Chest Rockwell

Jerry Lucky: People can find out about your origins off your website I’m sure…but tell us how the band “really” came together?


Josh Hines: Nick Rouse and I were in a punk/ska band in high school and our early college years called Pimpslap, when that band broke up in 2003 I switched from bass to guitar and started writing some acoustic songs just to see what would happen.  I self-released a small run of CDs under the Chest Rockwell name in early 2004 and managed to talk Nick and Stewie into giving me a shot at creating a band based around some of those songs a few months later.  We really should have changed the name to something better when we did that (we all have regrets about sticking with this band name for as long as we have).  Back in high school Nick and I had been in a short-lived band called Running in Circles with Stewie and my cousin, David (who last fall joined Chest Rockwell on keys), so we knew the three of us had some chemistry, we just didn't have any idea what we were doing or what sound we were going for in the early CR days.  Needless to say, our first album 'Back to Square One' sounds nothing like the band today and I don't really recommend it for anyone but the die-hards.  Seth joined the band in the fall of 2005 after the recording of 'Back to Square One' but before the release of it.  Stewie had been in a band with Seth just a year or so before CR started so we knew him and what type of player he was.  I've always considered Seth joining up to be the best thing that ever happened to us in terms of giving us the freedom to try different things and move into the style that we've progressed into.  I mostly played acoustic guitar on the entire first album so it has a raw sort of 'garage' type sound to it, nothing like the more polished and increasingly heavy/spacey type stuff we do today.  I really attribute the shift in direction to Seth coming in and having a specific style and us adapting to it.  He has personally taught me a lot on guitar and using effects, he used to tease me that I played guitar like a bass player and I admit that sometimes I still do.  We asked my cousin, David, if he had any interest in playing with us in the fall of 2011 and he jumped at it so now we're moving forward as a 5-piece.  David sang in the previously mentioned Running in Circles and he's been my best friend my entire life so we really had no question of how he would fit in with us.  We actually used to practice in his house in 2004 and 2006 and we recorded 'Vs The World' in his basement.  We've currently got 5 new songs finished with David on them, we're hoping to record them in the next few months. 


JL: What made you want to be musicians?


JH: I have an older brother that got me into music as a kid and when I was 14 I picked up the bass.  I started playing guitar sometime in the next couple of years but I primarily played bass up until I was around 22 and then picked up drums around age 23 with my other band Technology Vs Horse.  I don't know what really made me want to be a musician, I guess just the idea of being creative and that art in any form can really help people sometimes.  Music is one of the only things that I'm good at so I just run with it.  I found out a few months ago that I have synesthesia so that might subconsciously have something to do with what drew me to music when I was younger but I really have no idea, I thought everybody saw the same colors I do when listening to music.


Nick Stewart: Any music lover will tell you that music can carry a lot of power. When I was young, I wanted to be a part of that power so I started playing music.


JL: Is Chest Rockwell a full time gig? Or is there some juggling of day-jobs?


JH: Definitely the juggling of day jobs.  I'm a director at a TV station, Seth is a manager at Wal-mart, Stewie is a high school English teacher, Nick and David work together at a pet store and both do private fish tank work for people on the side so we struggle to get schedules lined up sometimes.  We would all like the band to be a full time gig but at this point in our lives it would have to be a pretty decent deal in order for us to actually take it.  Stewie has a 4 year old daughter and Seth's wife is expecting their first child in May and we've all got pets that are like kids to us so the idea of doing really long tours and all of that stuff seems a little out of reach for us at this point but we would definitely be open to offers and would consider anything that might come along.  


NS: There are definitely day-jobs. A couple of us have families, so it would be impractical to try to survive without one.


JL: Where’d the name come from?


JH: The name came from the movie Boogie Nights.  John C. Reilly played a character named Reed Rothchild and Reed ends up playing a character called Chest Rockwell in this porn/James Bond movie that they make.   It's one of my favorite movies and I liked the title for the solo CD I put out but we really should have changed it when the band started.  We've talked about changing it numerous times but having 4 CDs out now over 7 1/2 years time it seems like we're stuck with it.  If a label ever came along that might be the time to do it, I guess.  


NS: It's a character reference from the film Boogie Nights.  


JL: When you originally contacted me, you knew I was writing a prog website right?


JH: I probably did but I can't be certain at this point.  We didn't get much press at all on our first album, I didn't even know how to go about looking for press.  But when the second album (Vs the World) came out I really wanted to push it and the new direction we had taken so I started asking people what we sound like and where we should send stuff.  Somebody threw the 'prog' label at us so I figured I would try that market and see if the fans/critics took to us.  Fortunately we've gone over fairly well in the prog area and we've made some good friends all over the world.  

JL: Had you considered Chest Rockwell a prog band?


