Florida’s The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus will soon be heading down to Australia for the second time in the band’s decade long career on their ‘Choose Our Adventure Tour’. The band promises to make up for lost time playing a number of anticipated shows. Killyourstereo.com chats to vocalist Ronnie Winter about video games, hidden Shakespeare codes, his construction worker past, and the possibility of the next release being a double album.
Hi Ronnie, how are you?
Hey, I’m good. How’s it going?
Not too bad. How has your day been so far?
It’s been awesome man, just hanging out. The US leg of our two starts tomorrow so it’s my last day at home. I’m just doing laundry and making sure I’m packing my video games and stuff, you know.
Of course (laughs). All right, well we might as well get stuck into it if that’s okay with you.
Yeah, let’s do it.
What are your interests outside of music?
Mainly family and video games, like I said, and I skateboard a lot. I’m really into Jesus, I think he’s cool. Just family really, I’m a pretty old man, I’m thirty years old. So I pretty much just stay home and skate, and play video games, and go to church and hang out with my dogs. That’s about it. Nothing interesting, honestly.
Now that you’re months down the track, how do you feel the response has been to ‘Et Tu, Brute?’
I think it has been great. I really think it depends on what your perspective is, but you know, we’ve been a band for ten years. Believe it or not, not a lot of bands can say they’ve made it that long and we have so we’ve been on every side of the ledger. We started as an independent band, then we signed a major deal, then we worked with an independent label, and then we went back to [being] solely independent. So the expectation level is completely different every time. Obviously, when you’re on a major label you’re expected to sell a million records, and we did that. When you’re on an independent label you’re expected to have an underground, cool vibe, and we did that, and now we’re doing everything on our own and we’re touring all around the world. It’s exploding, kids all over the place are downloading the EP like nuts and I’m just glad people still care, honestly. We’re overwhelmed with the response actually, it’s the reason why we’re going on a world tour. If it wasn’t doing well we wouldn’t have the money to do a world tour so I’m glad it’s doing well.
The title for the EP is a biblical reference, I believe, which translates to “Are you Brutus?” and is Caesar’s way of acknowledging that Brutus stabbed him in the back. Why did you decide on that as the title?
There are biblical references on the record, but that particular quote is not biblical it’s from Shakespeare actually, and there are some other Shakespeare references on the record. There’s a song called ‘The Crazy Ones’, which talks about being in crazy love like Romeo and Juliet and anyone who has ever been in a full-blown relationship would know what I mean by those words. You know, sometimes everybody says you’re crazy but when you only care about one thing, you only care about one thing. All of those are references to Shakespeare and that’s kind of the overriding theme of the EP, and we’ve never really done a theme before, and we released it on March 15th, which is also the actual day, according to a Shakespeare novel, or a play, that Brutus stabbed Caesar. So there’s a lot of up play to it and the synchronicity album and the release date and there’s also secret hidden codes in the artwork that reveal the actual line and the verse out of the play. It’s a whole concept. It’s basically a mini concept EP and there’s a whole lot of Shakespeare, I don’t know, I’m down with the Shakespeare.
How was it to be working with David Bendeth, the producer of ‘Don’t You Fake It’, again?
It was awesome. It was kind of surreal, you know, we hadn’t worked with him since 2005, and this was 2012, so that’s a long time. It’s such a huge gap, seven years, in anyone’s life. You think about how you were when you were 12 years old and you think about how you were when you were 19, and I don’t think you’re the same person, you know what I mean? I’ve definitely grown a lot and he’s just continued to have hit record after hit record, obviously he had Paramore’s ‘Riot!’ right after ‘Don’t You Fake It’ and Breaking Benjamin and Papa Roach and he mixed a big A Day to Remember single and so Dave’s never really missed a beat. We always wanted to work with him and that was one of our biggest complaints with our label, Virgin, they couldn’t figure out how to get Dave and us in a room for a second record. We definitely lost a little bit of chemistry because we didn’t have our original producer, and I’m not going to blame anybody, it is what it is, and I think anybody who liked the first record will like the EP. You can tell right off the bat that it’s the same production, it’s the same song writing, it’s the same people doing everything, so I think we should have just stayed with him the whole time and now that we’re an independent band and nobody is in the way, that’s the plan for the rest of our career. That’s one thing we wanted to prove when we became a fully independent band, that we knew Dave was the right match for our band but when somebody else is paying for the record, and honestly that’s what it comes down to, you don’t always get to make the decisions. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do just like anybody else. Everybody’s got a boss. Well, I don’t anymore.
Did you track the drums for this release?
