Thursday, April 29, 2010

Restless Groove: A Year in Retrospect

I first heard the members of Restless Groove live at Chickenfest 2009, although they were playing in a variety of different bands. For me though, their saga starts there because my experience began with that first Tommy the Cat cover I heard at Chickenfest ’09 and goes to the one I heard last Saturday at Chickefest ’10. When I first showed up at Chickenfest ’09 I did not expect to hear Primus…. especially not the best Primus I had heard played since I heard Les Claypool do it. Since that festival and since Restless started playing in fall of 2009 I have gone to over 10 of their live shows and have gotten to experience their growth as a band during that time period. The Tommy the Cat I heard last Saturday was no different, if not better, from the first, but the key difference was the fact that it was no longer my favorite song Restless Groove played. Their original music has come to captivate me more than any of their covers. It’s been incredible; hearing the changes in their sound, their tightening skill set, their increasing confidence and stage presence… I have never really gotten the privilege of being privy to that process with any another band and its been an eye opening and endlessly rewarding experience. It’s been one hell of a memorable year, and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way.

The members of Restless Groove, as I am sure many of you already know, are Justin Michaud (drums/vocals), Ryan Kirkpatrick (lead and rhythm guitar/vocals, Josh Bernier (bass/vocals), and Pete Gerard (lead and rhythm guitar/vocals). I interviewed most of the members in order to see what their experience of the last year was, to get some idea of their past, and lastly also of their future. This is a rough blend of all the different answers I received. Their history is an interesting one, filled with multiple band names, many different combinations of people, and a legacy of creativity…

Josh: I've been playing music with Justin on and off since we were in 8th grade. Him and I used to spend hours jamming in his basement. Pete and met at the beginning of my freshman year in high school. After that came Burnsteen, which is when Pete, Justin, and I started playing together along with our singer Nik, in 2004. Burnsteen lasted for about 3 years. Later, at UMO, Pete and I started jamming with Ryan and Ben Kaufman, which turned into Boheme. I was playing bass and Pete was playing drums. Pete and I had been jamming with this nasty drummer, Devin Hutchison as a side project to Boheme, and after Boheme split the three of us formed Trifekta, which I think is the core of Restless Groove. We started doing all of the Primus, Moe, and Chili Peppers covers with Devin and realized that people LOVE that driving, relentless, heavy-ass groovy shit! Devin left for Colorado after he graduated last May, so Pete and I started playing with Justin and Ryan in the fall semester of 2009 and the rest is history!

Ryan: Yeah, this is my third band… I really started playing with these guys with Boheme, who I played with for about 2 years. Im personally very influenced by Red Hot Chili Peppers especially, also RX Bandits and Incubus. We all bring a lot of influences and musical references to the table.

Justin: This past fall (September 2009) was when Restless Groove really formed and with this new band we had a completely different mindset. The other bands/combos were serious, but were mostly about fun and jamming together. We have a new mindset of having fun while being serious about the music, but our new outlook includes wanting to be successful and really get our music out there. We really planned to put a lot of work into it.

WSLB: What makes Restless Groove sound like Restless Groove?

Pete: I’ve always played and developed music by jamming and going by ear. Josh was very technically minded… he just knows an incredible amount about playing bass! He’s gotten amazing at jamming now too, and then you have Justin who is also very technically skilled, but also has a great ear. Ryan is a blend of all of these traits as well… I think its this blend of technicality and jamming that is a large part of our sound. That and the diversity of influences.

Justin: Each of us brings something different to table and our songs are a mixture of all our different ideas and influences. We each have very different styles and each song ends up sounding very unique as it is a crazy creative concoction of these four different styles. Sometimes we even take parts of a song, discard the rest and combine it into another song. It’s a very interesting process. There is a lot of melding and experimentation… we definitely don’t have a set method of writing a song and the randomness keeps it fresh.

Ryan: Our sound is definitely an orgy of all our musical influences. We all really like experimenting, like with a lot of different guitar sounds or even with different instruments. Experimentation is key to our sound.