JH: I didn't for a long time.  I still don't consider us a prog band in the most basic and general of terms.  I tend to agree with how most reviewers peg us when they say we're on the fringe of prog, like we have a lot of prog elements but aren't necessarily your typical prog band.  We certainly have a sound that we like but we don't like the idea of any limitations at all on what we're expected to do so that makes us not want to have a specific label.  We incorporate a lot of the 'standards' of prog into our sound, the mixed-metre time, dynamics,  non-traditional arrangements, technicality, longer songs, conceptual writing and story-telling, etc. but as far as us being a prog band or not I'll leave that up to the people that really know prog and know what they're talking about.   Having said all of that, we definitely feel comfortable and are grateful for being put in the genre, people have been very responsive and positive towards us.


NS: The "prog" label makes sense, I suppose, but we've never really written music with the intention of being prog. I think we're fairly indifferent about it. 


JL: Backing up a bit…what do you guys consider to be a prog band?


JH: As far as what bands do I consider to be prog bands I'd have to go with the classics like Rush, Yes, King Crimson, etc and when it comes to more modern era bands I would think of Mars Volta, Dream Theater, Coheed, Porcupine Tree, etc.  I guess when I think of a prog band I think that the band should be comfortable incorporating everything that music theory has to offer and not writing music for the purpose of being commercially accepted.  I think of smart, technically skilled musicians that aren't afraid to push the boundaries and try different things.  But of course there is that sort of sound that I don't know how to put into words, just that 'prog' sound.  I'm not great at categorizing and labeling things hahaha.


NS: To me, prog involves the use of odd time signatures, sometimes a deviation from the typical verse/chorus song arrangement, not shying away from longer songs, etc. I often think of prog as rock for musicians who would be bored playing in a basic, non-challenging rock band.


JL: Was there a moment where you said: “you know what I want to be when I grow up…I want to be a starving musicians.” ?


JH: Ha!  Definitely not in those exact words.  I admit that I'm a 'poor and happy' personality type, though.  As long as I can support myself and still do the things that I love then I'm content.   


JL: My father was a full-time performing and touring musician all his life and I have some first hand knowledge of the ups and downs of the music business. He used to say it was “Chicken tonight” and then tomorrow it was feathers! How do you make that work for you?


JH: I suppose the fact that we all have day jobs is how we make that work.  We all manage to keep ourselves afloat despite needing to ask off work for the band sometimes and the band pretty much finances itself at this point.  We'll usually make gas money at the out of town gigs and the in-town gigs we make enough money to go towards recording, album pressing, etc.  I take care of all of the money and try to plan things out properly but you can't ever predict how the out of town gigs will go.  We did a bit more weekend warrior touring for 'Total Victory' than we had for the first 2 albums and we really lost our asses at some of the shows having to pay for gas and things out of pocket and because of that we haven't put as much effort into playing too far away from our home region in the last couple of years as we had previously.  We're really more into writing and recording these days than we are into playing a ton of shows each month. 


NS: We focus on making music that we enjoy playing and that we would enjoy hearing. The creative process is what drives us, not success. If we were looking for success, we would sound much differently.


JL: How have you found the response from the various music crowds?


JH: It's been really hit and miss over the years depending on where we're playing.  In our hometown we've had our ups and downs but the last couple of years we've been mostly up.  We have a joke in the band that the longer we're together and the better we get the less the crowd seems to be interested but recently we've bucked that trend, fortunately.  We started out in the beginning with a strong local following for about a year or two when the band was pretty shitty, in my opinion, and then when we weren't so new anymore it seemed like some of the crowd moved away from us.   I think we've proved that we have staying power now and the more our sound has developed the more we've picked up a new following to go with the ones that stuck around with us.  As far as out of town gigs go, I don't think we've gone over poorly too many times, if we have a bad show it seems like the venue or other bands just didn't do much in the way of promotion and not many people showed up.  Even with small crowds it seems like we always have a few people that have never heard us before approach us afterward with some positive comments and that really makes it worthwhile.  We've had some really good out of town shows but it seems like as time goes by and we 'tour' less we find that it's harder to pull good crowds too far away from home.   As far as types of crowds go, we definitely go over better with metal crowds, prog crowds, and any show we have with more musically-technical bands.  We'll gladly play with anyone, but having said that sometimes we'll play with some more mainstream rock sounding bands and their crowd doesn't seem to get into us much so we've decided to just back off of those shows more than we used to, no reason to subject people to 7 minute songs when they're only interested in choruses hahaha.  We used to go over really good with the college crowd but the older we get and the more hair we lose I think the age gap is becoming more apparent and sometimes that doesn't work to your advantage hahahaha.


NS: We generally go over well. We've gotten applause from people at punk shows, metal shows, and people who are there waiting for the next band to play.