American alt-rock band Roadkeeper have just released an amazing single called “Enemy mine” and we’re excited about that.
Songwriter/producer John Hetherington took some time to answer our questions.
How did Roadkeeper come together?
We have all played together in various bands for over a decade. At the time none of us had any musical projects going on so we thought it would be fun to get together and jam, maybe revive one of the old bands that had ended. It turned out that our tastes have changed a lot over the years, so something else came out when we got together. It felt more mature and complex, and reflective lyrically of who we are as people now. I think it was the right move to not bring back an old band for the sake of nostalgia. I don’t think that would have lasted. If you swabbed our brains for nostalgia you would probably find that we have less on average than most people.
How would you describe your sound?
I like to think that the sound of us as a four piece guitar band is a color on a bigger palate that gets equal play to other colors on the palate. Like the band sound is just as important as a synth, or a soundscape, or a lyric, or a digital glitch from a poorly applied recording technique. So the instruments we play as members of the band while jamming are one thing together, and the parts we craft on a recording are other things entirely, separately. This does not describe our sound but it describes our approach. I don’t really know what our sound is.
What band or artist has influenced your music the most?
Whenever we are together the music we listen to the most is Michael McDonald’s solo stuff and ZZ Top. Especially that video of Michael McDonald doing that Doobie Bros song with his own band but way faster. We all listen to different things apart from the group and there are some more normal contemporary influences in there but I think the stuff we listen to when together is more interesting. Deep Purple, Young Dolph, Queen, Failure, Lil Ugly Mane, Restless Heart. That’s what we are into when it’s the four of us.
Tell us about your new single “Enemy mine”
Enemy Mine came together fast. It’s a band jam. It’s about impressionable people, especially young boys, being radicalized via YouTube and social networks. How sad it is, how infuriating it is to see the results of it, and how thankful we are to not have been radicalized ourselves. I don’t think a lot of people realize how easy it is to get pulled in that direction, especially if you are a younger white guy. It’s an exponential decline that starts off soft. When you are young and things aren’t going your way it is easy to anchor your ideology to concepts like logic and reason. But logic and reason don’t always equal truth. They often don’t, and you can’t base your whole perspective around them.
In your songs you talked about political and humanist issues. How do you like the music scene about these arguments?
I think some people who have known us for a long time are probably like aw hell, here they go again when we put out a new track, in terms of our politics and how we talk and write about them. The truth is we don’t present as hugely political people, living our lives and hanging out. We write about life and what we are experiencing in the world and everything you think, do and experience in life is political. It is inescapable. Every choice you make is political. Every choice you decide not to make because you “aren’t political” is political. If people in your music scene are dying from COVID and you still attend or perform indoor shows (maskless, without protocols, etc.) you are planting your flag in the ground and making a political decision whether you want to admit it or not. If you choose to allow an abuser into your community and expect the abused to accept it, you are making a political decision. And hey, we aren’t exempt from the weight of those decisions just because we acknowledge their nature. We are four white guys who started a band, and to balance out that political decision we made, we have to put extra effort into understanding and responding to social and human rights issues that don’t have as much obvious effect on us. Whether it’s by donating to direct action, signal boosting, educating our kids, or whatever. Our whiteness and male-presentingness makes those kinds of issues less tactile for us. It’s like trying to type with gloves on. Our political choice in that situation is either to acknowledge and counterbalance that lack of tactility or not, and we choose to accept it.
Has the pandemic slowed down your creative process in any way or motivated you more?
Well, the existential threat of running out of money hit hard. Before COVID, I made a living in music. When live shows stopped happening I lost a large percentage of my income. I sold a lot of recording gear, which I considered luxury items anyway, and pivoted into an entirely different industry. But even during all of that we were able to more or less keep up our pace of producing music. We work slow and over long periods of time. I like to take long breaks when working on a recording so I can do whatever the next phase is with a fresh perspective. So that didn’t change too much for us. We haven’t gotten together as much, but I don’t really see that as a detriment to us. I can only speak for me, but my motivation has shifted from putting out the work to creating the work. I’m not sure what good releasing new music does anyone these days but it feels good to create it, and I am excited about some of the music we are making now and in the near future.
What are your goals for 2021?
We are going to release a few more songs that iterate on the ideas we have already put out. After that, we will probably try to do some experimentation and change it up a bit. There are some opportunities to dig deeper into the sounds and workflows that make us unique and maybe come across something new.