WSLB: Where did the story behind the album come from? The saga of the Forest of Dance versus Funkcity?

Josh: The story is mostly a product of Pete's own creativity. We knew that we wanted to do a concept album at one point or another to follow in the footsteps of Rush and Dream Theater. I think having a story tied to a whole CD gives it more meaning. When you can write 10, 12, or however many individual songs and tie it into one big picture it just brings everything to life. Pete came to practice one day and had written out a whole story line with all of the characters in it and that was pretty much the solidification of the whole concept.

Justin: Yeah, I don’t know if we intended initially on creating a concept album, but it really stemmed from the need for lyrics. I feel like many of the themes and lyrics stem from a week long canoe ride we had gone on spring of 2009… that experience had a strong influence on us. We had the outline of characters and basic storyline and then we each went our separate ways, wrote songs, and then came back to put it together in a logical way. We each actually sing the songs we wrote the lyrics for so its interesting how they have an individual nature, but arose from a collective creative framework.

Pete: It was definitely a creative brainstorm session. The lyrics are in many ways actually pretty vague, open to a lot of interpretation, but I think it’s clear they are environmentally minded.

WSLB: So would you call yourselves a progressive band?

Pete and Josh: Yes, specifically in the environmental activism sense. The lyrics highlight in many ways our feelings about activism and what we feel in terms of what is currently going on. We are both pretty avid environmentalists. This album really takes a conservationist's standpoint on the idea of logging and/or deforestation. This album isn't directly related to that, however, I think it's meant to be a broader "wake up and smell the coffee" type of message to the greedy, wasteful, overindulgent, ignorant, arrogant, and selfish people out there.

Justin: Absolutely. I think it would be good idea to keep with progressive/environmental messages in future albums as well. We are naturally strong advocates and with popular culture going the way that it is we would like to keep up with that, keeping our music applicable to the real world and what’s going on.

WSLB: Do you have any reflections from this past year you would like to share, from Chickenfest to Chickenfest? Any thoughts for the year ahead?

Josh: This year has been AMAZING! Even last year with Trifekta was incredible, but everything’s just been getting exponentially more awesome since then in terms of how many AWESOME people we've met and friends we've made. Between the other bands we've played with, the people who've worked with us, and everyone who supports us, everyone has just been so incredible and has made this year kick fucking ASS for us. As far as Chickenfest goes I'm glad to see that it's never failed since I've been attending, it's such an awesome gathering of well...EVERYONE. As far as playing music there goes, I don't think there's any where else we could play this close to here where you feel like such a rock star, everyone is just so receptive to the music, and just SO chill!

Justin: For me it all originated on that canoe trip. Pete and Josh came to me when Devin left and we already had so much chemistry, plus we wanted Ryan as a great addition to our sound… it really just all came together. We basically started the day school started last fall and our main goal was to mix some originals with some covers and see how it was received. Once we achieved some popularity in the area we decided we wanted to record an album! Now that that has miraculously been accomplished our goal is to get it out there, expand and go from there. We have really accomplished a lot in a ridiculously short amount of time…its been one hell of a crazy ride. We got a lot of help from a lot of people we didn’t expect and a lot of support… people who climbed on board and made all the impossible seem possible. We definitely couldn’t have done it ourselves.

Pete: Yes. We struggle because we are all ridiculously busy, but the support has been incredible. We wil see where it all takes us! We hope to continue to slowly build up, get on the festival scene, play out of state… we really just love playing together and hope to perpetuate that and find other people who love it too. P.S. we are totally open to picking up a keyboardist, maybe a saxophone player, other horns… but yeah, definitely hope to start playing Portland this summer and get out into the rest of New England.

Thanks so much to Restless Groove for taking the time to talk with WSLB.
Their CD release party is tomorrow night at the Dime… they are selling their new album, which is, without a doubt, my favorite album so far this year! You would be seriously missing out if you weren’t there…. Seriously…

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