|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS SPROCKETS
iT HAPPENS iN THREESThe Vegas-based punk trio SPROCKETS are of that same punk brotherhood mold as GREEN DAY and BLINK 182. Even in his early songwriting efforts, singer/guitarist BRODIE KNIGHT VANS sought to pattern his work after 182ís DAMMIT, but that was high school. One album and an EP later, SPROCKETS have come into their own with their sophomore release MEDICATED EMPTY. Produced by MIKE HERRERA, the thirteen-track concept album builds upon the bandís oh-so-serious approach (something that sets them apart from their aforementioned influences) but also puts the band in a most envious position both musically and artistically. ďHe gave us a lot of skills that will only help us further down the road of our careers.Ē says VANS of producer MIKE HERRERA. ďHe didnít just record us. He really took a lot of time with us Ė twelve to thirteen hour days for two months and he was there the whole time. He does about seventy-thousand things at once. Not only are we grateful, we feel really blessed that he was a part of this album. He plays just about every instrument and he has a studio in his house that he let us use. Because of him a lot of doors have opened up for us. Working with him was a very good experience.Ē
BRODiE KNiGHT SANS OF SPROCKETS
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR LATEST RELEASE MEDiCATED EMPTY
WORKiNG WiTH MiKE HERRERA
AND GROWiNG AS A SONGWRiTER
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with BRODIE KNIGHT VANS of SPROCKETS over the phone. Here is how it went.
Now that MEDICATED EMPTY is out there for everyone to hear and the work that went into it is behind you, how do you feel about the finished work?
Iím one of those people that is always looking ahead and thinking about what I could do better. Iím very happy with it. Itís not one of those CDs where I end up wanting to go back and fix this or that and redo it. I listen to it and I enjoy it. Itís how I wanted it to be. As a product, I think itís perfect and itís a great launching spot for us. Iím happy with it over all.
Talk about the genesis of SPROCKETS.
SPROCKETS came from when I was a kid. A lot of things had the name SPROCKETS when I was a kid. A character from FRAGGLE ROCK had a dog named SPROCKET. You also had MIKE MEYERS from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE who had that sketch called SPROCKETS and there was SPACELY SPROCKETS from THE JETSONS. The name of the band comes from fond childhood memories but as far as music goes, we try to be more serious and make music that means something. SPROCKETS Ė as far as a band name is concerned Ė is an oxymoron. Weíre trying to be inspirational. We are trying to be that band that someone can turn to at a dark time in their lives. That is the whole idea behind SPROCKETS.
How did music begin for you?
I was fifteen years old and my family moved to Boise, Idaho from Vegas. I was at a new school and I didnít know anyone so I ended up picking up BLINK-182ís DUDE RANCH and GREEN DAYís DOOKIE. Both of those records completely changed me. I started latching onto those two albums and told everyone that I was going to be in a band even though I didnít play an instrument at the time. Then I went down to a pawn shop and picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play. Me and the bass player DAVE picked up our respective instruments at the same time. We taught ourselves and weíve been at it ever since. It was one of those things where I needed something to do and I needed a way to let out some of my frustrations. The reason we write the kind of music we right is because it is more therapeutic than anything else.
How soon did songwriting happen after picking up the guitar?
It actually kind of happened. There was a song by BLINK-182 called DAMMIT. After I learned that song, I wrote three songs that were based off of that songs structure. One of those songs got us airplay and got us signed as well even though it was a low quality recording. We had to record it and by that time, me and DAVE had a new band. I canít even remember what I was thinking about when I wrote those songs. I wrote those three songs right off the bat and from then I knew that this was what I was gong to do.
Talk about the process in terms of songwriting. Describe how that works.
Itís not simply a matter of sitting down and writing a song. Usually I will be in the car or doing something with someone and an idea will pop into my head and then Iíll write the music and figure out how words are going to fit into the music. Iíll have harmonies and melodies in my head but I wonít have any words to them. After I play the sing for a while, a certain emotion comes to me. I sort of let the music talk to me and depending on how that makes me feel, the words will come. Itís a very slow process. Itís takes a long time for me to write a song. Once I write the lyrics, Iíll go back and reconstruct the song. I keep on adding things to the song up until we are ready to record it in the studio. Iíll add piano and strings or whatever else. Itís never a one shot deal.
