Chris K. Davidson: Tell me about the genesis of the band. I know it’s gone through several manifestations.
Opie Paul: What is this, our fourth band or our fifth band?
Evan Mullins: I think it’s our third. No it’s our fourth. I don’t know what the first one was called, but we went by Pi, then we went by Indighost. Now we’re Red Rover.
OP: Before that, we were No Chance Slowdance. Our high school band
EM: Oh yeah in high school, we were called No Chance Slowdance for some reason.
OP: We started playing together at church. Me and Evan started playing guitar in 9th grade. We’ve always wanted to play music, and I’m kind of embarrassed to this, but Third Day was the first band that made us want to play guitar. But then after that, we got into Muse, Coldplay, U2, Radiohead.
EM: Then like a plethora of bands that have influenced us. It’s kind of funny though cause we started out largely with Pi and moved to Indighost once we found a drummer. It’s like we fought the urge to make folk music. Cause whenever I pick up an acoustic guitar, all I want to do is play folk music. When I play electric, I didn’t do it. But my voice isn’t suited for rock, but for some reason, we kept making rock music. Then we sat down and decided we should play folk music, because we couldn’t fight it anymore.
OP: I think we had an initial love of rock music. I mean, I still do. But honestly, our roots…we’re really suited for folk music. But I guess, the genesis is that in high school, we wanted to get a band together and play rock music, even though we sucked greatly.
EM: Yeah, we had this drummer, not gonna name him, but he just beat the shit out of his drums; it was like the worst thing ever. He was a bad drummer.
OP: I’d say we went through some growing pains, but we finally decided we need to settle on what we sounded best at. We wanted to be rock, but we’re so suited for folk music and honestly, it’s probably been the best musical decisions we’ve made so far.
EM: Yeah if that was our Genesis, then I’d say we’re done changing and Red Rover is our Revelation.
OP: Yeah I’d definitely this is our final stand. We’re folk music.
EM: This is our Alama. If we don’t do good with this, then we’re done.
CKD: And what about the name?
EM: We grew up in Pell City, Alabama. We used to think it was a crap place to live and I guess it still kind of is if you count it as far as like things to do. But it’s a nice town to live in if you’re retired or want to raise a family. When I started writing these new songs for Red Rover- at the time I didn’t know was gonna become Red Rover- I wanted to focus on what we had done in the past and where we had came from. I use a lot of elements from around town and Alabama. I thought Red Rover was good because it’s very childish. Not to say that our music is childish, but my influence as a writer comes from the past…it doesn’t come from what’s going on right now. If stuff happens 3 days ago, then I’ll write about it. So it comes from the past. Red Rover was my favorite game when I was a kid.
EM: We’ve got a plethora of mascots. We’ve got Clifford and Red Range Rovers; Actually that’s only two mascots.
CKD: What about major music influences?
OP: Like I said before, in the “rock” phase, it was definitely Muse, Coldplay, U2 were my biggest influences. Matt Bellamy and Radiohead and Jonny Greenwood are my biggest guitar influences. But recently, in the folk genre, it’s definitely been Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver have been the biggest influences.
EM: I think the reason I count Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes- maybe not so much Fleet Foxes, but definitely Bon Iver- is because Justin Vernon, he just doesn’t care what he sounds like. He’s so brave when it comes to making music. If I can just make a song as brave as anything Justin Vernon has done, then I’ll feel accomplished. Other than Justin Vernon and Robin Peckold from Fleet Foxes, I’d say some of the older influences, I’d say- it’s sad because I’m just now getting into them- Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash. A lot of these 60’s sunpop bands like Buffalo Springfield and The Association. There’s just a lot of good 60’s music that’s underrated and everybody forgets about that’s so good. Those are some of the biggest influences and one thing I really want to work on is getting more harmonies in the music and I definitely draw that from the 60’s bands because their harmonies are so good.
CKD: And I guess you’ve already touched on this, the whole lyrical themes. Childhood, well I guess more like reflections.
EM: It’s kind of a reflection. The project before Toga! Toga! was called Armoire. The first half of 2009 was a terrible year.
