Justin Richards of A Rocket To The Moon
It’s hard to imagine that a few years ago A Rocket To The Moon was just Nick Santino posting songs from his bedroom. But from the very beginning Santino was clear that he didn’t want the focus to drop solely on him, that he wanted to be part of something bigger. That bigger picture is now the four piece known as A Rocket To The Moon (Santino, guitarist Justin Richards, bassist Eric Halvorsen and drummer Andrew Cook ) and their debut full length album titled “On Your Side” was released on October 13th.
The album is a collection of poppy upbeat tunes with elements of country, rock and folk mixed in. Primary songwriters Santino and Richards didn’t realize the emerging theme of the songs until much later on in the process but the essence of the two main characters of Dakota (carried over from their EP) and Annabelle presented a good girl vs. bad girl theme throughout a lot of the songs proving in the end that true love always prevails.
The band recently wrapped up a ten day headlining tour where they hosted listening parties for their fans and are now jumping on the Boys Like Girls/Cobra Starship tour for the rest of the year. Guitarist Justin Richards recently took some time to talk to us about the new album, the whole process, and the tattoos he has dedicated to his Mom and Dad.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | October 2009
This last year has probably been a bit of a whirlwind for you guys because you wrote and recorded the album and you were on so many great tours, so wanted to just get a wrap up from you on what the last year has been like?
It was an awesome year, definitely a new outlook on life for me. Once I joined this band it was just like “Bam”! My first year with Rocket we got to do the AP Tour and that was the best tour that any of us have ever been on, it was rad. We got to hang with all the bands and it was such a good tour for us. Then we went to Warped Tour for the first time and it’s just been non-stop touring which we love to do. Now we’re getting ready to do our ten day headliner tour then we join up on the Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Tour.
So from now until the release of the album you guys are doing something special before your shows and inviting fans to get there early to participate in a listening party which is a cool idea, how did that idea come to fruition?
We were trying to think of a cool way to make kids feel like they’re a part of the band and know that they are our friends and not just kids who come to shows so instead of just going out and hanging out before and after the shows we were trying to think of some new ideas. We wanted people to hear the new record so we decided to allow them in early to play the new record and hang out with them. It’s going to be a really good time. We’re hoping people like the idea and come out to hang out.
Well I think that’s a unique opportunity for fans so I’m sure they’ll show up! Aren’t the first few shows already sold out?
Yes! Tonight is sold out so it will be fun!
Early on everyone pretty much looked to Nick as being “A Rocket To The Moon” but now that you’ve evolved into a full band is everyone involved in the writing process?
The writing process is usually Nick and I getting together, come up with a song idea and some lyrics and then share it with the rest of the guys and they will all write their parts. A lot of it comes together in the studio thought, we’ll record the part we had and then work it from there. It’s a group effort for sure but the main writing is based around Nick and I.
You mentioned that a lot of it comes together in the studio but isn’t it true that the album was recorded in 17 days which seems like a pretty short time frame?
It was nuts, yeah! It was crazy because we had all these ideas and it came down to five days. We had to rush things but I think that made it exciting. We made the album in a little over two weeks. We had to learn and write new parts and then record them. It was rushed but I think that made it better, there was such a fun vibe in the studio to get it done and push ourselves to the limit. It was such a good time.
I read that the overall theme is sort of a Dakota vs. Annabelle/positive vs. negative vibe? Can you tell us a bit about that?
On our EP we had a song called Dakota and that was our love song. Some of our songs are about real things and some are about what we’d like to have come true. Dakota is that girl that every guy wants. On the new album there’s a song called Annabelle, she’s more of stereotypical “mean girl”. She’s really into being materialistic. We have another song called Mr. Right and we don’t really say their names but it talks about two different couples. I think it came together in our heads once we figured all the songs out. There are two different girls in a lot of the songs so where is this coming from. With Mr. Right there’s two different couples with two very different girls so I think what we really wanted to get across is that love is about what you have between two people and not money. We wanted to bring a positive vibe to the music.
So Dakota, which has always been a big fan favorite made it from the EP to the full length album, why did you decide to put that one on the full length?
We’ve always liked that song and we didn’t get much of a chance with the EP to share that song with people so we didn’t want to say goodbye to it yet. The label liked it and wanted to hear what it would sound like if we rerecorded it. I was a little nervous because a lot of my favorite bands my favorite song of theirs is on one of their older records and they redo it and I usually like the old one better so we were a bit skeptical. I think it came out nice though, we didn’t change it, we just added a few things to it so I think we pulled it off.
Both you and Nick have admitted to being fans of country music and there are some instances on the album where you introduce some pedal steel and banjo, how important is it to you to really push the boundaries of not sticking to any certain pre-conceived style of music when you’re writing new stuff?
Since our favorite music is country music and we listen to it a lot we wanted to add some elements that a lot of bands in our genre don’t. I think when we added the mandolin and banjo we did it tastefully in a pop sense and didn’t overload it. I think it was the perfect amount. We had this idea before we even started writing that we wanted to have fun with it and put some of our own style into it. That made the whole process a lot of fun, I got to experiment with lap steel and now I think I’ll be playing the mandolin live on a couple of songs as well.
