Interview: The Rocket Summer – “These Hummingbirds Need To Fly. I Don’t Need Them Locked In My Head Anymore”

Ahead of his upcoming SHADOWKASTERS album release, out today (May 12th, 2023), Recordspin caught up with The Rocket Summer, the brainchild of talented musician Bryce Avary.

SHADOWKASTERS showcases Avary’s artistic evolution, pushing the boundaries of his signature alt-pop rock sound. Departing from his previous piano-driven style, he fearlessly embraces a darker, synth-driven, sonic landscape, weaving together elements of 90s indie music with electronic textures. The result is a mesmerizing fusion of genres that simultaneously feels familiar and refreshingly distinct.

Beyond the impressive sonic exploration, SHADOWKASTERS shines a light on Avary’s introspective songwriting. The lyrics delve into themes of self-reflection, introspection, and the complexities of human emotions. Avary’s emotive vocals bring these lyrics to life, evoking a raw and genuine emotional connection with listeners.

The album was partially recorded during the isolating period of the pandemic, serving as a creative lifeline for Avary amidst the chaos. The introspective nature of the songs reflects the solitude and introspection that many experienced during those uncertain times, making the album both timely and resonant.

As The Rocket Summer’s most instrumentally nuanced work to date, SHADOWKASTERS highlights Avary’s versatility as a songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. His attention to detail and passion for experimentation are evident in every note, showcasing his growth as an artist and cementing his status as a musical virtuoso.

Recordspin caught up with The Rocket Summer via email to talk about SHADOWKASTERS, a decade since the release of his debut album Calendar Days, and life on the road. Here’s what he had to say.

Hey Bryce! Thanks for spending the time to answer some questions ahead of your new album release. How are you doing?

I’m well. How are you? Thank you for having me and thank for your patience with this. I live in DIY city, so sometimes traffic can get thick.

First off, it has been 20 years since your debut album, Calendar Days! How does it feel when you reflect on your music from the past couple of decades and how do you feel you’ve evolved since then?

If you would have asked me this last year, I would have maybe had a different thought. Perhaps a feeling of the past is the past, the SK (SHADOWKASTERS) era is all that matters, it is only about the future.

But the time it took for this album to come out has forced me to reflect and in a way kinda reprimanded me, or forced me to pause and let it all sink in. It’s an obstacle I think every true dedicated artist faces, certainly ones who’s artistry was public from adolescence. I couldn’t sprout a hair on my chin on my first release and now perhaps my chin could sport a Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top look if I really went for it.

But something shifted in me during this time of waiting for SK to release, which has brought me so much joy and gratitude for the past, just as much as the present. I’m certainly still all in on the future with SK and beyond, that is where my allegiance lies, but we’re discussing doing some celebratory events potentially for Calendar Days. So it really forced its way on my desk and made my heart swell to think of all the songs that have been sung with the fans I have, and to think there are still so many more to come. Though we evolve, that era is still me too. Just different shades. We’re multi-colored souls.

Your new album, SHADOWKASTERS, is out today. Can you share some insights into your creative process when writing and recording for this album?

Originally, I was writing fictional stories as a creative exercise. My original plan was to put out short films and comics. So I started making these tiny soundtracks to these unreleased films stuck in my mind and realized by following that road I found this magical key to something musically superior.

We read about how you were influenced by 90s indie bands for the record. What was it about that era, and any bands in particular, that resonated with you?

There were not any specific artists or sounds that I was trying to emulate, I just simply allowed myself to loosen any chains of boundaries and freely exhale from some long inherent, but sonically neglected, places in my soul that have always been there but haven’t always been able to be released because of the very fast moving train that is The Rocket Summer.

I’m proud of all of my music, but I generally don’t like to make the same record twice. It’s fun to go digging for new gold amidst guitar strings and keys and words that rhyme. It’s all I know. It’s an interesting thought to wonder what I would be doing if it wasn’t this. We’ll see.

Aside from the previously shared single releases, are there any particular songs that you’re excited for fans to hear from the album?

Oh my, I would say just get them the whole body from proverbial head to toe. These hummingbirds need to fly. I don’t need them locked in my head anymore.

