The Rocket Summer – Zoetic
When I was 22 years old I had no idea what I was doing with my life (fear not 22 year-olds, this is normal). College, work, relationships – these things circled around me perpetually, watching, waiting. Wherever I was going, whenever I was going to get there – it was going to be a surprise to all of us.
But, something else happened when I was 22. A 20-year-old kid from Texas, multi-instrumentalist Bryce Avary, performing under the name The Rocket Summer, released his breakthrough album Calendar Days. That album spoke directly to me like very few things before it had ever done. His combination of music and lyrics would go on to be a great influence on me – spiritually, emotionally – for more than a decade. Seeing him perform at that time, watching him run around the stage* picking up every instrument, looping one after the other until we was ready to “start” each song was incredible. He had an infectious energy to him that night; it was an experience I’ll always treasure. (*I’m using the term “stage” loosely here, this show was set in a college cafeteria)
Make no mistake about it, when I was 22 I still didn’t know shit, but from that point forward I had a musical anchor I could always count on. With each successive album the the music would change a little, themes explored would grow and evolve – and thankfully (for all of us), so did I – but the same spirit and energy was always front and center, always giving me something I didn’t know I needed until it was right in front of me.
13 years later Avary, and The Rocket Summer, are as strong as ever, releasing his latest album Zoetic this week on Aviate Records (that’s Avary’s own label, by the way). Zoetic is a departure from the indie power pop/rock of the five studio albums and handful of EPs that preceded it – but don’t be fooled, it is 100% The Rocket Summer. When I first listened to the album I had a lot of trouble “figuring it out”. The problem was that I was trying to listen to it through the rose-colored headphones of my former self.
It’s the most “alive” music I’ve ever made, I didn’t want to make a sappy record; I wanted to make a record that sounds like bombs going off, because that’s what my mind felt like… There wasn’t any kind of deliberate attempt to make something that would be this different from my past records, I just knew that I wanted to tear down any barriers, including the subconscious ones, and make a record that had no rules. – Bryce Avary
This album requires that of the listener as well, to throw out any preconceived notions of what another The Rocket Summer album would sound like, and open up to new possibilities. Throughout the album Avary’s signature vocal moves are on display, nimbly alternating between soft and heavy, high and low – all the while the music and instrumentation provide incredible insight into Avary’s arrangement style for this album, those “bombs” in no short supply.
What I’ve enjoyed most out of this album, other than the fact that it’s new material from The Rocket Summer, is trying to figure out for myself how some of these songs could be translated for a live performance – something I have no doubt Avary is doing right now as he prepares to hit the road next month. There are songs like “UNI” and “Rule of Thirds Kind of Life” which are filled with so much raw emotion and energy, whereas others like “Help Me Out” and “You Are, You Are” seem like they could be the closest to “stage ready”. Others still like “FL, CA” which dance all over that line; it also contributes my favorite chorus of the album:
Hey I warned you, It’s a mess / She’s a hurricane
You are Florida, she’s California / And you’re an earthquake
Nothing would make me happier than to be completely wrong about my musical predictions, but then that’s the beauty of The Rocket Summer live show. No matter what direction Avary takes Zoetic’s 11 songs – or what direction those songs take him – the heart, the very soul of The Rocket Summer is a part of my heart and soul too.