Mike Ruocco of Plunge
Formed in 1995, Plunge has singlehandedly built their own adoring fanbase by getting back to basics. What basics you ask? Great music and a sincere appreciation for their fans. Having gone through some lineup changes throughout the years, their song remains the same – solid rock music that translates well lyrically and even better live. Plunge is currently out on tour ripping it up and down the East Coast with the current line up – Mike Ruocco on lead vocals and guitar, Chris Shucosky on guitar and vocals, Mac Calvaresi on drums and vocals, and newcomer Jim Boyer on bass and vocals. Playing songs off of their latest release Hometown Hero and new songs off of their upcoming EP scheduled to be released in March, they exude energy and passion onstage and off. Simply put, these guys are rockstars in waiting.
Heading into this interview, everything seemed to be going wrong. After all, we were in Florida and it was colder than Alaska. The club Plunge was playing at (which shall remain nameless) seemed to be totally clueless, and the band was set to go on at 7:30 pm, while their website had originally said 8:00 pm.
That said, most of the people that would have been there to see them, were not. Luckily we didn’t miss the set. They played their hearts out to a room full of eyebrow raising skeptics and of course, my friends and I in the front screaming our hearts out. An intimate performance if you will. Mike even took our requests midset.
After the show we approached Mike since it was his birthday and we wanted to wish him well and give him the cake we brought for him. He invited us on the bus and soon thereafter we were treated to an acoustic performance with Mike, Mac, and Chris while Jim watched and listened with us. There were about 7 fans on the bus for the performance and the band said they wanted to do it to make up for the night.
To be honest, it’s been a very long time since I’ve met a band that appreciates their fans as much as these guys do, and considering I’ve got ten years on most of them, that’s pretty impressive. I was totally floored by their raw talent, passion, and dedication to not only their music but to their fans. It was more than impressing, it was infectious, and only made every fan on that bus love them even more, even if we thought it wasn’t possible.
After the impromptu acoustic set (where they even played us a cover of Butch Walker’s Mixtape, along with our favorite Plunge songs) I sat down with Mike for an interview. The bus was busy and there was a lot going on but he was still cool enough to sit down and answer all of my questions. I can’t say this in any other way but bold Go see these guys, if they are in your area, you won’t be disappointed. I flew to Florida to see them and I’d do it again in a heart beat.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | February 2006
So first things first, you’ve been out on the road for how long now, a month, two months? How has it been going and what have been the highlights and lowlights?
Oh wow. The highlights…without a doubt the highlights thus far have been seeing and meeting all of the fans that we built since the last time that we toured. We haven’t toured this much of the country since last winter when we came around for the first time and I equate that mainly to MySpace. Our MySpace site is just unbelievable. We do 400+ song plays a day and like fifty friend comments and we’re so anal about returning every comment and every email that it just continues. The highlights have been putting the faces with the profile pics…
Oh so do you recognize all of us?
Yeah I recognize a lot of you..I’m just really terrible with names, I am the absolute worst. I never forget a face and especially since we had our little mini concert, I’ll definitely remember that.
The fanbase is just growing, which is awesome. And it’s not always huge but I pride myself on the fact that no matter what city we’re in, we draw at least five people.
(And the crowd laughs!)
But the cool part of that is, in a place like Fargo, ND, we’ll draw like five people.
Lowlights – being on the road is being on the road, but I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m use to it. We all miss our family and friends, everyone at home. You get use to not showering very much, not shaving and living in very close quarters. This bus is big but with as many people that we have on it, it’s not that big.
We love being on the road. It’s always interesting that we find certain shows like tonight that are on the unusual side, but this made my night, being able to come on here and do this and have you guys here.
(Referring to our little intimate acoustic show. Hey, to say it made OUR night too would be an understatement!)
No it was killing me, it was breaking my heart because I could see people coming into the club, asking if we had played yet. I was watching from the outside. I know our website said we were going on at 8 tonight so I was hoping that people would come early, and if they don’t Chris was like, bring them on the bus, we’re playing for them.
Mike rocking out on the bus
The band had a development deal with Columbia Records. Can you explain what that really means to us non-industry types?
