For all of you music geeks looking for the next big thing on MySpace, you should follow that last back slash with the words: The Red Romance. TRR didn’t just appear out of nowhere; they’re the remnants of Ambulance LTD, a little indie rock band that released two EPs and a full-length CD in 2004 and even had an impressive whirl on MTV for a while. The trio wasn’t creatively aligned with lead singer Marcus Congleton so they did what seemed like the natural rock ‘n’ roll thing to do: they declared a coup.
For the sake of full disclosure, I should admit now that I’m not TRR’s most objective critic. Their vocals and guitarist guy, Matthew Dublin, is a dear friend of mine. So be nice. That said, The Red Romance is the best thing since [insert any band name here]. They’re the kind of indie pop/rock outfit that makes you want to breakout in a nostalgic Molly Ringwald dance a la The Breakfast Club (try dubbing TRR’s song “Break Away” over the library dance scene, and you’ll see what I mean).
Dublin’s bandmates include drummer Darren Beckett, an ex-Ambulette who’s been on the road with Madeleine Peyroux lately, and Adam Chilenski on bass. Now, TRR is gearing up for a huge gig next week: opening for The Killers at Madison Square Garden, which means that TRR will be one of the only — if not the first — unsigned bands to play MSG. After that, TRR will continue to open for The Killers’ on the East coast, and will release their first self-titled EP via their website and CD Baby on May 1. Excerpts from my recent chat with Dublin are after the jump.
What happened Ambulance LTD?
It depends on who you ask, but basically, three-fourths of the bandjust couldn’t do it anymore. Darren Beckett and I would walk aroundthese festivals that Ambulance would play at, watching all these otherbands where everyone on stage really believed what they were doing, andwe just knew that we weren’t being honest with ourselves. We had to dosomething that was pop and sexy and big and we knew that Ambulance wasnever going to be that.
What happened next?
So finally, after two EPs and one full length, all very “cool” and”critic’s darling” type stuff, we were done. We needed to have aproject that wasn’t just for cool kids and hipster music geeks thatcouldn’t get laid in high school. In that sense, [The Red Romance is] avery un-New York band, we don’t give a s— about being “hip.” Thepurpose of music is communication and connection, not exclusion andelitism.
What was the inspiration for Romance’s band name?
I think I wanted something slightly alliterative, sexy, and red, allrolled into one. At one point the guys wanted to change it. I thinkthey were afraid of its less than masculine overtones, but now, it’sjust the name, you know? If you think long and hard about some of yourfavorite bands’ names, they’ll all pretty asinine. Later, I found outthere was a movie of the same name, part of the “Tenderfoot Thriller Series,” a series of short westerns from the 1920s.
How does TRR’s sound differ from that of Ambulance?
Well, I’d say first of, the sound is much more danceable, thanks toour inimitable rhythm section, Darren Beckett on drums and AdamChilenski on bass. We are the Tears for Fears to Ambulance’sTelevision, if that helps.
Where do you get your lyrical inspiration from?
I put a lot of stock into the unconscious, and I know that that soundslike a stock answer, but it’s true. Love is huge in pop songs becauseessentially all roads lead back to love, which is what makes us human.Even death metal lyrics, what are they really screaming about? It’slove. Rap music, all the tough exterior, the posturing, it’s all aboutour humanity.
What about musically?
If Robert Smith jammed with Booker T & the MGs, that’s what we’reabout. We sound modern, and we’re very much influenced by the Smithsand Roxy Music, but we also want people to dance. That’s real important.
This won’t be the first time you’ve opened for The Killers. What are they like?
We opened for them last Fall at the MSG Theater, up in Boston and inAtlantic City. They are extordinarily gracious and down to earth guys,despite their enormous success. But more than anything else, they areabsolute musicians of the highest caliber. When you hang out with thoseguys, it’s always about the music. Their success really renewed myfaith that ultimately, people still want songs, the kids still wantanthems, their own soundtracks, and that’s what the Killers are to somany people.
What are the most bizarre characteristics of TRR?
One of the most bizarre things about us is that we’re unsigned! Whatmakes us strange is that our drummer never ages. He still has the sameboyish glow as when I met him eight years ago.
What are you guys listening to right now?
Right now, I’ve been checking out a lot of the Sparks, a strangebrother duo from the late ’70s, Bruce Springsteen, Scott Walker, andearly Squeeze.
You all are playing MSG and you’re not even signed. How are you feeling about that as the moment of truth approaches?
We’re, of course, really excited, it’s amazing to us, even when we werein Ambulance we never dreamed of playing the Garden. The only thing wecan do is just play our asses off for the good people of New York Cityand hang on tight!