02.20.06 'A Rooster for the Masses are from Raleigh; they make moody Brit-influenced dance-pop that sounds like it stems from that same uneasy period in the early 80s that found Gang of Four experimenting with disco, and Joy Division morphing into New Order in the wake of Ian Curtis's suicide. Politics and disco, morbidity & synth-pop.'--Ross Grady WXDU Creative Loafing 01.21.06 As you might expect from a band with such an inscrutable moniker, you're probably not going to leave a Rooster For the Masses show with anything other than a polarized reaction. Imagine Howard Zinn fronting Les Savy Fav and you begin to get an idea of the band's musical MO: dance-y, synth-driven, but containing enough anti- establishment riffage to stiffen the privates of even the most hardened pinko. I happen to dig it. But then again, I once voted for Jerry Brown.--Davis Independent Weekly 01.18.06 In the vernacular of the 47.3 million-member, Rupert Murdoch-owned MySpace.com, Raleigh's A Rooster for the Masses is a 'friend whore.' That is, they've got more friends--4,139 and climbing--than they could ever remember. Damning epithets and all, they couldn't be happier. 'A band sees how many friends you have on there, and then they know if you can bring people out or not. They can hear the music and read what people are saying about you,' says vocalist Adam Eckhardt, one of the band's two songwriters, in a recent interview. 'It's invaluable for us,' says guitarist Wesley Gillespie, who recorded the band's debut EP, Gallo Rojo, in his own studio. For A Rooster for the Masses, it's all about the people. For instance, the band plays three- or maybe four-member rock with six people: Eckhardt, Gillespie, bassist Alex Cox, drummer Rob Lackey, guitarist and keyboardist David Patterson and vocalist and keyboardist Bart Tomlin. It's not complicated enough to warrant a sextet, really. It's rock 'n' roll with a social conscience. Their live shows are dance-punk parties in the hands of smart arrangers with big ideas. But somehow, A Rooster doesn't seem--or, more importantly, sound--overpopulated. Instead, it just seems like more fun to incorporate the whole gang into a jamming-with-friends experience with two vocalists and a second percussionist. Eckhardt claims that a MySpace e-mail to a Rooster never goes unanswered. 'You can treat people you've never met like they're a real friend. It's one of those things that you can spend endless time with, and you can learn a lot about people--if you know them or don't know them,' muses Eckhardt, who started playing music with former Rooster drummer Greg Joyner as a student at East Carolina University. 'I mean, there are people telling you about their drug habits on MySpace.' And there's the professional networking, too. Almost all of the band's gigs--save their Kings stops--have been a direct result of communication through MySpace. Already, they've swapped sets with bands in Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Washington, D.C. and Columbia, S.C. 'It's one thing if you feel comfortable somewhere and consider it home, like Kings. But if you decide to play somewhere else, you may be afraid none of your fans will come out and you'll play to no one,' says Eckhardt. 'You can't be afraid to play to no one.' That's not necessarily unique, as thousands of bands--from guy-with-guitar projects like Phil Moore's Bowerbirds to the all-assault rock of Birds of Avalon--have turned to MySpace as an outlet and a resource. But Tomlin's experience with the network, at least, sets A Rooster apart: After joining a then-unnamed project with Gillespie and Cox in 2004, he accepted a MySpace friend request from a band called A Rooster for the Masses. When he got to practice later that week, he learned that A Rooster for the Masses--a name inspired by another Raleigh export, David Sedaris, and his brother, The Rooster--was the new name of the hitherto-untitled band he'd been writing with. 'I didn't mind that because the last project I was in we went around and around trying to pick a name and it was one of those things where every time we picked something they would go tell their friends and they would say it was stupid,' says Tomlin, who, before A Rooster, had played exactly one show with one other band before it's guitarist quit. 'It doesn't matter what we're called, as long as the music is good.' The band came together in a collaborative fashion. Gillespie and Cox had been playing together in bands since they met working a retail job. Five years earlier, Gillespie had moved to Raleigh because of it's mid-'90s music scene. Gillespie and Cox eventually found themselves paired as Radical 9, a largely electronic project that was a placeholder until they could find the band. 'We couldn't exactly find the people to play with,' says Gillespie. 'The electronic stuff we did was out of necessity, and it was cool. But it put us in just one place.' They hoped to transform the Radical 9 songs into live-instrument manifestos fit for public performance. Tomlin offered his services, and he and Eckhardt--another vocalist and songwriter--showed up for the same job at the same practice. For Cox, that was an unintentional victory. According to Tomlin, Cox once said he would never be in another band with just one vocalist. 'I kind of feel like it removes the layer of personality of just one vocalist representing one band,' says Cox. 'And being able to push each other as equals to what everyone is capable of is nothing but good.' Well, in that case, add a friend. A Rooster for the Masses plays it's CD release show at Kings on Friday, Jan. 20 at 10 p.m. The band plays again at Wetlands in Chapel Hill on Sunday, Jan 22.--Grayson Currin Independent Weekly 08.29.05 ...Eight days a week One of the few bands standing to insist that the war isn't over though the battle (read: Nov. 2) is lost, A Rooster for the Masses mines a Margaret Thatcher-fueled English jerk 25 years--and 17 years of Republican presidential prudery--later, in the shadow of a stateside administration that is lighting too few musical fires. Donald-damning commandments and full-on lambaste of the wayward American way ensue, professed and preached in a live setting that asks impolitely for dancers--guitar slices, crazy key slides and a polemic two-frontman dynamic. A Rooster is sick of your snooze button.