The Rocket Summer's Bryce Avary on Reading Ray Bradbury and Being on Double Dare
Bryce Avary, the man behind The Rocket Summer, has been doing his project for more than a decade now. On the heels of his latest record, Life Will Write the Words, he returns to Dallas on Friday, with States and The Scene Aesthetic.
En route to San Diego from Las Vegas, Avary called and we discussed a variety of first experiences, including the first Ray Bradbury book he read, when his family was on Double Dare and seeing shows around the DFW area.
Since Ray Bradbury recently passed away and your band name comes from a short story he wrote, was The Martian Chronicles the first book of his you read?
I believe that was the first one. I was a 16-year-old kid when I named The Rocket Summer, not having any idea it was going to become the rest of my life. I was sitting in algebra. I had recorded this CD at Deedle [LaCour]'s place. At the time, I had done everything on it, but I just didn't like the idea of naming it my name because I was wanted people to feel a part of it. I just knew that there would be nobody in my high school that would wear a Bryce Avary T-shirt.
What's really freaky is to think it was before Dashboard Confessional, before Bright Eyes. The only guy I was taking my cues from was Will Johnson from Centro-matic. He had just put out a record, Redo the Stacks, where he played everything on it and he named it that. So I was literally walking in his footsteps and my friend and I were reading The Martian Chronicles. There's a chapter called "Rocket Summer," and my friend suggested I name it The Rocket Summer. I said, "That sounds pretty cool." I don't know if I've ever made a decision that quickly.
Have you read Fahrenheit 451, other short stories, or even watched his TV show?
I did read some of Fahrenheit and that was awesome. I'm that guy that has read so many books about ten chapters in. I'm a really perpetually busy person and so I can only start the first halves of books.
Totally switching gears here, but I saw something on your Wikipedia page, and since Wikipedia is often questionable with their information, I like to ask the artist to verify.
So, was Double Dare the first time you were on TV?
Oh my God. Yeah, I was on Double Dare as a kid. I did some other TV things too, but all the stuff I was on TV for wasn't because I was trying to be on TV, it was one of these weird things. I was on vacation with my family at Universal Studios in Florida and this lady walked up to me, my mom, dad, and my brother and she was like, "Y'all look like a perfect family for television. Y'all want to be on the show?" So me and my brother kinda lost our minds about it. They said, "Well, come in right now and let's see what you can do. Can you make up a rap?" My family looked at me and I went and wrote a rap about us being on Double Dare, being as cool as ice. And we made it on the show. If you watch that show, it went down as a pretty funny episode for Double Dare enthusiasts. We didn't answer a single question right and we beat the other team. So, only in America.
I was a huge fan of the show back in the day. Did you ever see the episode where the winning team was booed once it was announced they were going to the final round?
Oh my gosh. We should have been booted off because we didn't answer a single question right. Nobody booed for us, but that's crazy. I wish I could have seen that.
Do you remember the first time you played the instruments on a recording of your own? I've done it before and I can be fun, but also a little nerve-wracking when you're doing it on, say, a four-track cassette tape.
It's no joke. I remember the first time I did it, I was in seventh or eighth grade, doing it on a four-track. I started playing the drums with no music and I just layered so many things on top of it. I would bounce it down to one tape. By the end of it, it was just this huge, hissy mess. I think the song was called "Typically Hypocritical." It was about a girl.
Was this the first time you heard your own singing voice on tape?
I believe so. My voice has been a journey in itself. There are records where I go, "That is crazy. I didn't know that people somehow liked that." I feel like I'm finally getting into a good relationship with my voice. It's weird, you listen to my first EP and my voice is a whole lot deeper than it is on Do You Feel? I don't know how that happened. I'm working on it.
The last time I saw you play - at the Warped Tour two years ago - you "created" a song, something you do regularly. What was the inspiration behind that, and do you remember the first time you did it?
I did it as an experiment once. I literally started jamming in front of the crowd. It was one of the biggest moments in the set. And then I started incorporating it more into the set for that reason. It's fun. I just get bored, man. It's like I've been on tour for a long time, so it's fun to jump on a kit and do it and layer things. I always try really hard to put on the biggest show that I can.
Before the Warped Tour, I saw you twice before: opening for Idlewild at Trees, where it was just you and a drummer playing along with a DAT machine. And then opening for Jimmy Eat World at the Gypsy Tea Room. I was interviewing [Jimmy Eat World drummer] Zach Lind and then you started playing. It was perfect timing. Any memories of those shows?
Those are two amazing bands. The Idlewild thing, I was so in love with that record [The Remote Part] and we asked to be on that show. I remember that well because I had built this thing that said "The Rocket Summer" using these individual letters. During the last show, the "R" fell off, so it was "The Ocket Summer."
Yeah! I saw that.
That was funny. And the Jimmy Eat World show, that was a great and bittersweet moment because we weren't ready to do that show. Jimmy Eat World personally called us and asked us to play, which was terribly flattering. I didn't even have a band at that moment. They kinda caught me in this weird time where I had wrapped up a record, so I just called my friends and we worked so hard for a few days and got a short set together.
Did you get to check out Jimmy Eat World while they played?
Oh yeah! Such a good band. I've been such a huge fan of Jimmy Eat World. I saw them on Static Prevails at Rubber Gloves in front of very few people. I was the only 14-year-old kid in there. They kept playing all these new songs and we were bummed because we wanted to hear Static Prevails. These new songs were Clarity, which ended up being such an influential record.
I was fortunate to see Jimmy Eat World, At the Drive-In and Post From Vermont at Rubber Gloves. It was incredible.
That show haunts me. My friends make fun of me forever for it. I had my own show that night in Fort Worth, but I probably could have made the show. The Mudd brothers, John and J.J., who are now in Ishi, were in another band and were playing, but I had just started dating this girl and there was concern that she didn't want there to be any drama and I didn't go. Oh, horrible decision. The things you do when you're young and think you're in love.
The reason why I ask about seeing Jimmy Eat World at the Gypsy Tea Room: I watched the show from the mixing desk. Something I noticed - granted when you only look at the front row, it can be misleading - but when they played "Seventeen," there were blank faces throughout the first few rows.
So funny. O.G. Jimmy Eat World fans.
I've seen you at a few shows over the years. You were at the Archers of Loaf show last year, right?
Yeah! I had been waiting for that show virtually my whole life. Archers of Loaf and Superchunk really were my life when I was 13 through 16. Archers of Loaf vs.The Greatest of All Time EP is flawless, in my opinion. I'm a huge fan of Eric [Bachmann]. I was at a wedding the night before and I flew home the next day and I literally just jumped off a plane and drove straight to The Loft to the see show. It was really cool; got to see a bunch of people I hadn't seen in a really long time.
Did you ever get to see At the Drive-In?
I got to see At the Drive-In at Trees.
Oh no, you saw that show too?
I think Murder City Devils were opening.
Yeah! 400 Blows also played.
Yeah! I was at that show and then I played with The Mars Volta in Japan pretty shortly after that. They're kinda quiet dudes.
The sad thing about what I thought was going to be my last time to see At the Drive-In was how sloppy they were and it looked like the band was becoming two different bands at the time. So I was thankful to see them play at Trees again a few months ago.
How was that?
It was insane. The only time I had seen Trees that packed was when I saw Bright Eyes on the Lifted tour. Just trying to write notes down in my notebook was impossible because I was on the floor and everybody was pushing each other. The band played really, really well. People were going nuts for them, as they should.
I bet almost everyone in there had never seen them. We were on tour and that was all I saw on my Facebook friend wall for a few hours.