The Rocket Summer's Bryce Avary talks 'Do You Feel,' nostalgia, Fueled By Ramen and more
Not long ago, Bryce Avary was flipping channels and noticed that MTV Live was playing an old special from Glastonbury 2008.
“We played Glastonbury 2008,” said the singer and songwriter of the pop-punk band the Rocket Summer. “We played that festival on the record Do You Feel, that cycle. It is kind of a trip, because in a way, it doesn’t really seem like that long ago. But in another way, it’s like, Well, it was 10 years ago...”
That, it seems, is long enough for a celebration. The Rocket Summer is hitting the road this summer for a 10-year anniversary tour of their breakthrough record Do You Feel, stopping by Crowbar in Ybor City on Wednesday (click here for details).
There has been, in the past year or so, a surge of nostalgia and popularity for the pop-punk and emo of the mid-2000s, for bands like Paramore, Panic! at the Disco and Dashboard Confessional. The Rocket Summer fit squarely into that world, touring with several of these artists and pulling multiple stints on the Warped Tour. They’ve never stopped making music — just this month, they released a new single, Gone Too Long — but to Avary, the time felt right to pay homage to an album that his fans still love deeply.
“For whatever reason, it connected with a group of people that it means a lot to,” he said. “So we’re going to go out there and celebrate.”
Avary was calling from a rural cabin near his hometown of Dallas, where he had decamped to focus on writing new material for his next album.
“Yesterday I went out and picked blackberries and wrote songs,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Is Texas still home for you, or did you move to Nashville or L.A.?
Uh, that’s sort of a constant TBD. I kind of live like I’m 20 years old. (laughs). I always like to get out of town to make records; it kind of puts me in a headspace of being on a mission. I went out to L.A. on the last one, but ended up getting sucked in and staying there for quite a bit. I just recently was like, Man, I gotta get back to Texas and be amongst the cows. It’s a pretty drastically different approach from Hollywood.
Has the ranch lifestyle seeped into what you’re writing so far?
It’s allowed me to remove distractions, even just false distractions. I feel like I hear the songs better; there’s no real barrier between the speakers and my ears.
Is 10 years too soon to do an anniversary tour?
I’m always perpetually in a state of creating and moving forward, so in a way, this is kind of weird for me, because the only thing I can think about is new music. But our fans are really the absolute lifeblood of this whole thing. I just see this as a celebration, not only of this record, but the community that we have, and just all that’s happened in the last 10 years. We’re playing two sets ... we’re playing the whole album of Do You Feel, but then we’re playing a bunch of other songs. I just saw it as a good opportunity for us to get out on the road and give fans something that I know they’d really like, and in the process play some new songs that haven’t even come out yet. Our fans are everything, and playing live is everything to me, so any excuse to do that is not a hard sell for me.
Do you think people are feeling that album in different ways than they were when it came out?
I understand why people connected to it in that era. There’s a certain pureness, at least that I hear — maybe it’s just that I’m older now, and have lived more life. I’m certainly happy with where I’m at right now, and wouldn’t want to go back, but there is a sweet nostalgia that I feel when I hear those songs. It’s like, There’s bright-eyed Bryce! (laughs) The possibilities were endless.
Out of all the songs on the album, how many have been in regular rotation in your concerts since then?
A good number of them. I would say half of them we haven’t played maybe ever, or certainly not since then. There’s probably only been like five or six that are staples in the set. So it really is going to be a special thing to play the whole album.
How did that album change your life?
That was the first time I made a record on a major label, which was sort of a strange, almost serendipitous experience, which so many people don’t have when they sign up for the corporate machine. I wrote every one of those songs, and I literally only wrote pretty much the songs on that record. Most people write a million songs now, and have to go through this whittling-down process; and on the major-label side of things, there’s so much approval that has to go down. That record, I really just wrote the songs, recorded them in these incredible studios, turned it in, and then everyone was really happy with it and it came out. (laughs) It’s rare thing.
When you go to a concert, do you want to hear as much old stuff as possible, or do you want to hear what is new and what is moving an artist at that point in time?
I think I like both. Certainly as an artist and a songwriter, it definitely resonates with me when people play new stuff. I’m not a nostalgia junkie whatsoever, but if it’s a great song, I want to hear it. Sometimes hearing old songs can actually bring back weird feelings, too. Sometimes hearing a nostalgic, or something from a long time ago, can bring back ghosts. You’re like, Oh yeah, that thing, that memory that’s super weird. That’s the beauty of music.
I know they’re not based in Tampa now, but were you ever courted by Fueled By Ramen back in the day?
It did come up, yeah. Funny enough, I was hitting them up. I was sending Fueled By Ramen my demos long before Fueled By Ramen was Fueled By Ramen. ... I remember we talked on the phone about it. This was when I was like 16 years old, and it was a guy, I don’t even remember who it was. He was like, Yeah, I don’t know if this is the right fit for us... I would just bombard labels with my demos. Looking back, that’s pretty embarrassing, as a 16-year-old, like, Sign me! Sign me! Later on, when it became Fueled By Ramen, big-time, they did reach out, but that was when we signed to Island for Do You Feel.
It would have been a good fit, and an interesting alternate history, but it worked out pretty well for you.
Yeah, it worked out, man. I think that what Fueled By Ramne did, though, is incredible. We certainly have talked about that many times. We took out Paramore opening for us on a full U.S. tour on their first Fueled By Ramen record, and then we opened for The Academy Is... when they were just massive. Cobra Starship opened that tour. So we were definitely around that Fueled By thing. We weren’t on the label, but we were certainly in cahoots with some of those bands.
-- Jay Cridlin