In December, Elitist will be celebrating their one-year anniversary. The fact that the up-and-coming metallers haven’t been around for very long shouldn’t discourage you from giving them a listen, though. Soon after dropping their debut EP, ‘Caves,’ the group gained a solid following of melodic metal-loving fans. With the recent release of their second EP, ‘Earth,’ which revolves around a similar theme, the quintet have not only shown off their technical proficiency, but the know-how to make it as a metal act. Expect big things from Elitist.
Earlier this month, Rock Edition spoke with guitarist Julian Rodriguez over the phone. Keep reading to find out what he said about Elitist, his guitars, ‘Earth,’ Forever Orion, and more.
Halloween wasn’t too long ago. Did you do anything fun?
Yeah, my bassist, Mike [Danese], was having a little party, so I went over to his place.
Nice. I didn’t have any candy this Halloween. I think I just don’t like it much anymore. What about you?
I didn’t have much candy, actually.
Oh, good. I was thinking there was something wrong with me.
Anyway, enough about Halloween. I recently saw a cool announcement on Elitist’s Facebook page: you guys will be playing a show with As I Lay Dying in December. That sounds like fun.
Yeah, it’s going to be really cool. I believe it’s going to take place on one of their off-days on their tour that is coming through town. Blkheart is our management group and they are also co-working with As I Lay Dying. The show is going to be in a 400-capacity room, and they usually play for thousands and thousands of people. I had no idea how much they get paid each show, but I found out it was a lot. Anyway, they’re going to do this show, and they’re barely getting paid a fraction of what they usually get, so I thought it was really cool that they’re doing that. It’s going to be sold out, so that will also be cool.
Absolutely. It sounds like it’s definitely going to be packed.
Now, I know that you’ve been in a couple of other bands, but Elitist is the first one that I’ve actually heard a lot about. You guys seemed to have come out of nowhere. How did you become somewhat well-known in such a short time?
Well, I started a band with my buddy Jake, who was the original singer [for Elitist]. He actually lives down the street from me. We were in a band called Another Day in Vain. It was just a fun project that we had back when we were in 10th or 11th grade. After that, I went to a band called The Fortune Teller with Sean [Hall, guitarist]. After that fell through, me and Jake wanted to bring back Another Day in Vain to play one show. We decided to get Daniel [Schwartz], the guitarist of Volumes, to play drums for us. We put everything together, and I wrote one new song called “Principles,” and we then decided to actually make a band.
We started getting together a lineup, and we just wanted to be really smart about the way that we presented the band. We started to hit it hard with online marketing. We really wanted to get our name out there quickly. So back when Myspace was still kind of popular for bands, I got one of those Myspace friend adders. We put up one song and got really cool artwork made. Everything started to look professional, but nobody still knew who we were. What was cool about the friend adder was that you could take friends from certain bands’ pages. I started to take friends from August Burns Red, Born of Osiris, and other people that would like our music. Once we got up to something like 60,000 friends, it started to look we had a following, you know? If you came on the page, you might have thought of us as a pretty credible band, even though we weren’t.[laughs] That’s amazing!
It just spiraled from there. We hit a few snags with the lineup and made some changes, put out an EP [‘Caves’], and then we shot a music video. The music video started to get more and more plays and it spiraled into more popularity, and then it started taking off on its own.
At what point did you guys hook up with Blkheart?
It was probably five or six months ago.
Wow. So a lot was done before they came along.
Pretty much everything up until the ‘Earth’ EP was without Blkheart.
Speaking of ‘Earth,’ I remember reading that it was inspired — much like ‘Caves’ — by the Planet Earth documentary series. Would you call ‘Earth’ a concept album, though?
Sort of. The artwork and themes are all related to the same concept. I got this LG TV one year, and I never had cable before in my room, so I just used my Playstation to watch DVDs. For Christmas, my mom bought me the Planet Earth DVD set. Instead of watching TV, I would fall asleep watching that series every night. I really loved it. When we were shooting names around for the first EP, I looked down at one of the DVDs called Caves, which is all about cave life, and I said, “Let’s just do that.” And so, yeah, some of the lyrics that Jake wrote were about nature and stuff.
When you were done with ‘Caves’ and decided to work on something new, why didn’t you do a full-length instead?
What a lot of bands will do is put out a full-length record before they have a lot of credibility to their name. Usually, the first record is always the best record. For me, Circa Survive’s first record [‘Juturna’] was one of their best. To me, it would be a shame to release an awesome first album without really getting our name out there as much as we possibly can. At first, everyone in the band really wanted to do a full-length — including myself — but our management kind of brought what I was just saying to our attention. They also said that we should put out an EP so that everyone could hear the new vocalist. This EP is sort of an update of where we’re at. The music turned out to be a little bit different and slow-paced, but we haven’t lost that intensity. It just so happens that these four songs that we wrote didn’t have the same up-tempo stuff going on, but we’ll definitely be incorporating that [on our next release].
A new vocalist can definitely make or break a band, so it sounds like that was a good call.
I know you’re sort of a gearhead like myself. I saw that you uploaded a picture of a new guitar to your Facebook profile recently. The guitar in the picture is a seven-string guitar, but I know you use a lot of six-strings. Will you be using more seven-strings now?
