Written by Laura Curry
New Brunswick-based band Rocky and The Chapter delivers catchy rock ‘n’ roll tunes to the ears of their listeners. Their guitar-heavy music is driven by emotion and draws from the 90s era of rock bands such as Pearl Jam and Counting Crows. By the end of their shows, fans are left yearning to be a part of The Chapter. In light of their performance tonight at Wonder Bar, Pop-Break had the chance to interview Rocky about the band’s origin, their influences and sound as well as their album New Day / Old Night.
Who is Rocky and The Chapter? (Names of the band members & the instruments you play): Rocky Catanese (vocals, guitar) Chris Grzan (guitar, vocals) Joe Lanza (Guitar, vocals) Matt Balog (bass) Trevor Reddell (drums)
What year did the band form: The band technically started as a solo project that I pieced together after my last band with Trevor, Let Me Run, disbanded in 2014. I started recording what would be our first release before the other guys joined in November of that year, and by February we had played our first few shows, and they had helped me finish the record.
Are you primarily based out of New Brunswick: Primarily, yes. I’m a born and raised New Brunswick resident, and that’s where we rehearse and demo new material, but the other guys live elsewhere.
What’s the story behind your band name: Well, when the last band ended, I knew I was going to continue, because I can’t stop making music, and I had more stuff to share, so I figured I’d just start alone, but I always felt weird about using my name, just didn’t feel totally right. After talking with some friends I decided to use my name plus a band because it basically made it easy for me to do things alone or with help.
The Chapter came about because an ex-girlfriend suggested I should free write about what the band meant to me, and then I’d get out of my head of trying to think of something cool. As I wrote, this idea that this band was just the next step in my musical journey kept popping up, so it’s literally the next chapter of my life and the name seemed to fit.
I also liked the Chapter because I figured as an adult, band members would have other priorities that would take them away from my project, so I originally envisioned the band to be a collective, a la Broken Social Scene. With that idea in mind, the band would be like a social club or fraternity, which have localized chapters. I really like when there are layers to things, so that made the name stick.
In terms of the sound of your music, on Facebook it says you’re rock with twinges of other stuff? So what is that “other stuff”?
Everyone in the band has a wide variety of musical tastes, so it’s hard for us to want to exist in a small box. Chris picked up a guitar because of Megadeth, but also loves Classical Latin guitar, while Joe loves Stevie Ray Vaughn just as much as he loves Jawbox, and I love Melissa Etheridge. I’d like to think that punk, metal, folk, country, blues, etc. all play a part in our music in some way.
What rock elements do you think are most prominent in your music?
Definitely the guitars. We have 3 players (obviously) and so our songs get to be guitar heavy, but not overwhelming, and that usually is where we find the rock, haha.
How would you describe the sound of Rocky and The Chapter in just a few words?
A band that makes catchy rock n’ roll.
Who has your sound been likened to? Is there any band that fans tend to say you sound like?
I’ve heard our sound compared to bands like Foo Fighters or Jimmy Eat World, but that’s not always the case, and I don’t think anyone has ever told us we sound like one specific band. It’s usually some interesting mix.
Are there any bands or artists that you draw inspiration from? Who are they?
Oh tons, and it really depends on the song that really makes a mark as inspiration. Aside from the ones I mentioned so far, I’d say Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Counting Crows, Ryan Adams, Tegan and Sara, Jawbox, and countless others have made an impression on a song.
Have you performed in bands before Rocky and The Chapter? If so, what are the names of those bands and how did they influence the sound of Rocky and The Chapter?
I’ve been playing in various bands for about 15 or 16 years now, with the most recent one being Let Me Run, and before that I was in an alt. rock band called Streets of Fire. We’ve all played and play in numerous projects, and truthfully, everything I’ve done or experienced gets poured into this band, so our sound is really the sum of all our experiences and influences.
Are there any major themes explored on your album New Day / Old Night? What is the main idea behind the album?
I don’t know if there’s any kind of steady theme that encompasses the whole record, but the songs are all rooted in some emotional times I’ve had over the last few years with friends and loved ones. The idea behind the title was that this is the new thing, the new band with the new stories I have to tell, but they’re rooted in everything that has happened to me, so the songs all have a new/old nature.
Do you have a favorite song on the album? If so, what is it and why did you pick that one? Do you think this song encapsulates the meaning of the album overall?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, because I listened to the album a few weeks ago for the first time since we released it and forgot how much I like how some of them came out, but I think “Retreat” may be one of the top ones for me. It was written basically in the middle of the sessions, because Kevin (Dye, of gates) and Corey (Mastrangelo, of Vasudeva) who helped me record the album heard the instrumental and pushed me to finish it. It definitely has the elements of the record’s general vibe and what I think the band does, which is make catchy rock songs with heart, and I’m really passionate about the meaning behind the song.
I feel like there are a lot of classic rock elements in your music, specifically in “Missed Connections” with the drumming style, percussion and “twinging” guitar. And that sweet guitar solo adds to the classic rock feel. Is this an accurate observation–would you say that you incorporate classic rock sounds on this album?
Oh for sure. We’re all big fans of rock music throughout its whole existence, so those elements are definitely going to pop up. That solo in particular was something Joe did in about one or two takes, and was exactly what I heard in my head, but to be honest, when I wrote the song, I was listening to more bands from the 90s than the 70s.
During your performances, how do you want the audience to be feeling?
Honestly, I just want people to follow us on the journey of the songs. If a song is sad or talks about something more contemplative, I want the audience to be able to relate and get the same catharsis that I get from writing and performing. If the song is rocking and full of energy, I want them to be able to dance around and have a good time. Basically I just want the crowd to connect with us, because that’s a big reason of why I do this.
What’s been the most memorable show so far? What makes that specific show stand out?
It’s a toss up between our second show ever, and opening up for Brian Fallon by myself in December. The second show we played we felt really proud of how we performed and it just felt like we were onto something already, and it was when we basically solidified the lineup that we’ve had this whole time, for the most part. The show with Fallon will always stand out to me because the crowd was so attentive and cool, and they welcomed me so graciously, and cheered for my songs. I remember finishing one and the reaction from the audience literally gave me chills and I felt like it reaffirmed the commitment I made to this music.
What’s your favorite part about being in Rocky and The Chapter?
Being in a band with really talented and like-minded people who really love music. Everyone is committed to making something wonderful and I love collaborating with them.
When you think about all the bands in the Asbury Park scene, what makes Rocky and The Chapter stand out?
I think we stand out simply for who we are. We’re not going to sound like any other bands around here because we have each other’s influences to work with. I love a lot of the bands we play with and are associated with, especially when we’re in Asbury Park, but I don’t think we could even try to sound like any of them.
If someone has never heard your music before, what song would you recommend they listen to in order to fully understand what Rocky and The Chapter is all about, and why?
Again, probably “Retreat,” because it has the interweaving guitars, catchy vocals, and general vibe of what we like.
What is your proudest accomplishment as a band?
Definitely how much we’ve done in a short amount of time. In the first 6 months of playing together we had finished recording our first release and went on tour, and this year is shaping up to be much busier.
What are your goals for the rest of 2016?
We have about 25 new songs written, so we definitely want to record songs for another proper release, but we already have a single getting ready to be released soon. I’m going to be hitting the road starting the 28th (tonight) to play solo in the Midwest and we want to keep busy with shows for the rest of the year, in and out of NJ. Basically, make a bunch of music and play it as much as possible.