I did. I’ve always written all the drums for The Red Jumpsuit, it’s a little known fact. There’s a couple of rare videos on YouTube of me in the studio teaching our old drummer John, and John wasn’t the original drummer, there were two drummers before him, and before those two drummers I was the original drummer. So basically when we first started out, there’s another band that’s about an hour and a half south of us called Underoath and a guy named Aaron Gillespie, he plays drums and he sings clean vocals. We were kind of doing the same thing but we were doing it with more of a post hardcore / punk rock sound, which I developed in The Red Jumpsuit. I’ve played drums since I was nine years old, so eventually it got to the point where I decided to just focus on vocals because it got too hard trying to sing to the best of my ability. Whoever happened to be playing drums at the time, the parts, a lot of the original stuff before we were signed was all me, and then all of the new stuff and probably from now on will be me.
What do you prefer, drums or vocals?
Definitely drums. I mean, drums man, you know. That’s just because I didn’t start singing until I was 18 or 19 and I’ve been playing drums since I was a little kid so I’ve had a lot more practice on drums and I’m actually classically trained on drums. I used to do orchestra in college, so I can read and write percussion as well as low brass so I prefer drums because I’m more knowledgeable about it. But everyone likes to sing, and luckily for me people thing my voice sounds cool, I’m really not that great of a singer, anybody would tell you that.
I don’t think that’s the case judging by how well you’ve done.
(laughs) For some reason people think my voice sounds cool so I kind of lucked out, but hey whatever, some people are lucky I guess.
So you mentioned the band has been around for ten years? That’s a hell of a lot of time to dedicate to something. Can you believe it has been that long?
Yeah, there have been a lot of ups and downs. There’s been a lot of guys who have come and gone, but I’ve been there since the beginning. It is weird to think about it. I just turned 30 and I remember when we started this band I was 19, about to turn 20. So I was only a year out of high school and now I’m married and old so it’s definitely a lot different, but I’m still a punk rocker man, so it is what it is. That’s never going to die. You know, our fans have grown up with us too, I actually just wrote a song about this, and it’s going to come out probably on the next record. I’m seeing people on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and everything. It’s crazy. I’m seeing people post pictures of me and them in 2005-2006, and these kids were like 12 years old and now these kids are like 19, 20, 21, and some of them are graduating from college. They’re tweeting flashback photos, and this was before the first record came out when all of the cool kids knew who we were. It’s insane to see these kids who are not kids anymore, you know. We haven’t been to Australia and we haven’t been to Asia in a while mainly because, and it’s been very public, we had a lot of label problems. It takes a while to sort through all that legal stuff, believe it or not. I wish I could have snapped my fingers and everything would have sorted but it takes a lot to get through that. We finally got through the rain storm and now we’re on the other side, so it’s just amazing to see how many people still support the band even when they’re at completely different places in their lives. I don’t know, I wrote a song about it, it’s coming out soon.
Have you had any other jobs between writing and touring? And if so were there any you really enjoyed or even hated?
Not in between since 2004, that was when I dedicated my life solely to music, but before that I had a thousand different jobs. I worked at a Wendy’s, which is, I don’t know if you guys have one.
Yeah, we have a different Wendys here. Although, I’ve heard of Wendy’s.
I worked at a grocery store, I used to bag groceries. I worked at a lawn care place we’re I’d spray lawns to kill weeds, and then I worked in construction for a while with a hard hat and a shovel. I don’t wish that on anybody, especially in Florida. I know it’s hot over there but it’s hot in Florida too, believe me. We get like 110-115° in summer so we’re pretty bad as well as you know when it comes to the sun, and I’m no stranger to heat. I’ve been blessed, since the music thing took off this is all I’ve done. It’s awesome to do only music for a living.
You’re heading down to Australia later this year for the first time in four years. Are you excited to come back and play here? I know you touched on this a bit before.
Everyone’s freaking out. We’re stoked. We’re beyond stoked. It’s a big deal for us, it’s really a big deal. We tour the United States all the time and some US fans may not like this comment but if you do anything enough times it loses the special newness of it, and we’ve only been there once, so this is the second time in our ten year career that we get to come to Australia. It really is a big deal to us. It’s probably a bigger deal to us than it is to our fans so we’re looking forward to it.
The ‘Choose Our Adventure Tour’ concept is very interesting, and I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that done in Australia before. I’m pretty sure you are the first to do it. Was it something that you came up with or the band came up with?