I don’t really care how many strings we use. I remember that some of the members of the band wanted to tune lower, but I’ve always been an advocate of not tuning low — everyone’s doing that now. My point to the guys was, “Hey, look, we somewhat have our sound going, let’s keep doing that and not fall into the same boat that a lot of bands are falling into with the down-tuning and constant chugging.” For me, seven-string guitars are cool, but I’m not an advocate of tuning any lower than drop B, which is already a pretty low tuning. I tune my seven-string guitar to drop B, just like all my other six-strings, except with my seven-string I have an extra added high note, which is F#. Both of our EPs were recorded with six-strings. I know that Sean has a seven-string that he tuned way lower for his side project, and that’s pretty much all he uses it for. I tend to stick with six-strings, but last night at my show I played a seven-string — it’s fun. And the new guitar looks badass, so I love playing it. [chuckles]
Who’s the seven-string made by?
It’s an Agile guitar [with Seymour Duncan Blackouts].
Yeah. I have an Agile, Jackson Soloist, Ibanez [S5470], and two LTD guitarists.
Very nice! What kind of stuff are you currently practicing on guitar?
I’ve never been a crazy shredder. Like, last night at my show, we were watching this band — they’re also on Blkheart — called Jameson. The band’s guitarist shreds real hard. He does a lot of speed picking. That’s never been my forte, so right now I’m trying to work on fast picking.
Let’s talk about your other project, Forever Orion. On December 16, you’ll be releasing ‘Passion. Love. Harmony.’ That’s going to be a full-length?
Yeah, it’ll be eight songs, so pretty much a full-length.
How did Forever Orion come about? It’s a fairly new project.
Me and Jake have always been huge Killswitch [Engage] fans. Jake actually works full-time at this marketing firm. He couldn’t take off work enough to come to band practice, and he definitely couldn’t take off work enough to tour. After he left Elitist, we started this new project. So I cranked out all eight songs in a manner of a month or so. I wrote them all using Guitar Pro. Well, when it came time to track vocals, unfortunately, he didn’t have time to come to my house to record vocals.
What a guy!
Yeah, right? [chuckles] I would hit him up every day, but he wasn’t very responsive. Eventually, I hit up my buddy Chris [Balay], who actually originally tried out for Elitist. I gave Jake the option to come in, but he said that I should just do it with Chris because he didn’t have time and blah blah blah. Anyway, Chris and I are now almost done tracking all the vocals. The songs are almost complete, and we’ll be putting it up on iTunes soon.
Ah, interesting! I was curious why Jake left. I remember seeing his name on Forever Orion’s Facebook page a while back, and I was surprised when it suddenly went away. So you’re recording everything at home?
Yeah, I record everything out of my bedroom. The way my writing works is I’ll write everything into Guitar Pro first and then record it. I recorded all of the Elitist stuff at my house and then sent the finished guitar tracks and bass tracks over to Diego [Farias of Volumes] so that he could mix and master it. We would record vocals at his house, because he has a good mic. For Forever Orion, I did the same thing, but I just mixed it and mastered it myself. Basically, the guitars are recorded straight into Logic Pro. I use a combination of Guitar Rig 3, which I love, and Waves GTR. For Bass, I use Guitar Rig, too. For drums, I write all the drum parts in Guitar Pro and then export it to a MIDI file and use Superior Drummer. I got a new mic recently, so we’ve been doing all the vocals at my house, too.
Will Forever Orion ever have an actual bassist and drummer, or do you want to keep doing what you’re doing as a duo?
Times of Grace, which has the first singer [Jesse Leach] of Killswitch and the guitarist Adam [Dutkiewicz], did the two-guy thing where they wrote the album themselves and recorded it. It was the same thing with us, except our music isn’t as badass. What we’re doing is just going to be a fun side project for right now. We’re probably also going to put together a music video just for fun. Down the line, if something happens and I’m not in Elitist anymore, than I could definitely see Forever Orion going somewhere. As of right now, it’s a fun side project.
Did Daniel Wagner of D-Dub Designs do the cover art for ‘Passion. Love. Harmony.’?
Did you give him some direction when it came to designing the artwork?
I told him, “Hey, I just want it to look good. Think of passion, love, and harmony and an image of what that could be.” He told me that he took an awesome picture when he went on vacation. He took the picture, added some stuff to it, and made it look sweet. When he sent it to me, I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty badass.” When I look at it, I just think of balance and harmony. It works for me.
Considering the fact that both Elitist and Forever Orion are new bands, have you thought much about where you want to take them? Do you have a plan, or are you taking things as they come?
We’re doing both. I just want to take these things as far as I can. Bands fall apart, and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s really hard to rely on members — that’s the hardest part about being in a band. Sometimes one guy in the group can screw everyone over. We might be playing some really cool shows on the East Coast and Texas soon. It’s not one hundred percent confirmed yet, but it’s sort of ramping up. I’m in college. I eventually want to go on to writing music for TV, film, and commercials, or maybe be a recording engineer. Right now everything’s pretty cool, so we’ll see how it goes.
Cool. I guess we’ll hear about those touring plans in a month or two?
Yeah, exactly. It’ll all be next year. It’s funny, we’ll just be hanging out at a show and our manager Andrew will come up to us and say, “Oh, by the way, I’ve pretty much got you guys confirmed for blah blah blah.” And we’re like, “Oh, wow, thanks.” So, yeah, we have some really cool things coming up, and it’s going to be exciting.
Pick up Elitist’s new EP, Earth.
For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.