It’s our first visit to the Roadmenders in Northampton, and it turns out it’s a pretty awesome venue. It’s fairly sizable, a bit larger then Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms, fairly easy to find, not too far from the Bus Station, all in all pretty decent. Happy days. Better yet we get to catch up with Garret Rap and the awesome The Color Morale who were supporting Bear Tooth.
First on stage were Sheffield’s “Dead Harts” who I think can only be described as “brutal”. There’s no ridiculous self-important heralding as they take the stage, the sound guy appears to have pushed the bass levels to “interstellar overdrive”, and once the drummer opens up, I think my ears are about to fall off. I even wonder if this could be some sort of new sonic noise defibrillator, resuscitate then rock out. Brilliant.
Up next The Color Morale, the guys we’re here to see. Yes, I know Bear Tooth are blindingly awesome, but because we arrived a little late, our interview was re-scheduled to during Bear Tooths set. We apologise to the Bear Tooth fans who are now mashing their keyboards to pieces in utter disbelief.
The Color Morale take to the stage, and Garret makes his presence felt. He has a knack for connecting with individuals in the audience, regardless of its size. Some of the hair metal bands in the 80’s would point in some random direction at the audience, and I swear, 10 people would say that he pointed directly to them. Truth is, when you’re on stage, it’s rare you can see past the first five rows because of the blinding stage lights. Garret though, is the far more genuine article. At a point early on in the show he singles out two individuals at either end of the front barrier by leaning over out off the stage, pointing, “You”, at which point the imagined response is some nutter fan pointing at themselves and asking “Who me?”, “Yes you! You are responsible for all these people here. You are responsible for making them jump”. Fair play to them, that front line did go bananas just as instructed. Job well done.
It’s that ability to connect that makes Garret a superb front man, both on stage performing and in writing the songs for the band. Better yet, The Color Morale aren’t a one trick pony with everything on Garret, far from it. Steve Carey, Devin King, Aaron Saunders and Mike Honson are not only a decent group of guys, but together hammer out an unbelievably tight punchy sound. It’s not surprising then that every show they do, they seem to pick up yet more fans. Even when we were out front doing the interview with Garret after the show, a new fan bundled into us, apologised for interrupting, and blurted out “Awesome show man!” with a huge grin on his face.
Having done the show in the only way he knows how, fully committed, Garret is obviously tired, but even then still seemingly has time for everyone, he’s still smiling and shaking everybody’s hand.
So we end up having a quick chat with Garret out the front of the Roadmenders, as the sun starts to set.
We obviously follow Garret on Twitter, and it seems that the band have been touring non-stop for what seems like an eternity. We have no idea where the band get their energy from, but it’s great to see them connecting with loads of new fans at every opportunity. We ask him about this and even though he’s obviously tired he smiles.
“Constantly! We did a six week headliner back in the States, which was right after Australia. And then this tour was eight days after that, so we’re all just destroyed, tired, just trying to make it through this tour.”
When Garret was on stage, you wouldn’t realise just how much touring they’ve been doing because there’s no sign of let up from any of the band, and certainly not Garret. When we push him with “Certainly doesn’t look like that when you’re on stage though!”, he laughs.
“Yeah, of course, you have to, it’s what we do.”
There’s been a slight addition to the bands repertoire with Garret opting for some more sung lyrics as opposed to the hammer blow screams and shouts that he delivers with such venom. And actually, he’s got a brilliant voice. If you haven’t seen “Between You and Eye”, press play above. It shows the range Garret can deliver, and that there’s plenty of exploration that’s open to the band. Some fans haven’t taken to it so well, but I totally back them and love “Between You and Eye”. We ask Garret on his thoughts about it.
“It’s really good, you know, it was an opportunity to be creative and kind of make a video that was synonymous to the lyrical content. Pretty happy with it, it was done in a day in Chicago.”
It’s actually a very good video, well done and couldn’t help but blurt out “A day!? Really!?”. Garret’s natural reaction was to laugh, he’s obviously very happy with the result.
“Yeah! In the afternoon, I probably sang through the song forty to fifty times. It turned out awesome, it was a cool opportunity to be creative and make something that we really liked as a band too.”
At first glance some of the song titles or lyrics could be misconstrued as being negative, but the reality is far far from that. The Color Morale are in actual fact extremely positive, and the amount of people that connect to the band is pretty impressive. Amongst their growing army of fans a number of people have to some degree found help and kindred spirits with the band. We wondered if it ever really occurred to Garret just how many people the band have helped with their music.
