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New Groove

Published: 2005/12/14
by Holly Isbister

Rose Hill Drive

Jake Sproul- photo by Brad Hodge

I want a job as Rose Hill Drive’s barber. I mean, the hair jokes could go on for hours (all three members have long, flowing locks that shimmer in the stage lights). But hair rips aside, Rose Hill Drive is a veritable tour de force emerging from Boulder, Colorado’s crunchy granola woods. A couple of weeks ago, the band treated Chicago to an evening of good old fashioned rock and roll during a recent stop at Martyr’s.
‘Everyone be seated and please be quiet,’ announced Jake Sproul before drummer Nate Barnes launched a full-out drum attack. It’s aggressive music, but there’s no moshing, no crowd surfing, and not even the occasional gratuitous tongue flap/devil horn hand motion combo. Brothers Jake (who plays bass) and Daniel Sproul (who plays guitar) are both committed to sobriety, so there’s no beer slugging or shots on stage like you might expect from more typical rock and rollers.
One of the things you’ll notice immediately when you hear this band for the first time is the tightness of the bass and drums. Comparisons to Zeppelin, Cream or Rush aren’t totally off the mark, though those are mighty big britches to fill for a band so young, who have yet to release their first studio album.
I had the opportunity to speak with Jake Sproul prior to the show about some of the anomalies Rose Hill Drive has overcome. His responses show remarkably mature and insightful perspective for a 20 something on the verge of becoming the next big thing. *HI: Tell me about the origins of the band. Give me a picture of what your initial rehearsals were like and what the band was like when you were first starting out. *
JS: We started playing in the house we grew up in on Rose Hill Drive. We played with bands a lot, most of the time our parents were the only ones that could tolerate it.
HI: So they were supportive of you going into music.
JS: They were. They were really loving people. But our family fell apart during the time that our band got together. My parents split up and both my parents were having a rough time with addictions and such. So we actually had to overcome a lot being in that house. Like we would get the circuit breaker shut off on us and then we got the neighbors coming over and telling us they were calling the cops. People we had grown up with and known for a while, waving at us as we rode our bikes up and down the street, that kind of thing. And I mean, when it really started to get going it was not accepted at all. Dan and I worked at my mom’s restaurant so we made money to buy equipment and we’d get excited about it. So we’d play and that was accepted. But it became a different thing when Nate joined the band and it became a three piece.
So we moved to a rehearsal space that was in North Boulder. The Motet rehearsed around there, String Cheese eventually took over our rehearsal space there. And we had run ins with the cops almost every week. We were the loudest band there – nobody could rehearse when we rehearsed there. It sucked. And, the guys that were running the place were just…I mean, there were drugs everywhere. They were just totally into this hippie vibe that was taking over. And we were just playing rock, and we like rock. And they’re trying to influence us, telling us to try playing quieter and with different styles. And we just brought in our heavy amps and played what sounded good. Cause that’s all you can do, you know? *HI: So you haven’t signed with any label yet, and you went into the studio to record an album but then you shelved the project. Tell me about that, why did you decide to scrap the record, it had to have been heartbreaking. *
JS: You know what, at first it was. But after we grew as people, after the fact, and had time to wait out the contract and let it expire, we realized that it was a growing period. *HI: What specifically about the record didn’t you like? *
JS: Not to point any fingers, it was just too slick for our taste. And not saying that it was too slick because someone other than us made it that way, it was a collaboration of us coming in unprepared with stuff we wanted to do. It was more us going into the studio to be creative and not having that opportunity. *HI: Overproduced? *
JS: Yeah, it was like, what have you done, let’s get that out. Shit wasn’t written for us, but I felt the pressure to make things better as far as a slicker production. Make singles and stuff. We concentrated on making singles and we thought we had four or five. But what does that mean? It’s just retarded. *HI: Has that made you jaded about going back in? *
JS: I mean it’s not like we can never record again, but when we do record, I want it to be with someone that can run the knobs and give feedback but not try to make it their own thing when they weren’t hopping rehearsal spaces with us. It doesn’t make any sense. *HI: What’s interesting to me is that you guys have risen to the level you’re at without a studio release and how much pressure there must be when you have that kind of hype behind you, but you don’t have that solid, initial release to anchor it. *
JS: That’s exactly what its starting to feel like. We’re ready to have something. We have new tunes. We never stop writing. We are always writing new tunes and we always have new stuff. Because that’s what we do. We like to play and we have shit to say. We’re not idiots. We’re not zombies you know? And Daniel and I are sober, so we have a voice for our world for what its worth. So we want to do our thing and get our stuff out there. And its just a matter of time now. It’s been lessons talking with the labels and deciding no against a lot of label deals. *HI: Tell me a little more about that. What’s been turning you away from some of these deals? *
JS: Well everyone’s getting laid off, money is getting lost. It’s like they’re looking for money, they are starving for it now. Its like a dog drowning in the water, you’re not supposed to go near it because its going to hop on your back and take you with it. People with that caliber of a business and that amount of money start declining, money is so poisonous that its a really instinctual thing for people to go, ‘we need more of it really fast.’ So as far as a major label deal, it has to look good. It has to look like we’re going to survive and not be put through a program of trying to make money for these guys and then if we don’t do it we get dropped. *HI: You’re looking for loyalty. *
JS: Yeah, we don’t want to have to look like the Killers or The Kings of Leon. *HI: Do you consider yourself the leader of this band? *
JS: No. I think we all are at certain moments. You really have to check your ego at the van door, or the club door or wherever because it becomes a hard lesson to learn very quickly. We’re so close. *HI: You mentioned that you and Daniel are both sober. Is this a reaction to what you went through with your parents? Or did you run into problems initially and now you’ve cleaned up? *
JS: For me, I ran into some shit and I was losing the love in my life. The drugs weren’t helping me dig anything anymore. Not music, not people. I was losing how to talk to people and how to enjoy certain things about my life and certain things that made me happy. And it started running shit. And that’s when I realized I had a problem with it and I needed to change it. Sobriety is not for everybody. Some people can’t really handle it. But for me, the way my mind works, I can’t speak for Daniel, but I know that today I’m not going to drink because I don’t like the way it feels to me and I don’t like the way I am and I don’t like the way I feel the next day. So for me it’s like, I can really find the way I love music without it. That’s cool, cause that’s how it started. *HI: Do you consider yourself spiritual? *
JS: Yeah, I mean, we come from a very spiritual place next to the mountains and in the west. I don’t practice religion, but spirituality is undeniable if you let it in. It’s just something that goes on. It’s something that helps me understand a little more about what’s going on in my life. The downs, the ups. Being alive in a time like this. *HI: What do you see as some of the biggest accomplishments for the band in the last year, and what were the most disappointing moments? *
JS: One of our biggest accomplishments was going to Spain. Having kids get turned on to us. It was about 14,000 people. It was just cool to have people turned on organically because not only is there a language barrier but there’s also a huge thing that happens when you’re playing your music for people that have never heard it before and they’re just listening to you. It was a pretty cool thing to just see people’s faces, trying to just listen and soak it up and not necessarily judge. *HI: And what about the disappointing moments? *
JS: I’d say after we shelved the record, we started going on the road again and playing sometimes these mountain gigs where we’re going up by ourselves and we have our friends coming up with us and there’s this heavy home vibe. And we’re going "man, we just shelved that record and we’re stuck in this thing for a while until we figure out what we’re going to do." Then we just write tunes, and we start figuring it out. I find myself saying "how’s it going to work, we have to figure it out." But we’ve been fortunate enough to have the success we’ve had regardless of that.

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