A development deal is basically, a not quite a binding contract with a record label. In other words, they gave us a budget of x amount of dollars to go record some songs, and we couldn’t go record for anyone else and they had the option to either do our record or not do our record. Right now things are still up in the air. We fulfilled our contractual obligation.
Is it really true that you started the band when you were 12 years old? What’s the story and how old are you now? How did the band come together?
Yes that is true. I’m 23 today. (Yay, Happy Birthday Mike!). I was in the sixth grade and my buddies, a guy I played little league baseball with and another guy I was in there were three of us, we went to middle school together, were in classes together, played instruments together, and we said we have to start a band, and we just started playing.
Chris rocking out on the bus – are you sensing a theme here?
The line up has gone through some changes over the years—-
A lot of changes over the years. This line up, minus Jim, has been together for seven years. Jim has only been in the band for about a month. We lost our bass player of about ten years last month so that line up was solid for about seven or eight years.
There was a time when you were playing bass for SR-71 and still playing in Plunge, even on the same tour. Was there ever a point where you considered giving up on Plunge and how did you mange to multitask playing in two bands at the same time?
I’m still in SR-71. When I was asked to join SR-71, we did disband, we put Plunge on what I would call a hiatus because Plunge has always been my baby and my number one concern but the opportunity to play with SR-71 was such a big thing for me, especially coming from Baltimore where SR is from. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity and when I sat everyone down and told them that I was leaving Plunge, I said listen I’m going to meet the people I need to meet, makes some friends, shake some hands, learn what I can about the business and when I get to a little further point, we’re going to put the band back together and we’re going to move on.
Where does the name of the band come from and has that been the name since day one?
No one has ever asked me has that always been the name because there’s a funny answer to that. The name was not one of those great rock n roll stories. Myself and the other couple of guys were sitting in the drummer’s basement looking through a thesaurus looking for cool words and we couldn’t find any. Our buddy, just some random guy, a friend of ours who was sitting in the room says (In a surfer/stoner type voice) “How ‘bout Plunge” and we were like “Yeah. That’s it!”
And no, for a short period of time we changed the name of the band to Third Degree. A very short period of time. This was like in seventh grade or something, for a month or two, and then we decided to go back to Plunge.
I noticed that everyone in the band wears a necklace with a ring on it. What’s the story/significance?
Each of us has one of these necklaces; the ring has each of the band member’s names and then the band name. The story behind that is that Chris and I grew up next door to each other from the time we were infants. Our families use to go to the beach together down at Ocean City, MD which is where all the kids from Baltimore go.
Chris and I use to always walk down the boardwalk and there would be all these bars where bands would play. And we’d walk down and say “Dude, one of these days, we’re going to play in there.” They have all of those crappy little souvenir shops and we went in and got these rings, they etched them there. When Mac joined the band he went to the same shop and got a ring and got it etched, and Brian, and all those guys.
Mike live in NYC – Arlenes Grocery, Photo by Julie
Plunge is part of The Armed Forces Entertainment Network. Can you tell us what that is and the impact it has had on you as musicians. How did the band get involved?
Yes, we’re a part of the AFE; it basically functions like a USO but for bands that aren’t famous. I heard about it through some bands back in Baltimore. I like to keep up with bands and what they’re doing and where they’re touring, and I noticed this one band was touring literally all over the world. I was like “How the hell are they doing that” so I called the guys and I asked them and they explained that that they were doing it as part of the AFE and playing for the troops. I contacted the AFE and they told us we’d have to submit a press kit and then the board of trustees would review it. At that point we might be invited to join the network. If we were invited we would then have to just wait for an assignment. So I sent it in and they accepted it. I explained to them that I was in another band, SR-71, on RCA Records, and I told him them we’d love to team up and go out on tour with both bands. That way they would get two bands for the price of one. We’d share all the equipment, share the road crew, and they thought it sounded like amazing idea. This was at the end of August and they asked us how we would like to go to Japan in October. It was literally a dream come true. I freaked out. In one day they confirmed our Japanese tour and we got to play a place in Baltimore which holds 15 thousand people.
