The Aggrolites are set to make their first ever trip to Australia at the end of the month, as well as making a stop at the massive East Coast Blues and Roots Festival. We caught up with the band’s bassist Jeff Roffredo to discuss the tour, as well as the band’s latest record "Rugged Road".
Start off by stating your name, your role in The Aggrolites and the last record you purchased?
My name is Jeff Roffredo, I play bass and do backing vocals, and the last record I purchased was Al Supersonic and The Teenagers, a 60’s style soul outfit from Granada, Spain, that I just saw do a great show in Tarragona after our European tour ended.
You will be making the trip to Australia at the end of this month, what are you looking forward to the most about these shows?
Well it will be our first time in Australia and New Zealand, and we’ve always wanted to come, so we’re pretty excited about going to new places. The Bluesfest lineup is so ridiculously good that it’s almost too good to be true, can’t wait to actually be there!
Do you have any expectations for the shows?
We are expecting the Bluesfest to be massive, other than that we’re not sure what to expect. For us, Australians have a reputation for being outgoing and fun loving, so we’ll be happy to provide the musical backdrop for the party.
You’re also playing the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival alongside of some massive names, how do you think the band will go down at the festival?
I think the day we are playing, Friday the 22nd, is a perfect fit, we’re playing the same day as Toots and The Maytals and Ernest Ranglin, two of our biggest heroes, so people who love the vintage reggae sound have their day picked out for them! Also some of the original Meters are playing as The Funky Meters, and BB King, it’s all very roots based music, so hopefully people that don’t know us will be open to what we do and enjoy it!
Will you be doing anything differently at the festival than you will on the headline shows?
That’s a difficult question, we like to think we bring as much as we can to the stage every time we come out. One difference could depend on our set length at the festival; we may have to do a more compact set because there are so many bands. However if we are in front of a huge audience that could add to the interaction and energy.
Your newest record “Rugged Road” was released digitally and on vinyl in February, with the CD release in March. What has the response to the record been like so far?
It has been very positive. The initial intent of these sessions was to produce an exclusive series of five vinyl 45’s for record collectors. The band has wanted to release vinyl 45’s for years now, and finally the opportunity arose. What you hear on Rugged Road is the collection of all five 45’s on digital and CD format. I think so far that this collection has been getting attention from places we haven’t seen before; it’s just out so we’ll see how far it goes.
How have the new songs from that record been going down in the live setting so far?
We are always excited to release a new recording and then get to perform the new material live. It takes a little time for the music to reach people and for them to get familiar with new tracks, and as a fan I always love to hear the songs I’ve been listening to for a long time, that I know the music and words to and can sing along. Being that the record just came out we play songs from the older records first and then drop in the new stuff so people don’t get blindsided with some stuff they may not be all that familiar with yet. There was a video made for "Complicated Girl," so I think people have seen that online and it’s made it one that people are most familiar with so far.
The record was released through Young Cub Records, what has it been like working with them?
It has been a great experience. They have been very open to what we want to do every step of the way, and came up with artwork that looks great and really represents the era we are trying to pay tribute to on this collection. Also Alex at Young Cub has been working hard to bring the music to the attention of new audiences, people who may not already be familiar with who we are or what we do.
What was the writing and recording process like for that record?
Well, we pretty much got into the studio together and started hammering things out. Some of us came in with ideas we had been working on, and brought them to the table to let them grow into what you hear on the record. We recorded all together in one room on analog tape, so if one guy messed up during a take we had to rewind and start from the top. I think that way of recording comes through when you hear it, it’s a band actually playing together live captured in a studio setting. Most music you hear these days is recorded in pieces and then put together, then autotuned, so what you’re hearing isn’t actually a real musical performance. It can sound good, but for me I appreciate the sound of a band coming together and making music together on the spot.
The album was recorded with producer Alex Lalli. Did Alex have much input with the songs on the record?
I’d say Alex is more of the Executive Producer; he was present throughout and brought a good vibe to the sessions. The production was more on the side of the band with Craig "Dubfader" Welsch. All previous recordings were self-produced by the band. Dubfader recorded these tracks and has an amazingly vast knowledge of old school reggae, so he knows exactly how to make it sound. Furthermore if there was a particular sound or feel we were going for, we could refer to some classic artists or records and he would know exactly what we were talking about, which created a great vibe and flow of the sessions.
What is your fondest memory you have with the band?
It’s hard to pick just one, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of our heroes and doing shows and tours with them, and played some great festivals with legendary musicians.
Do you have any goals that you would like to achieve with the band?
Sky’s the limit; we’d like to take this music as far as we can. The style of music we play can appeal to the young and old, it’s feel good music. We believe that early reggae music has a positivity and sound that make it timeless, there’s such a deep amount of old recordings that still sound great every time you hear them. Hopefully we can inspire people to dig into the archives and check out the all time greats, those old recordings are usually a real performance, as I mentioned before that’s something I feel that has been lost in modern recordings. We all have a pretty diverse taste in music; we are all open to hearing music from all over the world. For the most part we are all fans of vintage music, and obviously classic Jamaican stuff is the common ground.
Who are some bands that have impressed you lately that we should be checking out?
This is a tough question because we come across a lot of great bands in all the places we play, so it’s kind of a tricky question to answer, we don’t want to leave anyone out! I guess we’ll start with our hometown favorites… Our friends The Expanders from Los Angeles just released an album that is top notch, and they sound great live, check them out for sure. Also recently we’ve done some dates with Orgone, it’s hard to find a band that can put on a tighter live show. On a side note, I went to Australia with another band in 2005 and on the plane ride back to LA I happened to see them on the same flight. On this last European tour we did a show with Big Boss Man out of England, heavy-duty stuff. In the US we’ve come across a band called The Green Room Rockers out of Indiana a number of times, and they sound great. The list can go on and on, hopefully start there and it will lead you to more of the great bands we’ve come across all over the world!
After the Australian tour, what does the rest of 2011 hold for The Aggrolites?
We will be doing the Punk Rock Bowling Festival in Las Vegas with Dropkick Murphys, Stiff Little Fingers, and many more legendary bands. This Summer we will be doing the Warped Tour across the US and Canada, and then back to Europe in Fall. We will also likely be doing more US dates and possibly Japan, and if we do our job right, hopefully you’ll ask us to return to Australia and New Zealand!
Thanks for doing the interview, any words for those who will be seeing you here at the shows?
We hope that everyone comes ready to sing and dance, we try our best to keep the crowd moving and love to hear people singing along!