An Interview with Jason Rosen from Honor Society
Pop-Rock band Honor Society recently released their new EP Serendipity, on Tuesday September 18th. Discovered in late 2008 by the Jonas Brothers, Honor Society was named one of the six breakout bands to watch by Rolling Stone Magazine and a Buzzworthy band by MTV. The band, which has been on eight national tours since forming, has acquired a zealous fan following. We spoke with Jason Rosen, guitarist and keyboardist of Honor Society, about the band and their new EP.
What can your fans expect from your new EP Serendipity?
We’re getting a lot of great feedback from fans already on the music. It’s high-energy rock music and some songs with different textures. We really took our time and wanted to craft an album that moved us. The music, lyrics, arrangements – we really made sure to get the best of everything. We took our time and put all the attention into it and I think everything from the top down – you know, the guitar tones to the keyboards – we really made sure not to rush any aspect of it and I think that comes across when people listen to it. The song “Kaleidoscope” is resonating with people and the song “House On the Hill.” We’re just real excited to get all the music out.
Can you talk a little bit about the group dynamic in the creative process?
With writing there isn’t one set way that we do it. A lot of times we’ll have a title or a concept, for instance we had the title “Kaleidoscope,” and then we’ll craft a song from there. We’ll draw from different experiences that we had. It’s a very collaborative effort. We’ll have different lyrical ideas and then as we are coming up with stuff we’ll be like, “Oh, that’s great. Why don’t we build on that like this.” It’s sort of a very back and forth collaborative effort. We just try to find the best way of saying something in a unique and different way that hasn’t been expressed before. We try to stay away from pitfalls and saying things that people have done before, which is difficult many times. But, for this record, we went through that process and I think it comes across. People can relate to things that we went through. When they’re listening to a song, we want them to have that same reaction that we do when we listen to our favorite songs. We try to impart our own personal views on it and experiences, and then have that come across in our music.
What challenges have you faced switching from a major record label to being an independent band?
Going the independent path has been pretty awesome. It’s freeing to have our own creative freedom and do what we like. There’s a lot of ways and means to get music out now. We did a Kickstarter campaign that was very successful for us, very helpful for the recording and for going on tour. That was an immediate way to have the fans involved, where they’re pledging money to help us on our endeavors and then in return we’re giving them music and other rewards. I think now being independent is – there are more options out there for bands to go about it and seek your own way, seek your own path. With a major label it would be great to align yourself with at some point if it were the right fit, but it has to be the right fit. That’s the key. Right now, we’re happy being independent and delivering the music right to the fans. Our album went up to #11 on the iTunes’ Rock Chart. You know, that’s an independent release and we’re next to a John Mayer album, which is a major label album. It’s great that our fans are so supportive. We just want to continue to grow and get music out. If it’s independent, we can still do it that way and make it successful.
Do you think making the change from major label to independent has stalled the band at all?
Not really. The Internet is such a powerful tool and, to probably 75% of people, that’s how you hear new music. Whether it’s email, “Hey, check this out,” or a video, “Oh, this video is so cool, you have to see it,” to most people that’s how they are discovering music. MTV doesn’t play videos anymore, so it’s not like people are getting it that way. The radio is somewhat a part of it and I think that helps too. But, I think a lot of times it really is the Internet that’s that tool. With things like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; that’s the way to really spread the music. We’re planning to do a video for “Serendipity” and we’re thinking about concepts and how that’s going to work. We actually just put up a lyric video to that song which is another great way to get the music out. Most bands today put out a lyric video and then another video after that, so we did that. Because of the modern day, how we’re living and things like the Internet, there’s a lot of power in that. Definitely word of mouth helps, as well as things like viral videos. To get people talking is what you want to do. The Friends Factor is what I call it, like, “Oh, I love this. I want to send it to my friend.” A major part of our band has always been doing fun things and fun videos that make us laugh. I think that’s contagious when people watch it. They see we’re having fun and our personalities come across. At the end of the day, with a band, you want to be like, “Those are cool guys, I want to hang out with them.” That helps when that comes across and then hearing the music and loving that. Coupled together people really enjoy that.
It comes across that you guys have a tight-knit bond with each other. We’ve seen so many times before, the relationships within bands fail. How do you guys avoid that failure and keep so close to one another?
A lot of it is being able to have fun and laugh. Things can get stressful in the music industry, but sometimes you just have to have fun. At the end of the day, we’re doing something – playing music – that has been all of our dreams since we were young. Being professional musicians, going on tour, putting out albums is a dream and to be able to do it is amazing. Sometimes, even with stresses, you have to be able to laugh and have fun. You know, when we’re on tour in the van we’ll have our tour jokes. Any tension we try to relieve by laughing. Also, it helps that we’ve known each other a long time. Mike and I have known each other since junior high, so we have that ingrained bond of knowing each other so long. We’ve been through a lot, the ups and downs, so we’re able to just always maintain and have fun. You have to just realize that we’re lucky to be doing this and we want to enjoy the ride.
For a chunk of your career together, the band has been touring. How important do you think that is to your success?
There is no substitute for going out and playing a show. The immediacy of someone being in the crowd and experiencing your music right then and there – there’s nothing like it. A lot of times we’ll play a show and people will say that it is either their first show or their first time seeing us, and they’ll say, “Wow, you guys are great. I’m a fan now.” That solidifies a fan and shows them this is the music, it’s happening right in front of you; you can hear it, you can see it, you can feel it. We all pride ourselves in that we want to put on a show that you’re going to go home and remember for a long time. That moved them and made them want to see us again. The last tour we did was our eighth national tour and, again, there’s no substitution for going out and playing for people. From my perspective, any band I had gone out and seen growing up put a mark in mind and I clearly remember how I felt. I want to impart that same feeling on our fans, where they just want to come back again. We’re filming our show at the Troubadour to have a film representation of what our live show is like and putting it out on YouTube. We want people to see what we are like because we pride ourselves on being not just a great band recording wise, but also having a really killer live show.
Honor Society has a long list of accomplishments, including playing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, singing the national anthem at the Pro Bowl, supported Timbaland on tour, headlining a handful of tours nationwide, just to name a few. What do you consider the band’s biggest accomplishment to be thus far?
There are so many great things, but singing the national anthem at the Pro Bowl was an amazing moment for many reasons. One of which reasons was that we had never sung the national anthem before at any game, let alone at such a high caliber game. The fact that we were able to do that on live television, have our composure, be able to sing with no instruments singing a capella I think is a testament to what we’re capable of. You know, under a high-pressure situation like that, we can rise to the occasion and deliver. I’m really proud of how we did that, not just for us, but also for our country. I still watch video of it back. It was incredible and something I’ll always cherish.
What can we expect from Honor Society in the future?
We just released our EP, called Serendipity, which has five songs on it. The lead single is the song “Serendipity” and we’ve just been pushing it, getting it played, trying to get ads on some radio stations, and we plan on touring to promote it. We have another EP release show that’s probably going to happen in New York that’s in the works. So, more touring, more shows, and like I said, a music video for “Serendipity.” We’re just looking to get the music out, get people talking, and have that Friends Factor where people listen to the music and want to send it to their friends.
If there were a song that played anytime you walked into a room, for instance at a bar or a party, just for you when you walked in that room, what would it be? Kind of like your theme song.
Maybe “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers. You know, “Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine…”