Pop rocker’s A Rocket To The Moon are aiming for the stars and taking off with the recent release of their new EP That Old Feeling and a tour to promote it. The band – made up of singer Nick Santino, guitarist Justin Richards, bassist Eric Halvorsen, and drummer Andrew Cook – were signed to the label Fueled By Ramen in 2008, joining the likes of Paramore, Sublime With Rome, Panic! At The Disco, and fun. With the launch of their second full-length album Wild and Free on the horizon, drummer Andrew Cook spoke with Concert Blogger and filled us in on what surprises their new tracks have in store for fans.
You guys have your new EP out right now, can you talk a little bit about the band’s creative process and collaboration between the members? Is it always the same process, or is there anything that you changed for this EP?
Andrew: I wasn’t actually with the band for the first album and the process of recording it. But, as far as I know, it’s pretty much the same process. A lot of the songs are usually a collaboration of Nick and Justin being together. On this record they did a lot of work with other people, like Kevin Griffin who was in a band called Better Than Ezra. They come up with an idea, make a demo, upload it to the computer, send it out to us and say, “What do you guys think?” With a lot of other bands writing pop music, it’s easier I think to be in a room together and to just kind of jam and see what resonates with everybody. But with us, I believe there can be too many cooks in the kitchen and that can make it easy to lose direction on a song. So we just kind of roll with that, let it happen, and so far it’s been treating us well.
With this new EP, compared to your previous EPs and albums, it definitely has a distinct country tone to it which is very different from what your label is used to with the kind of punkish pop-rock feeling that it gives off. What brought upon the shift to integrate the influence of country music more into these tracks?
Andrew: It has been something that Justin and Nick wanted to do. I wanted to because I grew up on country music and I think it is great. There’s always been a presence of country and it got to the point that they didn’t want it to be just a presence anymore. We’re all old enough that I think it is time to show our fans we’re growing and they’re hopefully going to grow with us. If there’s something we want to do, we’ll try it and see how it goes. It wasn’t anything, honestly, that was forced. Nobody sat around a table in a conference room and said, “Alright, we’re going to do things more country.” It just started happening. Nick and Justin started writing, and they tend to write ballads first in any writing process because it just comes both naturally to them. We started hearing these songs and we were like, “Wow, these are great. These could be maybe go on country radio.” And next thing you know it started being a thing, ya know? But, I also feel like writing with Nashville co-writers took it one direction, obviously. Recording the records in Nashville was a conscious effort to produce that result. We’re definitely aware of what we’re doing and we know it’s a little different, but I think people get bored of the same old stuff. Certain bands can exist in a certain corner for years. I think there’s a place for that and it’s really important, but for others, sometimes, you get a little too comfortable in your own skin and you can’t be creative anymore. So you have to push the boundaries and little bit, try new things. I think it’s a really interesting time for the label because they just got such a diverse roster going. I don’t know if it’s really hit that level in the public perception yet, but I look at it and I see, they have a band like Paramore and they have a band like fun., who are wildly successful bands, but they sound completely different. They have Gym Class Heroes that sound completely different. They have a Top 40 radio band. They have now Twenty One Pilots that is another band that incorporates that hip-hop element to it. I think it’s cool the direction the label is going in and hopefully we can be a key part in continuing to diversify what they do. I don’t think they are going to be known as the pop-punk label five years from now.
How did your label, Fueled By Ramen, react when you brought this material to them, having more of a country influence?
Andrew: They were supportive, honestly. I think with any label, there is always a point when they’re getting demos and they’re like, “Okay, this is great but we need to hear a little bit of something new.” Like I said, we have a tendency to write ballads first and they were like, “Alright, we definitely need some rock songs,” and we were like, “Yeah, we know. We know.” So it’s a funny process to go through and everybody at the label is awesome and supportive. They were reacting really strongly to the songs we were giving them. Just like Eric and I, we were hearing these songs for the first time and we thought we had something cool happening.
What reaction do you expect to get from your fans with this new EP. It’s been out for a couple weeks, what reaction are you getting?
