Old musical habits usually die hard, but grizzled rock 'n' roll lifers RPG have just finished up the most adventurous album of their career.
On its third full-length "High Loathsome," RPG tempers brass-tacks rock with more measured offerings, including a poignant cover of Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget Me." In order to fund the record, the band reached out to fans with a Kickstarter campaign, receiving five times their goal in pledges.
Style Weekly spoke with singer and guitarist Matt Conner, guitarist John Partin, bassist Mike "Bunny" Wells and drummer Mike Marunde at their South Side practice space to discuss the album's title track and ogle their collection of classic show flyers.
Style: Tell us about that one song. ...
Conner: "High Loathsome" is unlike any other song we've ever written. It's long and it's slow. The title is a play on high lonesome. When you get older you can get loathsome. It wasn't called that, though, until after we recorded it and did the vocals.
Marunde: It used to be named after a bread recipe.
Conner: I wrote the lyrics for it the day before we recorded it. I was sweating it bad. They kept saying, "OK, let's do the vocals to 'the bread song.'" And I was like, "Ahhh, let's do that one last." I was at work and I was thinking, man I gotta do this tomorrow. I had a headache that I'd had for a really long time and that's where it started. The lyrics just came out from there.
Why is writing an RPG album a long process?
Wells: It's not a full-time job.
Partin: And we don't have a label.
Conner: The good thing about it is, if there was a record label, they probably wouldn't have let us make the record we just made. It's kind of all over the place. The next record will be a little more rapid, too. Thanks to GarageBand, the iPhone and the iRig. That's what I do a lot of now, play guitar into the telephone. It's like having a little sketch pad.
Why did you decide to finance this album using Kickstarter?
Conner: We have a friend in Pittsburgh named Dan Rugh who runs the company that prints our T-shirts, Commonwealth Press. He saw the demo video for our cover of "Don't Forget Me" and said if we would go into the studio and record these [new] songs, that he'd put them out on vinyl for us. He's always been a big fan of ours, but he also knows that we were probably too lazy to do it on our own. So he said he'd set [the Kickstarter] up and do it for us. The response was overwhelming. There are 119 people in the world willing to give us money they didn't have to give us, because they think our band's worth it. That's awesome and very humbling.
Are fans going to be surprised by your soft side?
Conner: Hopefully, pleasantly surprised. I don't think we're too worried about it.
Marunde: Well, there's a baseball bat on the other side of it.
Wells: A lot of people who've been listening to RPG are growing up with us anyway. They might be feeling the same thing.
What's the smallest place you've played, with the most number of people packed into it?
Partin: Atomic Burrito in Charlottesville. It was smaller than our practice space. There were footprints on the ceiling afterwards. I don't know how that happened.
Marunde: People had to walk through the band to get in and out of the door.
Conner: It was like playing in a subway with 75 people.
Out of all the bands you're performed alongside, which one should have gotten big but never did?
Partin: All Night from Greensboro. They played one of my favorite shows — RPG, All Night and Dragstrip Syndicate. We played on top of a pool table in a double-wide trailer in Greensboro.
Marunde: All Night was the kind of band where you'd have two double deuces before they started playing and then halfway through the first song, you'd have no beer left. You could start smashing your head into a wall until it bled and you wouldn't care. They were that good. Greensboro was crazy too. We saw this business dude in a suit climb out of the bushes early one morning and just walk down the street.
"High Loathsome" will be released on vinyl April 20. For information, including a digital download of the album, visit RPG on Bandcamp, Facebook or at rpgrva.com.