You kick off a North American tour in June, with Hellogoodbye and The Juliana Theory in support on select dates. Can you share about your experiences with touring and performing live, what do you enjoy most about being on stage?

There is nothing like sharing one collective heartbeat with the crowd each night. Getting a front row seat to seeing people find reprieve, escape, discover over music. It’s bigger than me and I can’t believe I get to be a part of it.

In the past, you’ve been supported by the likes of Paramore, fun., and Skrillex. What was it like sharing those experiences and now seeing the magnitude of their mainstream success?

I find it to be immensely cool seeing my friends who’s talent I recognized early on going on to great heights and connecting with people in masses. I’m grateful to be a tiny part of their story and I root for them.

I sought out Paramore when I heard their record with the couch on it (All We Know Is Falling). I remember having to essentially sell the idea to my team because they were relatively unknown, which is rather comedic to think now. I just thought Hayley (Williams) had a magic about her and I wanted to have it be a part of our show and in front of our fans. She told me a couple years later she felt like that tour was what started setting things in a faster motion for them and thanked me for it, and it made me smile. Obviously that was going to happen with or without me, but it was certainly a cool thing to witness. Her dad drove them to most/all of the shows. So wild.

I have a video of her on the last night of the tour asking to please tour with us again because my fans are so great to them. I saw it the other day and laughed, like, Hayley I can easily make your dreams come true… we can certainly tour together again.

It has also been confirmed that Harry Styles is a fan of your music. How did you find out about this, and how does it feel to have recognition from such a prominent artist? Have you had any interactions with him?

This comes up a lot to me now and I always feel cringey talking about it. But yeah, Harry’s first show was a Rocket Summer show in Manchester. He talked about it in interviews so his fans would blow up my Twitter.

We met one night in Malibu and kinda hit it off. He came over and sat with us at dinner and called his sister, who had taken him to the show. Later, he had me out to one of his shows and we spent some time together.

I haven’t talked to him in quite a while though, as he’s entered into meteoric spaces. We discussed his interest in wanting to write together at that time however. I certainly would love that to come around. I think we could make something magical.

With the release of SHADOWKASTERS, what are you most excited about for this next chapter of The Rocket Summer?

I’m certainly excited about people sinking their teeth into the new songs, seeing if the new songs might seep through the cracks and into new ears allowing more people into the fam, but ultimately the main thing I can think of right now is simply playing live. I need to feel normal again and that is where I feel most normal. It has not been healthy for me being away this long, naturally kicked off by the pandemic. I need to jam and sing and jump and scream with a bunch of wild people ready to explode light.

The Rocket Summer 2023 North American Tour Dates

June 6 – Tulsa, OK – The Vanguard
June 8 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater *
June 9 – Austin, TX – Mohawk *
June 10 – Houston, TX – Bronze Peacock House of Blues *
June 12 – New Orleans, LA – Parish House of Blues *
June 13 – Pensacola, FL – Vinyl Music Hall *
June 14 – Orlando, FL – The Social *
June 15 – Atlanta, GA – Smith’s Olde Bar *
June 17 – Greensboro, NC – Hangar 1819 +
June 18 – Nashville, TN – The Basement East +
June 20 – Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry at The Fillmore +
June 21 – NYC – The Gramercy Theatre +
June 23 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall +
June 24 – Syracuse, NY – The Song & Dance +
June 25 – Richmond, VA – The Canal Club +
June 27 – Pittsburgh, PA – Jergels +
June 29 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground +
June 30 – Detroit, MI – The Loving Touch +
July 1 – Columbus, OH – Woodlands Tavern +
July 2 – Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge +
July 3 – St Louis, MO – Old Rock House +
July 5 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater +
July 7 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court +
July 8 – Las Vegas, NV – Backstage Bar & Billiards +
July 9 – Los Angeles, CA – Knitting Factory NoHo +
July 11 – Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge +
July 12 – Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad +

* = Hellogoodbye
The Juliana Theory (acoustic performances only)

SHADOWKASTERS is out now (May 12th, 2023). For more information on The Rocket Summer, visit his website here.

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