Hailing from Southern California, Rival Sons are an eclectic four-piece built for rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s sound is shaped by morsels of influence bestowed upon them by early greats like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. These boys know their roots — blues, soul, groove — and they’re not afraid to let everything seep through.
Rock Edition had a chance to speak with Rival Sons frontman Jay Buchanan about the state of rock music, the band’s upcoming touring plans with Judas Priest and Queensrÿche, and their forthcoming debut full-length. Check out what Jay had to say below.
How do you feel about the rock music coming out today?
Well, man, there’s a couple of bands out there that are doing it legitimately. Jack White’s doing a good job. That dude’s got the fucking golden touch. There’s all of this bullshit that’s getting played that the people are really chewing on and suckling at that they’re calling rock music. Rock music is very different from rock ‘n’ roll. Rock music is anything with an electric guitar. Anybody that gets on stage, they call them a rock star. What the fuck is rock? It’s rock ‘n’ roll! The Sex Pistols? They’re not rock ‘n’ roll, they’re an art installation. Rock ‘n’ roll has to be based on blues — that’s the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s got to have some heartache and satisfaction and all that.
Who epitomizes rock ‘n’ roll for you?
Most of my idols are blues guys. This is the first rock ‘n’ roll band that I’ve ever been in. I never had an appetite to play rock ‘n’ roll. I grew up on the blues and soul music. Honestly, I always thought rock ‘n’ roll and these rock bands — the music was good — but when it came down to it so much of it seemed like foolish posturing and not very honest, except for just a few bands. You get into Led Zeppelin growing up — who doesn’t love Led Zeppelin? Or The Doors. But even with Led Zeppelin it’s like, “Aw, there’s faggy Robert Plant setting white doves free from the stage.” Then you got Jim Morrison putting out shitty poetry and acting like he’s getting shot on stage. Tone it down, man. You know, it always goes over that line, but it has to go over that line if it’s going to ride the edge. So, I get it. I like true rock, like real honest stuff, where you go back to like Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Listen to “Not Fade Away” — there’s ghosts coming off of that vinyl. You can picture, smell and feel these kids sweating it out in this one room studio in Lubbock, Texas. If you listen to what The Jeff Beck Group did on the ‘Truth’ album, that’s serious shit — it’s really good! They were a bunch of young dudes hopped up on the blues and just swinging as hard as they could. Yeah, man. There’s a lot of good rock that’s been made.
Do you think that today’s music isn’t as emotional as it was back in the day?
Absolutely. I’ll sit here and talk shit on all kinds of bands. Rock ‘n’ roll is really born out of the blues and country — like real country music, the old school stuff that grew out of mountain music. That was honest stuff — people singing about real stuff. One thing that’s timeless when it comes to blues, rock, opera, or pop music: it’s always going to be about “You baby, you baby.” That’s real. You can hear the difference. People that know the difference, it’s unmistakable to them. A bone-chilling voice comes over the radio and it stops you in your tracks and you go, “Hold on, some real shit is going on there.” There’s something really honest. 95% of what you hear on a day-to-day basis is not real. I think people are aware of that. When you really get nailed, it can overtake you. The difference between now and then is that there’s a lot of other things going on. When of all this shit was really new, the electric guitar was new. These wound pickups, the amplifiers, all this technology: the 4-track recorder, the 8-track recorder — all of these things were still new and people were really trying to push and innovate because that’s all that could be done. Everything got cracked open. Jazz and bebop were going on at that time. Rock ‘n’ roll just caught on like lightning. It translated so well to the young because rock ‘n’ roll is a very knucklehead thing — there’s nothing to it. All you need is a couple of chords, turn it up loud, put it through a fuzz box and get someone to scream on the microphone — people get it.
Tell us a little bit about opening for AC/DC.
Yeah, evidently it works like with any other large band that comes through [town]. Their agent takes submissions from other booking agents and then it get thrown into a big pile, like a radio DJ gets. They listened to our stuff and said, “That’s it, right there.” That freaks me out, man. When it comes to real rock ‘n’ roll, AC/DC is fucking real. When they were in their prime, you couldn’t a rock ‘n’ roll band up against them that would not get crushed. There was so much energy going on. All their songs sound the same because they don’t need to be different. [laughs] You can sing all of those guitar solos.
Anyway, I saw the guys back stage, and they’re as short as can be. It’s like you’re in the Shire. These guys are rock gods, these guys are icons. It’s astounding.
Did you get a chance to speak with any of them?