“Yeah, definitely. I mean there’s not a day that goes by, especially at Warped Tour I noticed this a lot this summer, just meeting so many kids that bring letters, that bring artwork, and believe in what you’re saying so much that they get it tattooed on their skin. So that is very very humbling, but also reaffirming that you have an opportunity to do something with your time here and not just about you, or being in a band. I’ve always felt that guidance counselling or substance abuse counselling is kind of a career path that I wanted to pursue. Doing what I’m doing with the band, I have a creative way that I can apply the creative arts, music and a bit of psychology, and fuse those through The Color Morale with what I’m doing here, which some people don’t understand.
But for the people who don’t understand, there’s a million other bands that you can listen to, if you like the music then like the music. You know. I’ve heard a couple of people that have expressed disappointment that I write about the things that I write about, and I look at bands that are around in the States, bands that are popular where we’re from and what’s current, and what they’re writing about and I’m sorry, I just can’t do that. It’s not who I am. I’d just rather do something good with my time here. You’re time as an entertainer is limited, and entertainment is always going to follow the story anyway, so I’d rather just tell the truth, tell mine. If you want to connect to a creative, great, and if you don’t want to listen to it, then turn it off. There will always be those couple of people though who leave their comments on Youtube though!”
I wondered what Garret was like at school, if he was just like some of the people in the audience. I’ve come to learn that what you get from Garret is very much a humble view on things that are remarkably honest and candid. When asked directly what he was like at school, he responded immediately.
“Aw, I was a nerd! Huge nerd! No friends. It wasn’t until my sophomore junior highschool that I started going to a Skate Park kind of close to my house, just riding BMX, started connecting with a couple of guys that were there and we became friends. That was kind of the community that I grew up with. I eventually started working at that Skate Park and booking Punk Rock shows, and that’s how I kind of ended up here all these years later. It’s kind of funny. But yeah, I actually ate lunch by myself, all through the freshman sophomore year at high school, and I used to just eat in this back hallway by myself because I was too afraid to interact with people. I grew up in a small town, so it was very cliquey. I think with the increase in social networking and so on, there are a lot of ways that kids can pigeon holed and kids can get bullied and picked on. It’s certainly much more prevalent now than when I was a kid. I have a really big soft spot for those kids because I was one. Sometimes I still like I am one in life.”
It occurred to me that although his start in life was far from easy, all of that has cumulated in making him the man he is before us, and that he is actually making a difference in a lot of people lives. On the other hand, some of those who made life extremely difficult for him were maybe living far less positive lives. I threw this to out to Garret.
“Oh yea, crazy story for you. I posted something on social media. I’ll never forget the name of my freshman year bully, his name was Aaron Brown. This kid used to pick on me every day at school, if he saw me, that was it, I was going to be picked on. I’ll never forget Freshman year he tripped me in math class, walking up to the board, it was like it was straight out of a movie, he trips me, I fell on my face, and the whole class laughed at me and I started crying in front of the whole class. It was talked about in the whole school, and you know, that resonated with me, I mean here I am fifteen years later and still talking about it.
And I remember I posted something on Facebook about Aaron Brown like “Aaron Brown, I’ll never forget that name”. Anyway, one of my classmates from back then who I’m friends with on Facebook actually messaged me asking me if I knew what had happened to Aaron Brown. And honestly, I didn’t. He told me that he had actually committed suicide. And that kind of just full circle hit me, you know, I might have been that reclusive no friend nerdy kid in High School, and he might have been that big bully picking on everybody but there might have actually been the same issues there. You know? That’s kind of cognisant of that lyric “Just remember that every piece of trash, was one time itself first used” from Smoke and Mirrors. That’s kind of what that’s about. The overall reminder is that just, to just have authentic empathy. I think that’s something our surroundings lack. No matter what our beliefs are, no matter what region I’m in, the common courtesy to just take care of one another.”
It’s patently obvious the effect that Aaron and others like him had on Garret in his younger years, but he takes no joy in what happened, there’s no quest for revenge or anything. In some ways Garret seems genuinely saddened and surprised at what had happened to the person that had made life so hard for him. It’s a testament to Garret’s compassion, and that may be part of the reason why so many fans connect with him.
As a parting shot in response to his “take care of one another” I put to him “Or as Gandhi put it – “Be the change in the world you wish to see” (although actually, Gandhi didn’t actually say this, what he actually said was “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”). He smiles at that and responds with.
“Yeah, the world’s not really taking care of itself right now!”
With that he makes sure that we’re ok, and apologises as he has to get to the merch table. No apology was needed, but then it’s that caring and respectful nature that makes Garret who he is and we’d certainly not want to change that. We shake hands and he bounces back into the Roadmenders.
We look forward to seeing the Color Morale revisit the UK as soon as possible, provided the band have a bit of a vacation and rest before storming these Isles again!