Marty Larson-Xu: Vocals and Guitar * Kevin Sciou: Lead Guitar
Evan Sernoffsky: Bass * Oliver Brown: Drums
Straight out of Eugene, Oregon, the Rock N Roll Soldiers have arrived, armed with an battery of raw power anthems and a mission to shake some much-needed action into todayâ€™s rock scene. The bandâ€™s Atlantic debut, â€œSO MANY MUSICIANS TO KILL,â€? is an exuberant blast, fit to explode with short, sharp glam-garage future classics like the irresistible â€œFunny Little Feelingâ€? and the shout-it-out-loud manifesto, â€œAnthem.â€? With â€œSO MANY MUSICIANS TO KILL,â€? the Rock N Roll Soldiers have immediately leapt into the frontline of todayâ€™s best and brightest young bands.
Friends since they were tots, the Rock N Roll Soldiers teamed together in middle school, adopting their moniker from a 1977 tour by Australian punk icons Radio Birdmen well before any of them could even play an instrument. Founding member Luc Gunnâ€™s guitar-playing older brother proved an inspiration, in both his record collection (spanning classic proto-punk like the Stooges and MC5 to latter-day garage stars like Teengenerate) and his lifestyle.
â€œThey got lots of girls,â€? lead singer Marty Larson-Xu recalls, â€œso we thought, â€˜Hey thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve got to do!â€™â€?
By the time they reached South Eugene High School, the Soldiers had begun making a righteous racket in drummer Oliver Brownâ€™s garage, much to the communityâ€™s chagrin. Though the sound booming down the quiet Eugene streets would best be described as primitive, what the band themselves heard sounded like the most full-on rock â€˜nâ€™ roll ever made.
â€œWe always thought we were good,â€? says Larson-Xu. â€œWeâ€™ve never really had an objective ear to it. We believed in what we were doing, even when we were absolutely horrendous.â€?
The Soldiers also engaged in their own grassroots marketing assault, carpet-bombing their neighborhood with self-made stickers and flyers bearing their homemade insignia before theyâ€™d even played a single show. Eventually an in-store performance at their local record shop led to regular gigs at a Eugene tavern â€“ despite the fact that the band werenâ€™t even close to being of legal age.
â€œGetting shows at the bar was the greatest thing,â€? Larson-Xu says. â€œWe thought we were living the high life! Itâ€™s hard getting shows when youâ€™re in high school, unless you want to play house parties and stuff. To play a real venue like that was mind-blowing.â€?
After graduating high school in 2001, the Soldiers moved north to Seattle and took up residence together in a rented house-slash-rehearsal space. Though the overwhelming volume of local bands prevented them from playing many shows, the sojourn proved artistically fruitful, as the band wrote countless songs and practiced around the clock.
Unbowed, they returned home and all of a sudden, the Soldiers were the hottest band in town, with an ever-growing cadre of fans, a passionate following that packed the local all-ages venue week in and week out.
â€œWeâ€™d finally made a name for ourselves because weâ€™d been around forever,â€? Larson-Xu says. â€œIt was great playing all-ages shows, because kids get crazy and thatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about.â€?
The connection between the band and its teenaged disciples made perfect sense. The Soldiersâ€™ songs â€“ all tommy-gun riffs and exclamatory lyrical explosions â€“ spoke directly to the kidsâ€™ everyday existence of girls, high school, and the frustrations of living in a small town.
â€œA lot of our songs are about boredom and the things you do to escape suburban life,â€? Larson-Xu explains. â€œItâ€™s about fantasy, about escape. Itâ€™s lot of high energy stuff that Iâ€™ve got in my head, but canâ€™t really explain.â€?
With a fan base clamoring for product, the Soldiers released a pair of vinyl-only EPs on famed garage-rockingâ€™ indie, Gearhead Records. The first, known as â€œTHE HIGH SCHOOL SESSIONS,â€? featured tracks recorded before the bandâ€™s move to Seattle. The next collection, dubbed â€œTHE WEAK BLAME THE STRONG,â€? was a more polished affair, professionally recorded in Los Angeles with producer Dave Cobb behind the board. (The two EPs have since been conveniently compiled on the aptly titled East West CD, â€œTHE TWO EPS.â€?) The band also began touring with a vengeance, traveling the West Coast on their own and as specially invited guests of such beloved bands as the Hunches and New Bomb Turks.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing else Iâ€™d rather be doing,â€? Larson-Xu says. â€œWe basically want to be touring forever. Weâ€™ve been touring pretty much straight through for the past two years â€“ our van is the messiest van youâ€™ve ever seen, trash heaped up a foot high. Weâ€™d literally lie down on the trash to sleep!â€?
Shortly after the Soldiers signed with Atlantic in late 2004, founding guitarist Gunn opted out of the band. Rather than pack it in, the Soldiers enlisted French ex-pat Kevin Sciou and set to work recording what would become â€œSO MANY MUSICIANS TO KILL.â€? The band spent the majority of 2005 tracking over 30 songs, again choosing to work with Dave Cobb at Hollywood Sound Recorders, with additional studio contributions from Dave Sardy (Jet, Oasis). The objective from the get-go was to capture the high-energy craziness of the Soldiersâ€™ riotous live sets.
â€œWe tried to keep it as raw as possible,â€? Larson-Xu says, â€œat least as raw as you can be on a record. Itâ€™s definitely pretty raucous.â€?
â€œSO MANY MUSICIANS TO KILLâ€? features live-set staples like the shuffling â€œThree Goddams,â€? as well as cocksure new tunes like â€œHills.â€? Throughout, Larson-Xu gives new voice to the classic rock â€˜nâ€™ roll themes of flaming youth and teenage kicks.
â€œI was thinking back to high school,â€? he says of his songwriting approach, â€œand a lot of the feelings I had back then. I really relate to that time period of my life and by looking back, it helps us to keep that youthful energy in our songs.â€?
The albumâ€™s provocative title â€“ found in the lyrics to â€œFunny Little Feelingâ€? â€“ represents what Larson-Xu says is the bandâ€™s â€œstance on a lot of the music we hear today. Not to be taken literally, of course.â€?
Rebels from the day they first strapped on their gear, the Rock N Roll Soldiers see themselves as a band out of time, a motley insurgency whose fervor and focus are incompatible with most modern musical trends.
â€œWeâ€™re definitely not retro, though,â€? Larson-Xu avows. â€œThe truth is, I really donâ€™t feel like weâ€™d fit in at any time.â€?