We had the good fortune of connecting with Tony LaRocco and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tony, why did you pursue a creative career?
I use art to speak my mind, or possibly to come to terms with thoughts, feelings…etc. I didn’t pursue the career, per se. I have been working on music and writing since I was 13. Occasionally, I would take some time away to pursue other artistic endeavors or focus on myself. In 2015 I started a new project. I didn’t have expectations. I had a full-time job working at a call center for an online retailer, but little by little, my focus went away from my career there to my band. By the end of 2016, I had quit and focused on the band full time. I make considerably less doing this full time than I did sitting behind a desk selling audio equipment, but good god, am I more satisfied.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Being a musician is tricky. You want to do something different. You want to push boundaries. You want to be creative. You also want to be you. I try approaching songs differently. When looking at the structure of a tune, I might do something I’ve never done before, something that might make me uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s a new element: A section or a progression, chord, something. Sometimes, it’s something simple: Make it a round, only use two chords, repeat the words. These are the times that I challenge myself. What is art if it’s not challenging to you, the artist? Nothing in this industry is easy. Getting gigs, writing, putting it out into the world, getting reviews, getting playlists, touring, recording….on some level, it all costs money, it takes time, and it’s devotion. I got us to where we are by perseverance. I keep my head down, and I set small goals. Those small goals lead to a larger, overarching goal, but the small goals are the ones that matter. They are what move you down the line. For example, the venues in your home town, how many are there, have you established good relationships with them? Have you played them all? If not, why? Are you touring regionally, nationally, locally? How’s your merch? These questions need to be continuously addressed by someone in the band. If you are touring locally, should you bump up to regional, and how often should you return? There are so many challenges that await you in this industry. I joke that there isn’t a book called “How to Band”, and there should be! How do you know your band is on the same page? How do you confidently tell someone they are playing something wrong? What do you do if someone routinely fails? How do you get them to be better at their position? How do you FIRE someone, fuck…that’s the worst. What if someone has a substance abuse problem? How do you address that?! Here’s the big one for me: Say you fire someone, how do you go looking for another player, and how do you know they won’t fail you as well. We have built an outstanding reputation as a band, not by being the best all the time. It’s by being professional both in and out of the venue. Our rehearsals are on the same days and at the exact times. We work sections, not just songs. We also speak our minds. Our tunes are political and reflect on humanity and the cultures of the 21st century. We don’t want to be the best at what we do. We want to be OUR best at what we do. This industry is so fucking competitive, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s fucking art! It should be about expression, not competition. We go out of our way to make sure we hold hands with or assist other artists where we can. You can’t accomplish this without some in the band taking leadership. If there is one thing I am genuinely proud of, it’s that I have slowly, and sometimes cautiously, taken the mantle of bandleader.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If you are coming to Charlottesville, Va, you need to check out Bodo’s Bagels. Charlottesville is such a beautiful town, and it’s nestled right next to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s about 45 mins from the Shenandoah National Park. It has a thriving art scene and a historical background. The downtown mall has great places to stay, eat, and see a good show. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Oh….geez. I think there are too many people to recognize. For starters, my parents. Their taste in music. Their encouragement over the years. I had several high school teachers who were extremely influential: Fred Assaf, Jessie Haden, Chris Ross, and Jenn Kaine. Several musicians have been influential over the years: Ben Hanna, Kai Crowe-Getty, and Rob Richmond. Though, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my wife’s support. She’s been my biggest supporter over the years, and she’s also a baller photographer.
Eze Amos for live shots, Carolyn Powers for studio shots, Brianna LaRocco for band press photos