. Sonically speaking, you have been down this blacklit road before, or at least yer big brother has- the power-rock of Grand Funk, the swampboogie of CCR, the heavy-devy of Sabbath, the rock n’ roll hoochie-coo of Captain Beyond and the Godz and Bowie- but it’s all filtered through a wall-rattling punk sensibility, and a metal-maniac’s dose of pure volume. Highlights? Dig the vicious blue-collar rage of “Clockin’ In”, the Skynrd innards of the slinky “Stand Still Blues”, or the Kiss-meets-their-maker-in-the-grill-of-a-speeding-semi-on-Highway 75 fuzz-glam stomp of “Crash Bam Boom” for a few prime examples, but picking out the hits is useless for a record like this, cuz it’s ALBUM rock, dig? It’d be a gatefold in better days, and ya’d stare at it for hours in the basement as the needle hit the groove for the 20th time that night, and you’d decide you were TOTALLY growin’ yer hair out like the weird-beard mirrorshades dude on the back cover. I’m not saying that RPG are a complete throwback, ya know, cuz “Fulltime” is two-tons heavier than the bands that inspired it, but Naz and the Nuge and the Coop and Zep are most definitely starin’ back at RPG everytime they glance in the rearview mirror. I think it’s safe to say, then, that “Fulltime” is a Stone Groove, baby. - Sleazegrinder.com

The hairy, heavy, high-energy quarter known as RPG comes from the same Richmond, Virginia, scene that birthed Lamb of God, but the group's 13-song debut sounds much more like the MC5 and the Stooges circa 1969. Standout tracks like "Nazi Mindereader," "Early '72," and "Song Of Evil" feature frontman Matt Conner wailing soulfully over relentless drum fills, surging bass lines, and bluesy guitar leads hot enough to burn a chunk of hash. Some of the songs may get lost in the sonic maelstrom, but RPG's ability to kick out the jams is impressive, indeed.
- Dan Epstein


Fulltime (Direct Hit) 2003 self release
Fulltime/High Performance CD/DVD (Arlight Records) 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


When RPG bassist Tony Brown warns “It’s gonna get kinda loud,” you gotta listen. In fact, that’s how RPG gets you to listen. “[Volume] is a primal need,” he says. “Music is easier to feel when it’s loud. You can’t ignore it; you have no choice BUT to turn and watch.”
Indeed, the Richmond, Virginia quartet lives by the amp and dies by the amp—“Loud Amps Save Lives” reads one RPG T-shirt. They practice loud, they play loud and they live loud, as the title of their Arclight Records debut indicates—Full Time. That way, they figure, people have no choice but to pay attention.
The band formed back in the fall of 1999, appropriately with the sole intent of making loud, fast rock music. They’d had plenty of practice in their prior bands (hose.got.cable, Kilara, an early incarnation of Burn the Priest), none of which seemed to gel—but Conner likes to say “none of that is of much consequence now, because RPG has become its own entity.”
Far out? Wait ‘till you hear ‘em. They’re practicing in the background as Brown takes his turn for this interview, and although there is currently only one guitar skronking and wailing, its thunder is indisputable—even over the phone it rattles teeth. And they’re not simply dialing up to eleven going for it; RPG is loud in the literal and abstract.
The intensity translates to Full Time, a 13-track, 30-minute dose of loud-fast-rules that grabs you by the short-n’-curlies and tugs just enough to draw blood. Throughout, RPG mines a panorama of influences from—we’ll let Conner recite the litany of names: “...Grand Funk to early Aerosmith to Humble Pie to Bo Diddley to Fear to 45 Grave to the Frogs to the Sonics to John Prine to Cody Chesnutt to the Melvins to Harvey Milk to P.J. Harvey to the 13th Floor Elevators to... We listen to a lot of different stuff.”
So do a lot of other bands—it’s what RPG does with their influences that matters. On Full Time, you can hear them flawlessly execute the rough soul of the Sonics or MC5 (dig Conner’s soulful vocals on “Paralyzed”), the swagger of Aerosmith (it’s all over “Early ‘72”), the rabid spunk of Fear (“Song of Evil”). And here and there, you can pick out moments of P.J. Harvey’s intense insanity (or is it the Melvins’ retarded fury?) and the Frogs’ humor. RPG is diversely influenced, but hardly derivative—call them familiar but exhilaratingly fresh. “We’ve created a sound,” Conner holds forth, “that puts all of what we like together without borrowing too heavily from any of it.”
Since forming, RPG has toured the U.S. exponentially, playing with the likes of Zen Guerilla, GWAR, Orange Goblin, Alabama Thunderpussy, Bad Wizard, The Brought Low and Lamb of God. They’ve enjoyed airplay in England (the track “Untuck It” recently trumped a tune by the Eagles of Death Metal in a head-to-head battle) and their friends in Lamb of God sported RPG T-shirts throughout their Ozzfest gigs this year (and MTV’s Iann Robinson wore one on the air). As a result, they’ve amassed a devoted fan base throughout both countries that communes daily (with each other and the band) at RPGVA.com and sold over 4,000 copies of Full Time—before they hooked up with Arclight. They’ve even somehow found time to lens a feature-length documentary about themselves, titled High Performance.
All of this notwithstanding, RPG remains grounded. To them, they’re “just working”—and that’s part of their charm. Their workmanlike ethos resonates in every aspect of their lives (they all maintain full-time—hence, the album title—day jobs and, as Brown says, are simple “paycheck-to-paycheck kinda guys”) and their music—even their motto: “Three chords, two minutes and a cloud of dust.
Says Conner, “We’re a straight-up, loud, fast rock band, and we’re doing this because it’s a whole lotta fun.” And keeping it simple—and “inescapably loud”—ensures what RPG does stays “100% real.” And that’s what has endeared them to their current fans and those to come as they again embark on a nationwide tour in support of Full Time. A word to the wise, though: if you plan on hitting a show—bring earplugs. “It’ll definitely be loud,” says Partin. “It’s gonna be a 30-minute blast of something you don’t hear every day.”