There’s a company we were hooked up with called Kingdom Sounds and they brought up the idea. Obviously, they’ve probably brought this idea to a lot of bands before and been shot down, but we’re a crazy band, we don’t have management, we don’t have a label. We don’t have to worry about people saying ‘oh, that’s not going to work’ or ‘that’s crazy, nobody’s going to do that’. They basically threw the idea by me and I was like ‘man, that’s awesome, nobody’s doing that, I definitely want to do it’. So, you know, we’re just that kind of band. If anyone gives us an opportunity to do something crazy or weird we’re going to go for it. There’s so much normal about people buying a ticket and going to a show, and it helps when the band doesn’t suck live and maybe they’ll buy a t-shirt but there’s so much normality to that. This just gave a little bit more power to the people. The people really do have a choice to decide and how awesome is that man? Come on. Everybody wins.
I know. You could be starting a whole phase of these sorts of tours, really. You could be the ones to get the concept off the ground.
And no one’s going to remember we started it though, right?
(laughs) Probably. Someone else will take credit for it.
I hope you’re right. I hope we do start a new wave. There’s this company called GiggedIn too, and they’re really cool. They helped us set it up. Also Pumped Up Kids, I’ve got to thank them too. It was really a combination effort of all of us together. We’re crazy enough to say yes, and they came up with the idea, so it’s a team effort.
Do you know how it’s going at the moment? I’d be interested to find out if all the capital cities are getting the most purchases or not.
Yeah, everybody keeps asking me that, and I’m not going to tell them. The reason why I haven’t said anything, because I have been asked that, I’m actually reaching a contract with a huge magazine here in the States called Bloomberg Weekly, and they wanted to know who was winning and what I told them is exactly what I’m going to tell you. If you talk about who’s winning, you don’t want to drive other cities. It’s not a competition about getting more votes, because that doesn’t really matter. What you want to see is who really wants your band to play there, and the only way to see that is to genuinely have everything fair. There’s no actual tally until it’s done. That way there’s no chance for somebody to say ‘oh you guys are losing by 15 votes you need to vote’ and they get 20 friends who aren’t even going to come to the concert and they don’t care about The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus at all, they can’t stand the band, they’ve always hated the band, they’re going to go and vote because their friend wants them to vote. That’s not really what it’s all about. We want the people who are actually going to want to come to the shows and hang out and sing along and enjoy the fact that we’re coming so far. The only way to ensure that’s accurately going to happen is to not talk about who is winning.
I know myspace played a big part in starting up The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and now the band are still engaged with social media with things such as the ‘Choose Our Adventure Tour’. Do you think the need to utilise social media and have an online presence is a good thing for music?
Yeah, I don’t see how it couldn’t be. We just hit 1,000,000 likes on Facebook about a week or two ago, which again, for a band who hasn’t had a label for two years is pretty rad because we’ve doubled our online presence since we left. You know it’s debatable because I’ve seen bands who focus way too much on Facebook and not enough on shows and writing good songs. I’ve also seen bands who focus too much on writing songs and don’t care at all about Facebook and they never really connect with their audience in a way which is going to enable them to create a lifelong fan base, which is what we want. We want people who, every record we put out, they’re going to at least give it a fair listen, and if they don’t like it that’s totally fine because you know what, I don’t like everything that comes out, and it’s nothing personal to put a song out and someone’s like ‘nah, I’m not feeling it’. That’s cool, whatever. There are nine more songs on that record. There’s no way there’s not one or two you’re not going to dig if you try. That’s the importance of social media. When you connect with your audience they get more of your vibe as a person and as a group, as a unit, as a band of brothers, maybe they’re going to be more likely to give your record a chance because nowadays everything is based on singles and we don’t really push singles because we’re not in the industry to try to have a number one hit single. We already did that three times. It isn’t really necessarily something we haven’t already done. We want to make sure our records are heard back like in the 60s or the 70s, and whatever, maybe we’re old school but that’s our outlook on it.
Is there anything you’d like to do when you come down to Australia?
Yeah actually, you know last time, we went out of our way. You always learn from your past. Last time we did Soundwave, and that was really awesome. We were supposed to be on it one year and we had problems with our label again, and then we got a make-up year scheduled, and we came back and we were definitely able to make it that year and we had a really good time. The problem with Soundwave though is that we had to fly to every show. There’s just so much time that’s consumed by driving to the airport, getting on a plane, getting off the plane, driving to the venue, loading in, playing the show, loading out, and then in five hours you’re driving back to the airport. You really can’t see the country. We had a few offers to come to Australia over the years, and they wanted to do five shows and I said ‘no, I don’t want to do that’ because we want to hang out this time. People aren’t used to dealing with someone like me because, like I said, there’s no label so I say things they’re not used to hearing. We demanded to tour in a van this time because we want to see the country. I want to go to the beach, I want to hang out by the ocean, I want to see some of the geography. That’s what it’s all about. We’re coming over there, and yeah we’re definitely there to play shows but I’m also there to see what it’s all about. I want to get some culture and I want to meet people. That’s just the kind of people we are. We’re not just coming there to try and make a pay check and it’s definitely something we’re doing differently this time, so if you’re crazy enough you should get in a van and follow us because it’s going to be a wild ride.
