Interview // ROAM
“Angry grunge pop for people who need a kick up the arse”, the newest album from ROAM, Smile Wide, finds the band with a renewed sense of confidence.
Is there any feeling more empowering than listening to music that’s all about taking back control? Nothing screams ‘pop punk’ more than angst-driven, determination-fuelled tracks that spit out brutally honest lyrics and Eastbourne’s ROAM certainly make a fine example of this with their third album Smile Wide. In guitarist and vocalist Alex Adams’ own words, it’s “angry grunge pop for people who need a kick up the arse”. The album maintains the same lively energy that has characterised the band while marking a shift in attitudes, culminating in a body of work that is much more open than what we have experienced previously.
This change of character can partially be attributed to the personal feelings experienced by the band in the lead-up to the album. Alex confesses, “For a long time, both as a band and in our personal lives, we got stuck in a rut where we just accepted what we were told, be that from management, anyone who was working with us in any capacity, and then in personal relationships and stuff as well. It got to the point where it was like, you can’t just let people tell you ‘no, that’s not happening’.”
Standing up for yourself is very important
Management was a point of contention that contributed to the frustration of the band central to the album. Alex describes their relationship with their last management as “the straw that broke the camel’s back, the final nail in the coffin where it was like, ‘OK, this has actually been happening a lot more than we realised’, and that’s what woke us up. I don’t necessarily think that we were absolutely destroyed by the last management, I just think that there’s been too many times where we’ve accepted what we’ve been told without questioning it. ‘No that can’t happen because of this’ or ‘That’s just how it works’, and it’s like, ‘Well, we actually lost a lot of money by…’. For example, our last management made us hire lawyers to do our visas when it should have been his job, so we ended up paying 4000 dollars just to have a lawyer do the visa, which also cost their own amount of money.”
Bassist Matt Roskilly continues, “It was reckless, they were very reckless with us and we just realised we should be taking control of the situation rather than letting them. I don’t even know if it was intentional on their part, or whether they just thought that’s how things were done. But when you start realising things are out of your control, allegedly, that’s when you start getting angry and you’re like ‘Hang on, no. This doesn’t have to be this way. We can actually take control’. And we did; we went self-managed for a bit until we could get to a position where we were comfortable taking someone else on to work with us. Not to get too into the politics behind-the-scenes.”
Although it cannot be denied that there has been some questionable decisions made by their previous management, the band are not so immune to humility that they fail to acknowledge fault on their own part as well. Drawing upon this experience, one crucial lesson that the band has taken away is that “you need to be involved in every aspect and you need to know everything that’s going on, because then you can say, ‘We’re not doing that, you don’t need to do that’. Or they go, ‘That can’t happen’ and you go, ‘Well this person made it happen so we’ll go with them then’ and they’re like, ‘OK. Shit. We’ll do it.’ I think it’s being aware of everything in your life, and taking control of it to the point that you need to. You don’t need to do everything yourself, but you need to be involved with everything and know the alternatives.”
All the songs came out so organically because we were all in a really good place, working together
Despite this relatively unpleasant hiccup before the album, the smooth sailing and pleasantry of the actual album process arguably made up for this. Matt fondly remembers, “It was such a good experience. We threw ourselves in at the deep end, out of our comfort zone – we hadn’t even met the producer before we went out there. So we were in the middle of nowhere in Austin, Texas, and the first night we turned up, we got there and it was pitch black, staying in this trailer, this caravan. This dog barked all the way through the night so none of us slept, so we were all like, ‘oh no, what have we got ourselves into here?’. And when we went in the studio, it was nothing but good vibes from the next day onwards [for] the whole time we were there, for a month. It was all pleasant experiences. All the songs came out so organically because we were all in a really good place, working together, we just sat down in this room and worked on all the songs we had and we just kept making them better and better, in our eyes at least.”
Matt continues reminiscing, “Every day we were cooking outdoors, grilling. All we had was a barbecue and this little stovetop, so we were barbecuing every day. Every morning we were getting up and sitting outdoors in the sun and eating breakfast together; in the evening, having a few beers together, all of that. It’s funny, because the album is overall about this message of feeling out of control and stuff, but while we were there, it was like [we] got it back for a bit, it was really nice.”
Don’t be mistaken into thinking that this was a smooth sailing in the conventional sense though; after all, this is ROAM we’re talking about here. There were certainly a few moments that particularly stood out for the band, and a common theme that unites them is creepy crawlies. Alex begins, “We used the outside shower every day because it’s Texas so it was so hot, it was amazing. But there was one day where Alex was in the shower, showering, and then a scorpion came in, so he just ran naked round the field. I don’t know why, because there was a towel, he didn’t need to run naked. So he legged it, and then we started finding scorpions everywhere.”
Alex continues into another recollection, where “one day to do a photoshoot for the promos for the album, and we ended up going to this river to swim. We had a drone with us, and the guy flying the drone found the other side of this river, there was a canyon with a waterfall and stuff. So we swam across this river, which was muddy as hell, and went into this canyon and we basically climbed this waterfall and found so many spiders nests and it was horrible. Honestly. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those videos on Facebook where there’s just this big, black mass vibrating – we found that and we poked it with a stick and they just flew everywhere, it was horrible. But it was a fond memory because we spent the whole day just screaming, it was fun.”
We wanted to come back with a bang and do it right
Having had such a pleasant experience in Texas whilst recording the album, it’s no surprise that the band found it a slight struggle to adjust back to life at home afterwards. Alex admits, “I feel like we’ve been out of this world for a little while, because we took ourselves away to write, and then we consciously didn’t want to tour until the album came out because we wanted to come back with a bang and do it right, rather than keep playing the same songs that people have heard and doing support tours. I think settling back into being at home all the time was quite a weird adjustment for us, because we were away for so long before this that it was so fucking boring at first, just going home and being like, ‘Cool, I do this every day.’ And it’s hard, because when you’re on tour, a lot of the time you just want to be at home, but when you’re at home all the time you want to be on tour.”
A major theme that Smile Wide is concerned with is the importance of standing up for yourself, but a simple glance at the world around us will show you that there’s more causes to stand up for. That doesn’t mean you are constrained to only standing up for one cause though, and Matt emphasises, “I think standing up for yourself is very important. For example, going back to Smile Wide, taking control of yourself and giving yourself a bit of a kick to overcome these things where someone’s shit-talking on you – I say shit-talking as if they’re like saying mean things behind our back – but like making things hard, trying to use us essentially, which is what’s happened in the past. And finding self-love and self-respect to stand up to that and do something about it, I think that’s really important. I think people need that empowerment in their day-to-day life, it’s a day-to-day thing because people need to think higher of themselves, which is hard.”
“I think as well, there’s nothing wrong with standing up for anything, but you need to actually believe in it. If you’re just doing it for fucking retweets or whatever, it’s so transparent if someone’s campaigning for something that they don’t actually care about. Don’t say it if you don’t actually care about that thing; it doesn’t matter if that thing’s important, if you don’t care about it, leave it and go for something you actually care about. Because people are going to see straightaway that you’re not actually about that, and it’s just not going to do anything” remarks Alex. And we can completely agree with that sentiment. One thing we do care about and stand up for though is the fact that ROAM have seriously evolved as people in their third album, so go give Smile Wide a spin and decide whether or not you’ll stand behind us on this. Either way, you’re sure to finish the album with a wide smile from a newfound sense of confidence and empowerment to take control over your life.