When you’re in their network you get invited to do these tours. They just call you out of the blue. We were on tour last year and they just called us and said I know this is last minute but how would you guys like to go to Greenland. And we were like Hell Yeah! This was like in a week, it was so quick.
Touring for the troops is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had as a musician because we get to tour all over the world, we’ve been to Japan, we’ve been to Greenland, and we’ve been all over the United States, we’ve been to Canada, and in April we’re going to Korea and Guam for thirty one days. So literally we’ve had the opportunity to go all over the world. The frequent flyer miles are insane. We get paid really well to do it but if I had to pay to do it, I would still do it. We are not a political band and I hate politics in music, I don’t think that it belongs. Leave that for bands like REM and Pearl Jam. We all have military in our families and getting to go there and see these guys face to face and shake their hands and thank them for what they do, it means a lot. And these guys appreciate it more than I could ever explain. One guy in Japan came up to me and said “I had a really great time tonight, I felt like I was at home for a couple of hours, just drinking some beers with my buddies,” and this is a marine in Japan who’s getting ready to be shipped off to Iraq. That was pretty deep.
Band shot: Chris, Jim, Mac, & Mike
One thing I quickly noted was the bands hardcore fanbase. This is a great reflection of the band and how they relate to their fans. Has it always been this way?
It’s always been there to a degree but it’s definitely increased a hundred times in the last two years I’d say. We worship our fans as much as they like the band. This is why I am a workaholic and this is why we answer every single email. I do my best to shake hands or hug everybody that comes to see us play.
I’d like to cash in on my hug later.
Done Deal! Just give Merch ten bucks..nooo..just kidding. So few bands get to move up to that next level like bands like American Hi Fi and SR-71 and bigger. I just feel like that if we can build enough fans around the country, like you guys, and like the people that visit our MySpace, that eventually it’s going to be undeniable to the business that something is happening here and they will realize that they are missing out. Then hopefully we’ll get to that next level. I’ve said this for a million years but, I’d like to put everyone on the guest list every night, unfortunately that’s not a reality, we can’t do that. I’ve always said that if we ever got big enough, I wanted to do a show at an arena and have it be totally free, to fulfill the promise I’ve been talking about for so long. If we get there it will be amazing, if not, I’ll always think of it.
You write most of the songs. Listening to them one could assumingly paint a picture of your life. Is that accurate? Are most of the songs drawn off of real life experiences?
Yes. I wear my heart on my sleeve and the songs are the storybook of my life. That’s a good quote!
You have a few amazing songs that are posted on your MySpace profile that are not on either one of the current cds available. Are these songs being held on to for the new record? When are you going to start selling them to us? We need them!!
I’ve written 25 songs since May for the new record and we’re in the process of honing that down. They are all demo’ed up and I have like so many songs that no one has heard-
Chris yells from behind us – “Play them!”
Yeah, I’ll play you guys some tunes if you want to hear them.
But we’re not sure what we’re doing with Columbia anymore so we decided that we’re going to put out an EP in March which is going to have five new songs, which are probably going to be You Complete Me, Feels So Good To Me, Everything You Are To me, Back Home To You, and No. 1 Fan. It will also have five videos so five songs, five videos from our show at the Recher Theater in Towson, that’s like our hometown club. I’ll show you one of the videos. I’ll show you what they’re going to look like.
(Brief intermission while we die from excitement over new videos)
I’m not a big fan of labels but I read a review where Plunge was described as a “high energy power pop band” and I thought that was rather fitting. Do you think it fits?
Yes, absolutely. If anybody asks us “How would you describe your music” I say its just rock, straight up rock. It’s not Punk pop, it’s not emo, but power pop is cool. We are a pop band, I’ll accept that. Reviews are brutal! Our reviews for Hometown Hero have been phenomenal, there are probably like four or five that are unbelievably bad, it was like MetalManiacs or something and they were like “You SUCK!” and I thought, you like Metal, why are you reviewing US!
Plunge continues their East Coast Tour through April, check out their website for details and be sure to add them on MySpace. You can purchase their cds on their official website listed below. Thanks to Plunge for the great show and for restoring some of our lost faith in musicians!