Andrew: Hopefully, it’s a positive one. It has been really positive. We’re trying not to gauge too much off the EP. The EP is kind of an intro to the album. When we found out we had to push the album back to January, we were a little bummed. It is a business decision; it’s not that the band wants to wait. We released an EP because we wanted to do something to keep the fans happy while they wait. The label was totally cool with that, which we are thankful for. I think we tried our best to pick four songs from the record that reflected the diversity of the record and we also had to think a lot about pushing the radio. Hopefully, we accomplished that. The kids who have been hearing the songs, going to shows, and picking up the EP have been pretty positive. They all have been telling us that they can’t wait to hear the album and that’s what we had hoped for. We hoped that the EP would wet their palate and make them hungry to hear more songs.
Your fans are obviously very important to you, can you describe the relationship between A Rocket To The Moon and their fans?
Andrew: I think in the band we’re all about transparency and that can work almost to a fault sometimes almost being a burden. However, you just have to remember that fans are the reason bands exist and we’re all fans of the bands we grew up on. Bands we loved growing up were able to exist because we were fans. If I could go back and be fifteen again and Twitter existed at that time, I would be all over it trying to talk to Travis from Blink 182 and bands that I grew up on. I think it’s important you make yourself available for your fans. It’s not like you have to give out your emails and your phone numbers, but pay attention to what you put on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Be a real person to them. I think they react to that pretty well. We try not to create too much separation between our fans and us because there really shouldn’t be at all. They like what we make so there is space for a relationship. When it comes to live show settings, we try to go and meet people at every show. We try to do a meet-and-greet before the show, like a sound check party where kids can come in and watch us sound check and hang, and then we hang out in a big group for fifteen minutes, take photos, sign posters, and chill with everybody. Then after shows, head off stage and after a few minutes we go out and talk to everybody, take more photos, and hangout.
How would you describe the band’s energy onstage and A Rocket To The Moon show to anyone who hasn’t seen you live?
Andrew: I think our shows and energy onstage are kind of freeform. We don’t go out every night with a routine or things that we say or jokes that we plant here and there. We just talk and I think our banter is pretty silly and funny and keeps kids engaged. Another cool thing about our show is that our shows are a rollercoaster in terms of dynamic. We have our more funky beat rock n’ roll songs, then we have our slow ballad songs, sometimes we do covers. We try to do everything and keep it light and the flow going so it’s not just one stale show. We like to make people feel like they never know what they’re going to get when people come to see us to give them a reason to come back.
Is there a previous band or musician you’d like to model your career off of?
Andrew: I think if you ask anybody in the band they would say Tom Petty. He is a huge inspiration to us, not just for being a great, great songwriter – one of the best songwriters we’ve seen – but also, for being unwavering for what he’s wanted to do with his career. He’s just a guy that we all really look up to; we love his music, we love what he stands for, we love his attitude. If we could be making music like he is at his age, that’s special.
Part of the band’s mission statement in your biography says, “A Rocket To The Moon have never had any interest in pigeonholing themselves into one style.” Can you talk about why this is so important to the band?
Andrew: We want to people to not know what to expect from us. We want people to be excited to hear our new record because they’re not quite sure what they’re going to get. They know the basic foundation, but they don’t know which way it’s going to go. There are plenty of bands out there now – even bands that I love and are some of my favorite bands – that are getting to a point where they are just putting out the same records over and over again. I have a favorite band from growing up whose record is on my top 20 records of all time, but their new records I don’t even listen to because it’s not anything new, exciting, or fresh. That’s just scary to me. I would never want to be in any band like that. So, I think that’s why we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. We just want to at anytime, not necessarily reinvent ourselves, but do something new and keep people guessing.
What can you tell us about the new album set to be released in January?
Andrew: It comes out January 29th, it’s called Wild and Free, and it’s a big deal for us. We put a lot into it. We worked on it for a really long time. We started recording it January of this year, so it’s been about a year since we started recording it. So, we are anxiously awaiting its release. It’s like waiting a whole extra year for a Christmas present; it’s kind of torturous. We’re really proud of it. We are really luck got to work with people we did because they were incredible people to work with.