By Meaghan Baxter
EDMONTON — Bands come and go at a steady clip. New groups form every day, and it seems as though just as many are announce their farewell shows—whether they mean it or not. Edmonton’s Audio/Rocketry appears to be in it for the long haul though as they approach their 10-year anniversary.
The band’s genesis is marked as January 2006, which is when frontman Joe Vickers decided on the band name while playing a gig in Drayton Valley. The original nucleus of Audio/Rocketry was formed when Matt Murphy joined Vickers to form an acoustic duo to create a sound that didn’t necessarily fit neatly within the confines of any particular genre. “Out of convenience, [we] wore the folk-punk banner for a number of years because we had acoustic guitars, banjos, and mandolins,” Vickers says over the phone while on a tour stop in Winnipeg. “The vision was just to write relatable songs. I think that vision still holds true today.”
Early lineups brought in a rotating cast of friends who joined the band whenever their schedules allowed but Audio/Rocketry’s lineup solidified when Blair Drover joined on guitar and Jerome Tovillo took up drum duty for the group a few years later. The addition of drums to Audio/Rocketry was a catalyst for the band’s current plugged-in, rock-driven style.
“I have to say, for the record, that they all kind of forcefully pushed their way into the band in some way or another,” Vickers says with a laugh. “It was never like, ‘Hey, let’s do auditions or something.’” Regardless of how members were added, Vickers notes the most important element, and perhaps what’s contributed to the band’s longevity, is that everyone maintains a solid friendship.
“You could play with really talented musicians, but if you’re not friends at the core, there’s no point in being in a band together,” he notes. “I think the friendship that we share can really express itself musically and through the songs that you play.” Why wouldn’t you want good friends along for the ride while touring across Canada?
After multiple coast-to-coast Canadian tours, fully formed, and with the help of acclaimed producer Jesse Gander, Audio/Rocketry are set to release a self-titled album to mark the decade milestone in the band’s career. The self-titled record (fourth in Audio/Rocketry’s catalogue) has been their focus for the past three years or so and Vickers says the group wanted this album to have a message everyone stood behind.
“This [band] has always had a positive outlook, but also lyrically the songs have been a way for me to organize the way I interact with the world, new ideas that I’m trying to explore and try to organize them. I feel like ideas, or at least concepts of responsibility and social consciousness have always been at the core of this band,” Vickers explains. “On this record particularly, ideas of responsibility. What does it mean to be a responsible partner, friend, citizen in colonized Canada?
“One song we’re still making meaning of on this record is ‘Sisters,’” he continues. “It’s based on the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls of Canada and that problem we have in this nation—and even throughout North America—and how do you engage in that conversation, particularly as a white privileged male?”
It’s a question without a simple answer. Vickers notes that as a country we’re only just beginning to come to grips with our not-so-favourable past, and that it’s important to engage in conversation surrounding the issue.
“One of the things I really enjoy on our record is a sense of self-reflection,” guitarist Blair Drover says. “There always has been on the records, but the more in-depth look on the inside and not only that. What I really enjoy about the records, especially on the closing tracks, is a sense that change is progressing and becoming a better person throughout that.”
When the band members are asked what advice they would give their younger selves, Tovillo laughs, “It’s a lot more work than you think. There’s a lot that goes into it, but it’s a lot more fulfilling than I think my younger self would have imagined.”
“No matter how much you plan, things never go right,” adds Drover. “Our first thing out of the gate yesterday, our hitch snapped off the van. But instead of letting that kind of ruin our day we just figured it out, let it go and went on to a new plan.”
“I think we have become more flexible over the years because we have been doing it ourselves; booking the tours, self-releasing the records,” notes Vickers. “But I don’t think we’ve ever really had high expectations. It still blows my mind when people learn the lyrics of our songs and sing along. I didn’t ever foresee that being a reality so I think we’ve always cherished each moment.”
“I remember the first time we had a full crowd at Wunderbar. That blew our mind,” he continues. “And then when we were able to sell out the Pawnshop, we were in awe. And anytime we’ve played anywhere, people are enthusiastic about what we’re doing. We’ve really appreciated all of it. That hasn’t been lost of us and that’s why we do it.”
See Audio/Rocketry on December 1st in Calgary at the Ship & Anchor and on December 3rd in Edmonton at The Starlite Room.AB, Alberta, Audio/Rocketry, Ship & Anchor, Starlite Room