The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Interview with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
by Anthony Montenegro
Don't You Fake It. The title of the newly released debut album from Middleburg, Florida rockers The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus defiantly reminds us that it's all about the music. Soul expressed through song-hype and image be damned.
About the Band: Ironically, back in 2003 the band started off interested only in writing music and jamming privately; studio recordings and tour schedules were the furthest things from their minds. Eventually, at the urging of friends they thrust themselves into the local scene, and their live show quickly took on a strong following. An EP was recorded, followed up by the band's relentless work in booking every gig they could get themselves locked into-high schools to colleges, malls to beaches. The band saw a number of personnel changes as they refined their identity, and eventually the lineup settled into the current iteration: Ronnie Winter on lead vocals, Elias Reidy and Duke Kitchens on guitars, Joey Westwood on bass, and Jon Wilkes on drums. Benefiting from an extremely loyal online following, their popularity began to reach far outside the local Florida landscape. The industry had no choice but to take notice as the guys blazed their way onto the national rock scene. Seemingly overnight, they landed a major label deal with Virgin Records, released their debut album, and notched a Warped Tour on their belts-pretty impressive for a band whose average age is just 21. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus continues to tour, and awareness is skyrocketing as radio airplay, video rotation, and music sales are all on the rise.
About the Record: Listening to the album, the band's energy and insistence on musical and lyrical substance is immediately obvious. Tracks focus intensely on a wide array of subjects and convey raw emotion to the listener, whether the song has a metal, punk-pop, screamo, driving rock, or melodic flair to it. The energy and passion on this record never let up. Listening to the first single "Face Down" illustrates at once that this is one of those rare instances where the depth of the lyrical message is not lost in the overwhelming punch that the music itself packs. When the tempo slows in "Cat and Mouse," you can feel the emotional depth of the vocal track and how it's both highlighted and enhanced by the instrumental envelopment. Overall, the record is an unyielding effort that exudes a refreshing return to uncompromised rock. From the powerful, driving guitars on "Waiting" to the infectious rhythm and sing-along vocals on "Damn Regret," Don't You Fake It makes for an intense listen and literally forces you to pay attention to it.
Virgin Mobile was able to catch up with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus in between tour stops.
VM: The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. So how did you come up with that band name?
RJA: It wasn't too hard coming up with the band name. It's just a few random words thrown together. The band name wasn't something we were concerned about, the band was just about having fun and writing songs. We thought it sounded funny and it stuck with the locals. We wouldn't know what else to call ourselves.
VM: What ringtone(s) do you guys have on your own cell phones right now?
RJA: I personally have our own, Underoath, Thrice, Young Joc, and Sublime.
VM: The first single "Face Down" has already cracked the top 25 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart, the video is getting lots of love on MTV and Fuse, and it's climbing Virgin Mobile's rock ringtone chart (#8 last week) as well. Are you surprised by the impact your debut single has had thus far?
RJA: Regardless of the expectations (good or bad) we had before the single was released, it has still been very surreal. It's crazy seeing our band name on all sorts of charts competing with the same acts we grew up listening to. We're very grateful for the opportunity and don't plan on letting it pass us by.
VM: Can you tell us about the song and why you chose it as the first single?
RJA: There were many reasons why we chose "Face Down" as the first single. First off, we knew it was a good overall summary of our sound. We wanted people to know what to expect from our record. It's an intense song and we knew it's something people could relate to. It also had great video potential.
VM: Can you tell us a little bit about the new album, "Don't You Fake It?"
RJA: "Don't You Fake It" is a variety of rock songs written about who we are. When it's heavy, it's heavy and when it's melodic, it's melodic. There's no real standard sound from song to song. We treated every song as its own entity and embraced the versatility.
VM: What are some of your personal favorite tracks on the album?
RJA I like listening to False Pretense, Misery Loves It's Company, Seventeen Ain't So Sweet, and Atrophy.
VM: What was it like going from the local club scene to having an album released on a major label, joining a national summer tour, and making TV appearances in such a short amount of time? How are you dealing with the lifestyle changes?
RJA: I dunno, we try to stay away from the hype. The best way that we've found to stay grounded is to focus on our never-ending work schedule. We never have any time to sit around and think about how good or bad we're doing, so that helps. But overall I guess it doesn't really bother us. Come back in a year and we'll let you know then!
VM: Any interesting stories to tell from the tour? Any legendary pranks you pulled off that you want to gloat about?
RJA: Hmm, we forced our best friend/guitar tech to run around on stage wearing a baby size superman costume during Aiden's energizer Warped Tour set. It was a lot funnier than that sounded. We love those guys.
VM: Are you looking forward to playing shows specifically for your fans now in support of the record?
RJA Thats exactly what we're doing right now. When I'm 85 years old I want to be able to look back and remember the faces that were there first and made it possible for us to share our music.
VM: The internet has long been a great tool for bands to help generate buzz and interact with their fans. In your case, it seems that you not only embrace this, but that you have taken it to a higher level in that your online fan base actually took a significant part in propelling you to where you are now. Can you talk about that a little?
RJA: Well, you get what you give, and we were just smart about how we got the word out about our music. We spent hours online everyday making sure every kid with a MySpace page had our song on their profile. Thanks MySpace, we love you!
VM: I hear that the track "In Fate's Hands" is now featured in a major sports video game title. How did that come about?
RJA: EA games reached out to us. Two reps came out to our show in Cleveland, Ohio at the House Of Blues and basically said "We'd love to have your song in Madden '07". We were stoked. It's still unreal to us.
VM: Speaking of gaming, do you guys play a lot of video games yourselves while touring? Who in the group has bragging rights?
RJA: Yes. Recently we've been limited to handheld consoles like PSP's and the DS LIGHT, but we love Halo. I know there are a lot of people out there that think they're good at Halo, but please...bring it!
VM: What sets you apart from other rock bands on the scene right now, and what do you think it takes to have continued success in this space?
RJA: I'm not sure. We don't even know what our "thing" is. We're just doing it. You gotta keep it real to stay successful.
VM: Were there any major musical influences as a band (or individually) that have heavily impacted the stylistic direction of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus?
RJA: Early on - Blink 182, Jimmy Eat World, Further Seems Forever, Sublime, Thrice, MxPx, The Used, etc. More recently - Underoath, Circa Survive, Thrice, Monty Are I, Lorene Drive, The Receiving End Of Sirens.
VM: How do you guys view the rock scene right now? What's happening out there that's cool and gives you a positive vibe of things to come?
RJA: It seems like there's a new fire that's come along with us. We've toured with a lot of bands and it seemed that kids that come out to rock shows would rather stand there with their arms crossed and are more concerned about how cool they are than being at a rock show. But the crowds we've had for this headlining tour have been the best we've ever seen. This is something we hope to carry with us for the rest of our career.
VM: One last question and we'll let you get going. Is there anything you'd like to say to your Virgin Mobile fans out there and anything else that we should know about The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus?
RJA: Thank you to all of you that have come out to our shows, or picked up our record, or simply helped spread the word. We love you and we'll see you soon. Keep it real!