Red Jumpsuit Apparatus thrives in the aftermath of adversity
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of the official publicity biography
Art often thrives in the aftermath of adversity, and since we last heard from Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, there have been plenty of variables that the five-piece alternative rock act had to endure. But for the Middleburg, Florida-based band, hardships eventually ironed out thanks to unrelenting perseverance, paving the way for the band’s incredibly ambitious (and aptly titled) The Hell Or High Water EP in 2010, followed by its third and highly anticipated long player Am I The Enemy (bowing in August 2011).
Like the EP that preceded it, the project comes under a partnership with its management company The Collective on the heels of the band’s voluntary parting of ways with Virgin Records, the company that first signed the band for 2006’s gold selling Don’t You Fake It (spawning the smash single “Face Down”), followed by 2009’s Lonely Road (which debuted in the top twenty of the Billboard 200). Reconnecting with its DIY roots, Am I The Enemy finds the guys sounding more on fire than ever before, exuding confidence at every razor sharp turn of the amplifier or bellowing vocal execution from impassioned front man Ronnie Winter.
“It’s been three years since our last full-length album, and in the time between, there’s been a lot of rebuilding where we’ve gotten a lot more focused, sorted out all our behind the scenes issues and got to the point of just really wanting to make a new record,” the front man asserts. “We knew that the fans were behind us after their support of The Hell Or High Water EP, but we wanted to take our writing to the next level without having to worry about any of the business stuff and just put all our focus on the music. It was just like riding a bike; right after we got into the studio, the training wheels came off and we were ready to get dangerous and test our limitations.”
Besides the band’s enthusiasm and tenacity, additional creative prodding came from producer John Feldmann, perhaps most familiar for his role as Goldfinger’s ringleader, but also known for behind the scenes work with The Used, Story of the Year, Good Charlotte, Plain White T’s, Saosin and Neon Trees (amongst countless others). Though the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus guys were lifelong Goldfinger fans, the connection came very organically after a co-writing session.
“It was totally genuine and we weren’t even looking for a producer type of deal, but just wanted to come up with some new ideas,” notes Winter. “We sat around with two acoustic guitars and right off the bat we clicked. We wrote the first single “Reap” (out April 26) and then turned around and wrote “Salvation” on the same day. We jumped right into demoing both of those songs a week after that and one thing led to another. Our work ethics blended really well, it was a ton of fun and there was no drama, which all made a huge difference in creating a record we’re all really proud of.”
Adds Feldmann: “It was a piece of cake working with the Red Jumpsuit guys. They were full of ideas and a real pleasure to record. Every one of them brought something unique to the record. This was a really fun record for me to make. Super talented musicians. Plus I kicked all their asses at ping pong.”
As for the tracks contained therein, die-hards and newcomers alike can look forward to a slew of sonic risks, wrapped around the group’s signature, post-hardcore, alternative rock romps. “There’s some cool digital programming and drum sound experimenting that we’ve never tried before and some crazy new chords with some really cool half step progressions,” reveals Winter. “John really opened some doors for us and I think any of our fans who are also musicians will notice it right away. Some of the chords are really peculiar sounding, but crazy awesome and cohesive with the rest of the record.”
A major case in point comes from the aforementioned “Reap,” which Winter asserts spawned the direction of the entire record thanks to its searing choruses, chugging verses and a ballsy “goes around comes around” attitude. The singer and producer’s second collaboration “Salvation” is an in your face anthem for anyone who’s ever faced adversity, while “Fall From Grace” firmly addresses the major label red tape from the group’s past and eventual realization to make music on its own terms. “Dive Too Deep” demonstrates the decade-nearing band dusting off an old riff that guitarist Duke Kitchens dreamt up when the guys were mere teens, but with a campfire crackling and the beer flowing, Winter finally found the right melody to match the undeniably catchy, emotional apex of the record.
As for the underlying theme, Am I The Enemy continues in the group’s thought-provoking, politically-charged direction that’s peppered previous projects, but has yet to be this bold. Regardless of one’s party line or personal beliefs, the band is sure to get listeners diving deep into the linear notes as they’re faced with probing rhetorical questions.
“We travel abroad all the time and I definitely feel like there’s a weird cloud in other countries regarding their perception of Americans,” explains Winter. “There seems to be this feeling that they think of us as bullies or the world police, though I don’t see it that way, especially when we’ve played for troops in Iraq, Cuba and here in the States. Sure there are problems, but if Am I The Enemy had a question mark after it, I would respond as a 28-year-old American by saying we’re actually trying to help strife-ridden countries learn about democracy, capitalism and freedom. We may have a bad economy and lying politicians, but as a society, I think we live in one of the greatest countries on earth.”
Listeners can certainly judge for themselves as Red Jumpsuit Apparatus loads up its tour buses for its first proper North American tour since the last long player, backed by a bevy of international appearances. “We want to show fans we still care about them, even though we’ve been away for awhile,” sums up Winter. “We’re really excited about this record, more than anything we’ve ever released before, and we finally felt free to do what we wanted without having some huge shadow hanging over us.”
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