Talk about the other members of the band. Who are they and what is it that each of them brings to the table both musically and personality-wise that makes it all work?
BRAVE DAVE SCHWALLER is the bassist. He is my best friend. Weíve been hanging out since we were fourteen years old. He is the funniest guy that Iíve ever met in my entire life. He reminds me a lot of ADAM SANDLER. Me and him have always gotten along and weíve always played music together. We met DUSTIN HOLLYWOOD JOHNSON in high school as well and he is the most gifted drummer Iíve ever met. He is absolutely amazing. Iím always blown away by his playing. He is the quietest funniest person. Heís is really open to you once you get to know him and he had every quote from almost every movie. The only time he never gets nervous is when he is on stage which is really weird. All together, we seem to click. Weíve brought in another guitarist before and a piano player and it doesnít click the same way that we do. If these two guys werenít in the band, I wouldnít have bothered.
Talk about working with MIKE HERRERA.
MIKE HERRERA is a very nice guy. He is very, very talented. He can do anything. He can hear things that most people canít hear. There were songs that we thought werenít working out but he sat down with us and showed us how they could work. He gave us a lot of skills that will only help us further down the road of our careers. He didnít just record us. He really took a lot of time with us Ė twelve to thirteen hours days for two months and he was there the whole time. He does about seventy-thousand things at once. Not only are we grateful, we feel really blessed that he was a part of this album. He plays just about every instrument and he has a studio in his house that he let us use. Because of him a lot of doors have opened up for us. Working with him was a very good experience.
Of the songs on this album, what moments stand out for you the most and why?
SAFETY NETS AND FASTENED WINDOWS is the only song of mine that was written in one night. I know where I was, what I was doing and what I was thinking when I wrote that song. Itís one of the songs where all I had were words in mind and nothing else. I did it backwards from my normal process. The whole album is called MEDICATED EMPTY which is also the title track on the album. Itís called that because my dad passed away on March 13, 2006 and I was going through this tremendous grieving process. Around that time, I ended up breaking my ankle and I was on a lot of medication as a result. I also had to have surgery. With all of those things combined, this whole idea came out of wanting to write music that was on the other side of the fence. Usually, you always hear about the person that got away and you never hear from the perspective of the person that got away. I wrote MEDICATED EMPTY from the perspective of the person looking for help and not the person offering the help. The whole premise for the CD evolved from that. I guess it was those two songs that made us the writers and the players that we are.
Talk about the artwork on the CD.
I wanted to put a lot of reds, blacks and grays together. I always loved ROBERT RODRIGUEZ as a director. I also love QUENTIN TARANTINO and the work that both of those guys did with FRANK MILLER and that whole SIN CITY look. When all of that came out, I thought it was really eye-catching. I love contrast of deep red and gray. When were coming up with the album title, the movie MAX PAYNE came out and it had that kind of look to it. I gave FREDDY HINOJOSA the license to do the artwork with the suggestion that we wanted something grainy. Other artists were approaching the idea for MEDICATED EMPTY with syringes and hospital beds. It wasnít the look we were going for. In one try, FREDDY came up with the right look. It was exactly what we were looking for.
How about music videos?
When I was writing the first few songs of the album, I had videos in mind for each of them. We have done a couple of videos with JANE COCHRANE who is the producer for THE APPRENTICE. We did one with her at BSU called UNIFORMED MASCARA which is the one that was on NBC a couple of months ago. It was actually the demo track and not the version you hear on the CD. Potentially all of my songs could have a video to them. I would love to step into that some more. I would love to have a video for every song but I donít think that is going to happen. We try to be a very visual band. Hopefully we will do more videos. In the meantime, our two existing videos are UNIFORMED MASCARA and NEW YEARS DAY.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
I want them to take the music for what it is. I always have a hard time answering questions regarding what a song is about because it makes people think of how it is instead of how it affects them. I really want to inspire people. I really want people to hear a song and be motivated to go do something or do something to change their situation. I think a lot of people stay in bad situation because they donít know how to get out of it or they donít have the courage or the motivation. I want people to be affected emotionally by the music and to be inspired. I would like someone to walk away thinking that theyíve listened to something that is new and original. We want to be the band that made that CD Ė the kind of CD you hear and say that no one but this band couldíve done it. I want people to feel like we didnít cheat them.