Is ‘Don’t You Fake It’ still the album you draw the most songs from when considering set lists?
It definitely depends on the location. We have certain areas, certain pockets of our fan base, and that is one thing I will say is cool about social media, that we’re able to look at statistics from the web and we’re able to target our demographic. That’s pretty cool. It’s cool because if there’s an area where we know we haven’t sold any EPs we’re probably not going to play a bunch of songs off of that because nobody bought it so we’ll probably play a lot more of the old stuff. If there’s an area where we’ve had a couple of songs hit the radio that didn’t hit in a different country, for instance, in the Philippines ‘Face Down’ isn’t the biggest song, ‘Your Guardian Angel’ is the biggest song, and ‘Your Guardian Angel’ didn’t hit big in the United States. It was a YouTube hit but it didn’t hit radio. In the UK it’s ‘Into Fate’s Hands’ which is the first song on the record, which is like a crazy hardcore, scream song.
Yeah, you wouldn’t expect that to be the hit. That’s interesting.
Well every country is different man. Different strokes for different folks. So we sort of pay attention to that as best as we can. That’s another thing in Australia when we played Soundwave we did a couple of Sidewave shows but we really only got to play 30 minutes a day, and it was after our second full-length record came out. So we had to try and do our best to make the fans who just bought our new record happy, as well as the fans who never had a chance to hear the first record because we didn’t get to properly tour the first album over there. You’ve got 30 minutes man, and there’s a lot of other awesome bands. Goldfinger were coming out, Bloodhound Gang were playing, Nine Inch Nails were playing, Alice in Chains were playing, I mean talk about the best of the best in the world. So we did our best to try to fit in all of the best songs we could, but you can only do so much in 30 minutes. That’s the difference between then and now. We can play whatever they want to hear. If they want to hear every song from the first record and the show’s packed, we’re going to play them all. We know them all, we’re the band, so there’s not a problem there. We’re also going to play a lot of our new stuff because in the States it’s doing well, in the UK it’s doing really well, and I haven’t actually got the statistics back from Australia yet because you guys are a little bit different when it comes to sales and reporting. I assume it’s doing well or we wouldn’t be getting as much online traction as we’re getting and we wouldn’t be getting as much interest as we’re getting. So yeah, we’re going to play some new stuff and for all of the people who never got a chance to see us before, they’re going to hear everything they want to hear. Don’t worry about that.
What do you think the band will do next? Are there any plans in particular?
Yeah, I just talked to Dave recently and he’s locked in. The EP was kind of a test to see if that’s what needed to be done, and I believe that’s what needed to be done and I believe our fans have spoken. So we’re going back in the studio with Dave, we’ve got another 20-25 songs. I actually really want to record a double album, but I don’t know if that will happen or not because that’s just a huge undertaking, but one way or another, the fourth album will be started by the end of this year. Without a doubt it’s happening, and it will be us and it will be Dave Bendeth, so it’s going to be sweet.
Yeah, it sounds good. A double album would be great.
Well we definitely have enough songs man, so it’s really all about Dave. He’s a big-time hit maker so we’re trying to squeeze in moments with him.
All right, well I’ll let you get on with it.
I appreciate your time man, seriously.
Thanks, you too. Hopefully you enjoy Australia when you get down here.
No doubt about it, we’re going to have a good time. Nobody’s going to rain on that parade, certainly.
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus ‘Choose Our Adventure’ Australian tour dates –
**Tickets on-sale now**
Thursday November 7th – The Hi-Fi Brisbane,
Tickets on-sale through oztix.com.au 18 only
Friday November 8th – C.eX Coffs Harbour,
Tickets on-sale through dashtickets.com.au 18 only
Saturday November 9th – The Mcenroe Meltdown @ The Racket Club, Newcastle,
Tickets on-sale through dashtickets.com.au Licensed All-Ages event
Thursday November 14th – UTS Glasshouse Sydney
Tickets on-sale through dashtickets.com.au Licensed All-Ages event
Friday November 15th – The Corner Hotel Melbourne
Tickets through dashtickets.com.au 18 only
Saturday November 16th – Adelaide Uni Bar,
Tickets on-sale dashtickets.com.au 18 only