Yeah, I got to talk to Brian [Johnson]; Angus [Young] was doing his own thing. He and Malcolm [Young], they look so frail and so little. Once they got on stage, the transformation was remarkable. Once you put the [Gibson] SG in Angus’ hands, he looks like he could kill you with his bare hands. The energy coming off of those guys — Brian’s vocals holding up throughout the show — they’re just on a different level. We play clubs and have been fortunate enough to get arena gigs and stuff. I’ve opened up arenas with 12,000 people with just me and an acoustic guitar. That’s one thing. When it comes to our band, when we get on a stage that big, it’s a whole different level. I’m used to having eight or ten feet between me and Scott [Holiday] and Robin [Everhart]. When we’re talking like 60 feet in between those guys, I’ve got a lot of fucking ground to cover. You will wear yourself out. To see AC/DC up there ruling — I’ve got a lot of respect for them.
You’ve also opened for Alice Cooper and Kid Rock. How were those shows?
Kid Rock — it’s cool. He’s got his thing. His audience really dug it and that’s the main thing. We were playing for troops when we played with Kid Rock. For us, it was really much more about that. No knock on Kid Rock — he does his thing. Getting to play with Alice Cooper and Ace Frehley [of Kiss] was cool. Ace is all washed up, but Alice Cooper gets out there and works his ass off. That’s all I look for — somebody who’s not going to phone it in. There’s no excuse for that — ever. If you’re going to play a show, you’ve got to give everything you’ve got. At the end of the day, that’s all the crowd wants — they want a fucking crucifixion. They want blood and you’ve got to give it to them.
You guys released your self-titled EP at the beginning of this year. It includes your new single “Torture.” Will the track be on your upcoming album?
No, “Torture” is just the single for the EP. Our next record is coming out in June. It’s not even a six-month period between records. We released this EP to get some old songs out. We got the dough together, hopped in the studio and cut it live — all of us in the room. We wanted to clear the slate. When we put the EP out, it was kind of an afterthought. We didn’t expect “Torture” to have the traction that it did. It’s a very good feeling. Especially going over to London and hearing it on the radio. Getting to go to these radio stations, and talking to journalists has been nice. There’s a different single off of the upcoming record that’s coming up.
So the new record will be brand new tunes?
Yeah, the new record is all new material. We signed with Earache Records and then we hit the road. We were on tour for five or six weeks. When we were in New York, we met up with Al [Dawson] and the guys from Earache. The whole team is out there and they’re saying, “You guys got songs ready?” We were scheduled to start recording the day we got home from tour. We were like, “Yeah…no. We don’t have any songs together.” Everybody was freaking out a little. We finished up in Florida, hopped in the van and beelined it all the way back to Los Angeles, got in on a Sunday night and started recording on Monday morning. We went in there with no material. We just got our instruments, loaded everything in, and started writing at least one song a day. We’d record the song right after it was written.
What’s going to be on the upcoming record?
You know, it’s the regular old stuff, man. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, so you don’t want to get too heavy or tell people what to think. I know that’s popular with a lot of other bands, but that’s not our role. We want people to escape. People come to a rock ‘n’ roll show to get away from their ugly wife or the boss they hate. We just want to set people free and give them a break. We wrote, recorded, and mixed the album in less than three weeks. We feel like it reflects the immediacy that we wanted it to because we were totally unprepared.
It sounds like a big task, but if the songs are ready to come out it must feel liberating.
I’m not going to sit here and act like it was a breeze. It was fucking hard work. It was very trying. I arrange, I write all the lyrics and melodies, and I piece the songs together. When we get done recording for the day, the other guys get to go home. For me, I come home and I’ve got to sit on my front porch and stay up writing all night. It was definitely a tough process, but it was cool. That’s what we signed up for. We got the end result we were looking for.
In addition to releasing the new album, this summer you’ll be playing with Judas Priest and Queensrÿche.
Yeah, that’s going to be sick.
Were you influenced by them when you were growing up?
Not so much an influence, other than being a kid and wanting to get fucking rowdy. Being a kid and listening to “Breaking the Law” just makes you want to break shit. When you’re a young man, that’s the perfect soundtrack.
Sounds like a cool tour.
The tour will be like a neapolitan ice cream sandwich: three totally different flavors you’re going to get there. I’m really looking forward to watching Priest do their thing every night. I’m not really familiar with Queensrÿche, Scott’s more into their whole scene, but I’m looking forward to watching them do what they do. These are guys that have been doing it a long time. Watching people who know what they’re doing, you just get inspired. I’m really looking forward to seeing that every night. Everybody’s got a different lean on the craft.
In the meantime, anything else going on?
We’re just finishing up artwork for the upcoming record right now. We were fortunate enough that Storm Thorgerson wanted to work with us. When it comes to album art, that guy’s in the top three. When you consider all the Zeppelin covers and Pink Floyd covers — he brought album art up to a whole different level. So, he’ll be finishing up with that. We’re filming a video on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I think we’re playing some big show out here in Hollywood at the top of May. Then, it’s just preparing and getting everything taken care of. We’ve got some festival dates in the States, then we’re off to Europe. We need to get all our ducks in a row. This has been a very busy year for us. We’d like to put another record out as soon as possible, even after this upcoming one.
Pick up Rival Sons’ new self-titled EP.
For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their official website.