If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.
When I was growing up in Southwest Michigan there were never many opportunity to be exposed to a genuine artist community. There were local bands, sure, but no one knew anyone outside our region who could help artists move their career forward beyond random gigs in the greater midwest. Whenever my friends and I wanted to see, do, or experience something related to the music industry we had to take it upon ourselves to make it happen. If we wanted our favorite bands to play in our area we had to book them at a venue we could enter. If we wanted to record our demos we had to buy the equipment needed to do so because no one knew any real producers. We didn’t call it DIY at the time because it was literally the only way of life we knew, but looking back now it’s clear that is exactly what we were doing. Every step we took towards our dreams of careers in entertainment were the direct result of action being taken by us to keep a tiny, yet thriving local scene alive, and I am not sure I have ever felt more alive than I did during that time. There were no guarantees. Heck, there weren’t even how-to guides. We tripped and fell almost as often as we did something right, but in the long run those experiences made us all who we are today, and that is something I know I will always treasure.
Bryce Avary, mastermind behind The Rocket Summer, has a slightly similar origin story. Hailing from Dallas, a city known for hip-hop and country-western music, Avary realized early on that he had a taste for music that fell outside what was popular in mainstream culture. After learning to play several instruments at a young age he began playing in bands, only to later step out on his own under the TRS brand. Every release in his career has more or less been a product of his immense creativity. From music to lyrics, production, marketing, and everything in between, Avary has had his hands on essentially every part of his career since the very beginning. Not every song has been a hit and not every album has sold better than the last, but Avary has grown with each release and he continues to do so today.
I first discovered The Rocket Summer almost by chance. It was the early 2000s and my parents had sent me to a three-day youth conference for Christian teens where I was made to attend a discussion on the intersection between faith and entertainment. The speaker informed everyone in the audience that there were faith-oriented artists who were just as good as those in the secular world, and they offered a number of comparisons in hopes of converting more kids to Christian friendly talent. I was heavily into pop punk at the time, having only recently discovered Blink-182, so when the man on stage told us that fans of Blink would also enjoy Relient K and The Rocket Summer I knew I had found an opportunity for new music discovery. My father bought an album from each, and while I liked both there was something about TRS that kept me coming back again and again. Unlike any other talent whose faith found its way into the artist’s music that I knew the music of The Rocket Summer also made it a point to discuss other areas of life as well. Faith and being spiritual was never out of the picture altogether, but Avary was also discussing young love, growing up, and the struggles with figuring out who you want to be, all through music he had largely composed himself. I could sense the DIY nature of his work ethic and I was attracted to it because he was far more successful in his pursuits than I had been in my own. I wanted to learn from TRS, study TRS, and ultimately be more like TRS.
Over a decade has passed since that initial introduction, but as soon as I heard The Rocket Summer would soon be releasing a new album I felt myself pulled back to those days when every step I took felt like an experiment in whether or not the greater world of entertainment would accept me. I have changed immensely sense that time, but so has Bryce Avary. The material on his latest album, Zoetic, speaks to this fact through constant musical experimentation. The pop rock sound that made TRS a household name is still present, but Avary has found several new ways to present it, often accompanied by synth, digital base and the kind of exuberant songwriting that you might expect to find at top 40 radio. Yes, after years on the underground Avary seems better positioned than ever before to breakthrough to the mainstream in a very big way, and as far as I can tell the only explanation for this growth is his constant desire to push himself further than he previously thought possible.
Being in the position I am I have the luxury of being able to experience new music long before it arrives in store. Zoetic was first sent to me in late December, and since that time I don’t know if more than a day or two has passed without me revisiting the record. Every single song is different from the rest, but it’s all tied together through themes of life, love, and the pursuit of knowing your true self. Avary has once again delivered a collection of songs that not only speak to who he is as a person, but one that also manages to capture the human experience for most twenty-somethings in 2016. It’s an incredible record from beginning to end and I urge you to find to experience it for yourself in the weeks ahead. I know not everyone will feel the same way about the material as me, but just listening to the album should reveal to you what is possible when someone constantly challenges themselves to be better than they were the day prior. I know that is something I hope to do myself, and when I hear Avary’s progression on this release I know in time I too will improve. It’s not going to happen overnight, or at least I don’t believe it will happen that quick, but as long as The Rocket Summer exists myself and everyone else will always have a soundtrack to encourage us to fight a little harder to be the people we know we can be.
James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.