Yeah sometimes when bands experiment with those new elements the real trick is pulling it off live so you will be playing some of those things out on the road?
Definitely, we’re not able to yet but when we’re able to afford and have the room and space for an auxiliary player we definitely want someone to be playing piano and pedal steel. There’s little parts that I can do on my guitar and mandolin right now so we’re trying to do whatever we can using the least amount of tracks possible.
You worked with producer Matt Squire on the album who has a reputation for helping bands really refine their own sound, do you think he helped you in that way?
Definitely, he’s so good at that. When we came in there we wanted to make a country rock album and he took that and kept us in check along the way. He has a really good ear for what’s too much or too little, he knew what we were going for and helped us pull it off. He’s so good at what he does and has so much experience. We brought all the ingredients and he helped us make it.
How many of the new songs are in your current set list?
For this ten day headliner we’re doing the whole EP and six new songs. On the BLG tour we’ll be playing 3 old songs and 3 new ones and then we may switch it up as the tour progresses to play more new songs.
You guys recently made a video for the new song Mr. Right, can you tell us anything about the concept of it and when we might get a peek. Does the concept follow along the story you mentioned earlier?
It does, we have two girls, and one of them is the more evil one, the sadistic girl. The other girl is the sweet one with her boyfriend. They are super into each other and the other guy is a bit of a jock. It’s cool because the director made it apparent without being too obvious. He used blue lights around the nice couple and red around the other. They meet up at a rooftop party where we’re playing at the end of the video. It should be out around the first week of the Boys Like Girls tour.
I was looking at one of your blogs and saw some of your tats, can you tell me a bit about them? I saw you had a couple in your parents hand writing that say “God is Love” in your Mom’s handwriting and “Love is Real” in your Dad’s handwriting. Can you tell us the inspiration behind that?
There’s a band called mewithoutYou and I think that they have the most amazing lyrics. The singer has written books of poetry and I just love him. He wrote a line that says “God is Love and Love is Real” and I really like that line, it’s a cool two part line. I thought about getting a Mom and Dad tattoo but I thought it would be unique to have it in their handwriting. It’s been cool too because I’ve been lucky enough to have some fans come up to me and ask me to write a lyric in my handwriting for them and they’ve got it tattooed, so that gave me the idea. I wanted to do it for my parents so I had my mom write God is Love and my dad write Love is Real and I put them on my wrists.
A video from the band:
For more info on A Rocket To The Moon:
Catch the band on tour with Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship:
Oct 16 2009 Western Michigan University w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Kalamazoo, MI
Oct 17 2009 6Eagles Ballroom w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Milwaukee, WI
Oct 18 2009 Riviera Theatre w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Chicago, IL
Oct 20 2009 Ogden Theatre (16+) w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Denver, CO
Oct 21 2009 El Rey w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Blackfoot, ID
Oct 23 2009 Warfield Theatre w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship San Francisco, CA
Oct 24 2009 Soma w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship San Diego, CA
Oct 25 2009 Henderson Events Plaza w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Henderson, NV
Oct 27 2009 Club Nokia w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Los Angeles, CA
Oct 28 2009 Marquee Theatre w/Cobra Starship & The Maine Tempe, AZ
Oct 30 2009 Las Palmas Race Park w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Mission, TX
Oct 31 2009 Nokia Theatre w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Grand Prairie, TX
Nov 1 2009 Warehouse Live w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Houston, TX
Nov 3 2009 Rocketown w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Nashville, TN
Nov 5 2009 Revolution w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Nov 6 2009 Florida Theatre w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Jacksonville, FL
Nov 7 2009 House Of Blues w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Orlando, FL
Nov 8 2009 Tabernacle w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Atlanta, GA
Nov 10 2009 Amos’ Southend w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Charlotte, NC
Nov 11 2009 The NorVa w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Norfolk, VA
Nov 12 2009Expo Five w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Louisville, KY
Nov 13 2009 The Pageant w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship St. Louis, MO
Nov 14 2009 Clutch Cargo’s w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Pontiac, MI
Nov 15 2009 Kool Haus w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Toronto, ON
Nov 18 2009 Northern Lights w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Clifton Park, NY
Nov 19 2009 Crocodile Rock w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Allentown, PA
Nov 20 2009 tarland Ballroom w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Sayreville, NJ
Nov 21 2009 Electric Factory w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Philadelphia, PA
Nov 22 2009 The Electric Factory w/The Maine Philadelphia, PA
Nov 24 2009 OLD OUT: Nokia Theatre (16+) w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship New York, NY
Nov 27 2009 SOLD OUT: Showcase Live w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Foxbourough, MA
Nov 28 2009SOLD OUT: Showcase Live w/ Boys Like Girls & Cobra Starship Foxbourough, MA