--Grayson Currin The Raleigh Hatchet, issue 17, Aug. 2005 It could be argued that the Rooster is perhaps the most remarkable of Chinese Astrology's curious progeny: gifted and meticulous, the Rooster exemplifies soul through strut, galvanizing change through art and most notably through music (his rousing call to the masses). Though the definition might seem quixotic and a bit virgin, the Rooster is by no means an amateur. He's an authentic professional, clearly principled and realistic in his goals, and before his year is up he's going to show this town just what a clever cock can do. I'm referring, of course, to Raleigh's own resident dance-rock fowl, A Rooster For The Masses. Since their inception in the fall of 2004, they've garnered the sort of local notoriety usually reserved for the Triangle's finest caste of rocknroll stock, though as veterans of the music scene itself they realize that 'notoriety' isn't necessarily the degree by which any band should be measured. To put it in their own words, 'There's nothing more important that the integrity of the music.' How endearing modesty can be when you come across so little of it. Rooster's narrative essentially begins with Radical 9, the audio/electronic production team conceived by bassist Alex Cox, guitarist Wesley Gillespie, and Rooster's thoroughly proficient sound engineer (and reluctant manager), Nick Pfirman. Cox and Gillespie had previously been linked to bands like The Veldt and The Not So Dandelions, but Radical 9 was something entirely different. It was a chance for the duo to render sound behind the scenes, which among other things included remixing a popular track for indie sub-stars Cornelius. In late September of last year Cox and Gillespie pondered recreating Radical 9's somnambulist loops and innovative beats using live instrumentation; Greg Joyner (drums) and David Patterson (guitar) were enlisted to help flesh the songs out, while Bart Tomlin (vocals, keyboards) and Adam Eckhart (vocals) joined soon after. As these sessions progressed, the group's strange dynamic became more and more apparent and the playful experiment quickly took on a life of it's own. The Rooster's fate had been proverbially sealed. They premiered as A Rooster For The Masses on New Year's Eve at King's Barcade, Raleigh's own hipster hideaway, and have since affectionately adopted the venue as 'home base'. King's, which is undergoing it's 6th anniversary as I write, has become a virtual harem of talent, local or otherwise, recently accommodating red-letter acts such as Richard Buckner, Bettie Serveert, and Mary Timony. I'm told that the band took their name initially from a David Sedaris short story entitled 'You Can't Kill The Rooster'; in it Sedaris fondly writes of his brother, Paul, who has a penchant for calling himself 'the Rooster'. Why? Because, as Paul says, 'Certain motherf***ers think they can f*** with my shit, but you can't kill the Rooster [...] nobody kills the motherf***ing Rooster.' To avoid being known simply as the motherf***ing Roosters, the band has since expanded the definition of their name to include 'a wake up call for the people' - fitting, considering the lyrical content of their songs. Socially-conscious rhapsodies fused with danceable, disco-like grooves that work over an electronic/organic hybrid of beats, synths and guitar. A messy contradiction? Hardly. It's the very crux of Rooster's philosophy: people can think and shake their asses at the same time. Imagine a Station To Station era Bowie backed by Saint Etienne, with Graham Coxon and Howard Zinn thrown in for kicks. Don't be mistaken, though - these aren't the gutter-spun politico-alibis of Ani Difranco or Michelle Shocked, nor are they the visionary gospels of Patti Smith; Rooster have shaped their own unique manifesto, a declaration of 'everything you know is bullshit - let's dance'. And dance we do, even as they sing about immigration, national security, and yes, Terry Schiavo. Are prospective fans going to be alienated by this attempt at subliminal zealotry? 'No matter what the music sounds like,' says Bart Tomlin, 'there's going to be a chunk of people that absolutely hate it.' Touché. Besides, if dropping a quote by Donald Rumsfeld ('You go to war with the Army you have...') into one of your live shows sends the crowd cheering, you must be doing something right. In September, A Rooster For The Masses will celebrate their first year together by appearing at American Whitewater's Gauley Festival in Summersville WV, an event which draws between 4,000-5,000 spectators annually. It's Rooster's biggest show to date, and could very well be the most important juncture in their career. Though when asked about it, the band continued to play coy. 'We'll see how it goes,' Alex Cox told me, with a slight shrug of the shoulders. Quick, somebody call Tommy Lee, these boys need lessons in how to be swaggering pricks! Spend too long in the self-congratulating microcosm of any 'scene' and you start to believe that every band is a collective asshole waiting to happen. Fortunately for the boys in A Rooster For A Masses, that isn't the case. They've resolved themselves to enjoy what they do (and are grateful for the opportunity). Nothing is more important than the integrity of the music, true - but what is equally important is the quality of the experience involved in making it. It is that very quality which will keep Rooster wired, vital, and relevant for years to come. A Rooster For The Masses are currently recording material for an EP; they hope to release an album by early next year. During the past nine months they've been performing vigorously in venues across the state, and August will see them playing with Exit Clov both at King's Barcade in Raleigh on the 19th and at the Velvet Lounge in Washington D.C. on the 20th.--J.E. Pilkington.
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