OP: Probably the worst year of our lives
EM: A lot of it is about time. About time passing and not having enough time for what you want to do or what you need to do. I had this little four song thing when I was with Armoire and it was called The Dustbowl. Even still, when I write music, I still draw influence from it because 2009 was a dustbowl for me. But basically, lyrically it’s about time. For example, there’s the Avondale mill in Pell City. We wrote a song about it called “Avondale” and it’s a fictionalized story based on reality. It was a textile mill that burned down and I used that. It’s the reason why Pell City even exists. It was a big hit for Pell City so I wrote a song about it. Things from the childhood and time. I know that’s really broad.
OP: We also have Vulcan’s Valley and it’s about Birmingham and the song’s about the problems of the city.
EM: How the leaders are running it into the ground.
OP: We love Birmingham, but it’s got its problems like most cities.
EM: Time, things in Birmingham, and stuff we grow up with.
OP It’s personal lyrics. In Vulcan’s Valley, this is probably my favorite line in any of our songs: “We’re searching for something that’s real.” We want real music and something that’s not fake.
EM: When you turn on the radio, you hear these overproduced singers that are sixteen-years-old and the only reason that they’re there is because they look cool. But their music isn’t real. They don’t write it; they have people write it for them. If I can do anything, I want to share with people music that’s real; music that’s from the heart. That’s one of my goals for writing. If it’s real, then it’s good.
CKD: What about recording? I know you were talking about doing the free EP thing.
EM: I’m full of empty promises.
OP: Recording has probably been one of our biggest setbacks.
EM: I’ve started with this really crappy 8-track recorder and now I’ve moved on to bigger and more technological things and I have this program Some of our recordings have turned out good, but some mastering is what’s needed now. We’ve got a handful of tracks, 14 to 16 at the most. What I’m thinking about doing and I think Opie would agree is we could narrow it down to 6, 7, or 8 tracks, put some money down to master them, and hopefully put out an album. I’m hoping to do that before December or January. Because playing shows are pointless if people don’t have something they can get their hands on and listen to.
OP: I think it’s also just the fact that how it’s one of our biggest setbacks is that we’ve never recorded in a studio or anything close to it. We’ve recorded in a garage and a bedroom. I remember when we were in Indighost, to make a vocal booth, we ended up putting Evan in this corner of his corner and took his mattress and pushed it up against him to put him in this little space. And nothing’s ever sounded good. We’ve struggled with finding a good place to record. I mean, I think it sounds pretty good.
EM: Money’s always a problem. When you’re in college or working a minimum wage job, money is always a setback. I guess we can make do with what we have.
OP: We played this music festival in South Carolina with our good friend, Arthur Alligood, and he said, “Ya’ll sound so much better live than you do on the recording,” and he just really wanted us to go to a studio. Since then, we’ve really been considering it. We’re gonna save up some money and go somewhere with good acoustics or something because we really need to sell some cds when we play shows so people can hear us all the time and get to know us and some of our songs.
EM: Not even sell. I’m completely okay with putting money in a project and giving it away.
OP: I’m okay with that too. We just need something that people can listen to regularly when they’re driving around and get to know our songs.
CKD: Besides a physical cd one day, what do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
EM: My goal as a musician has never been focused on money. I mean, money is a good thing because it’s fun to have but it’s the recognition. As long as people know that we exist and that we make good music, I’ll say that’s been a good day. If we go play a show and one person comes up…even if it’s a bunch of BS, but someone comes up and says they like our music, it’s like the encouragement to go on for the next day.
OP: It’s so encouraging when people say they like our music.
EM: Even when it’s fake.
OP: There are friends who wouldn’t tell us that we suck even if we did.
EM: It’s encouraging. As long as people say they like our music, I’ll be satisfied with what we do.
CKD: So what are the plans for the next year or so?
OP: Shows, shows, shows. We’re gonna try our best to get some shows.
EM: I know we have one coming up on October 15 with To Light A Fire at Eclipse. I’ve been trying to get the Nick up in Birmingham. We’re just trying to get together and play shows. It’s a lot easier to play shows than record.
OP: I’d say a big goal is just to get a decent following of people that knows us and says “Red Rover’s playing here. Let’s go and we’ll have a good time.” Cause right now there’s not a whole lot of people listening to us. It’s not like we’ve started a show that we played so bad that they left. They just leave before we start playing. They don’t know us. It’s discouraging sometimes but I’m really hoping to get a decent following and a decent crowd.