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The Rocket: Relaunch

Hailing from Belgium the Rocket are a pop-punk outfit comprised of Bastiaan, Jos, Fred, Stijn and Tom. After a hiatus to pursue other projects the guys have got the band back together and are releasing a new album Another Reason Not to Fear the Sky on Thursday 26th April. They recently put out a video to their single Lost at Sea. Don’t let the nautical name throw you off, the videography is rooted much more in the imagery of space and astronauts than seafaring.

Lost at Sea is inflected with a classic pop-punk sensibility; catchy hooks and angst-ridden slightly Americanised vocals abound. However a key differentiating factor for their sound is the inclusion of a synth player in their arsenal. This works well here lifting the song and generating some interesting counterpoint to the guitars. The melody under the chorus is strong and there is a slickly executed breakdown where the tempo is lessened, underlining the air of sadness that permeates the track. The video itself shows a young boy in a homemade rocket who wishes to get away from it all, with a result that isn’t exactly what he may have wanted. It also has the addition of animated flourishes which interact with the footage; a simple premise that works well and adds to the overall visual aesthetic.

Conveniently the band elaborated a little on the meaning behind the video when I posed a couple of questions to them. They were for the most part pretty forthcoming in their responses. However I’ll leave it to you to decide whether their professed solemnity is genuine or simply a cover for some stories which can’t be repeated in public.

You can read the interview below:

When did you first start getting into music? What was the first instrument you started to play?

Aside from our drummer Bastiaan we’re all guitarists at heart. Bastiaan started out on the piano by age 3 or 4 and then claimed his brother’s drum kit when he was 9. For some reason, he only picked instruments you can play sitting down.

The piano was also the first instrument our bass player Jos took up, when he was 7. He added the guitar when he was 9 and switched from children’s music to Napalm Death (Utopia Banished) and NOFX (White Trash) about a year later. A lot of people in his old neighbourhood are still terrified when he walks by.

Fred, our synth player, got into music somewhere around the age of 9 or 10. He played the saxophone for a while and had a short run-in with a trumpet. Not much came of that, until he picked up the guitar around the age of 14.

Our guitarist Stijn got into punk rock around the age of 14, 15. He bought his first guitar when he was almost 16 and literally went from the music store to his first rehearsal. A similar story for our singer Tom, who has been singing for as long as he can remember, but first picked up a guitar when he was 16. He’s also not bad at punk rock drumming for some reason.

If you had to describe your music to someone who had never heard it before, what would you say?

“It’s like cotton candy, but with more oomph.” They’ll probably be confused at first, but I bet it’ll make them curious enough to actually go listen to our music.

On the odd chance one of the normal guys in the band would have to describe it, it would probably be something like ‘energetic, melodic and upbeat synth-driven pop punk with sad lyrics’.

Who or what would you say your main influences are?

We all listen to a lot of different stuff, ranging from Taylor Swift pop to less mainstream stuff such as Agoraphobic Nosebleed. But somewhere in the middle, we all like a lot of punk rock and pop punk. Surprise!

I guess you can hear references to bands such as blink-182, New Found Glory and Motion City Soundtrack in our music, but we’re convinced that enough of the other stuff we like seeps through to provide our music with what everybody except U2 calls ‘an edge’. There’s not much of Agoraphobic Nosebleed in there, to be honest.

We’re also lucky enough to have quite a talented scene in Belgium, with bands as You Nervous?, F.O.D., For I Am, Young Hearts and many more. It’s definitely inspiring to follow what they’re up to.

You guys have been going since 2009, what have you learned over that time and is there anything you wished you’d known when you first started out?

We’ve all been active musicians for a long time, in different bands and different scenes as well. Needless to say, we learned a lot over the years. Not only when it comes to writing and playing music, but also about all aspects surrounding life in a band. Building on experience is how life in general works, and music is no different.

I think you can benefit from that natural learning curve as a person and as a band, so I don’t think there’s a lot we wished we knew back then. Or maybe one thing: that the stage outfits we wear would turn out to be way too hot for any environment, so we could pick something else.

What is the best gig you’ve played and why?

That’s a very tough call. Playing the Main Stage at Groezrock, Europe’s biggest punk rock festival was amazing. We’ve been going there as visitors for years and being on the same stage as many of our heroes is something you can’t describe in words and a memory we’ll always carry with us.

That said, we’ve played shows in smaller clubs that were completely packed with a wild, crazy and very sweaty audience. I think that kind of intense shows, where there’s a very close contact with our audience, is what we like the most. But we’re open to playing big festivals too, so get in touch!

If you could play on the same bill as any act (dead or alive) who would it be?

Damn, where to begin and where to stop? This is all I can fit in one breath: blink-182, Motion City Soundtrack, The Dangerous Summer, NOFX, Weezer, New Found Glory, Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Tay Zonday, Babymetal and Spinal Tap (gasps for air).

You’ve recently released a video for Lost at Sea, what was the process of making that like? Did you have a clear idea from the start or did it come together over time?

The video is, in short, about a little kid that’s fascinated about space – much as we are. Caught up in his own fantasy, he breaks something and is sent to his room by his angry parents. Upset, he embarks on a journey through space in his fantasy, wishing everybody would be gone. Much to his surprise, the world is indeed empty when he exits his makeshift spaceship. He has a lot of fun at first, but slowly realizes that the world is a very lonely place when you’re alone.

The idea became clear quite fast. We started out with the idea of having a kid play the main character, and something about him or her being alone in the world, which fits in with the lyrics of Lost At Sea. And we always want to incorporate a link to space and astronauts as well, because we love it.

With those elements in place, the story almost wrote itself. The drawings on top of everything represent the kids fantasy, filling in the blanks but never getting real enough to deal with the feelings of loneliness.

What is your favourite part of being in a band?

Getting together with some of your best friends, both in the band and on the road, and actually creating something that not only other people can enjoy (hopefully), but that can take you back in time years later.

It’s hard to find words to describe it but being in a band automatically means you have something specific in common with those other people in the room. That sort of connection is hard to come by and even when you go through rough patches, it will always be there.

You’re set to release a new album, how did you approach writing the songs for this, was it entirely a group effort or does one person bring in a riff, one lyrics etc…

Our guitarist Stijn and singer Tom do most of the writing. Most of the time, one of them brings an idea or even a whole song to the table. Then we record it, add and remove stuff, change structures and so on. Sometimes Tom comes up with a vocal melody and no lyrics, and other times it’s the other way around. It all happens very organically.

For our new album Another Reason Not to Fear the Sky we wrote about 25 songs and narrowed that down to 14 we wanted to record. We sent those 14 demos over to our producer Marc, who added his secret sauce to the songs.

The digital version of Another Reason Not to Fear the Sky contains 11 of those song, the cd and vinyl each have 12 songs on them, with a different bonus track on each.

Are there any funny stories from your time playing in the band?

No, we are all very serious people.

Looking forward what are the hopes and plans for the band over 2018 and the coming years?

First off, we hope everybody likes our new album Another Reason Not to Fear the Sky. We hope a lot of people want to see us play live, and that some of those people are responsible for booking shows. We like to party, so we want to get out there as much as we can.

We also never stopped writing, so we hope we can keep on making albums and feel like each one is the best we’ve written so far.

Basically, we just want to keep doing this forever.

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