Between the ubiquitous presence of record execs’ thumbprints on the sound of pop music and the oversaturation of alternative rock, finding a place for musicians to sell records without the luxury of big-label distribution is getting mighty difficult. And to many, worth is measured either by commercial success or by the bragging rights of the poor, suffering indie-rocker armed with boatloads of glowing press. The members of Detroit-based Robb Roy claim that they just want to make records and have fun.
“Like everyone, we first hoped for a major label … you know, the cars, the mansions in LA,” says bassist John Cottos. “But as time went on, we realized that we are really just doing it because we love it.”
For Cottos, a lifelong musician, the journey is significantly more important than the destination. Quite frankly, he describes how proud he is to be part of a band that takes its future into its own hands.
The band, comprised of Cottos, vocalist Graham Strachan, guitarist/keyboardist Michael Kudreiko and drummer Duane Huff, is certainly ambitious. Robb Roy has found that the best way to get a product out in a manner that suits them artistically is to be their own boss. In the past, major labels have expressed more than just cursory interest in the band. They’ve also tried to change the band’s ethos. Hence, Robb Roy decided to forego the ass-kissing of major-label weasels and start up their own label, Pure Recordings. And the label itself might take on legs of its own outside Robb Roy. Cottos says they are “always looking” for bands to sign.
Since 1996, the band has been hoofing it. Pleased to play everything from local bars to large music venues, the band says unironically that the joy of performing is as fresh as it was when they started.
Cottos explains, “Our fan base ranges. I have seen kids as young as 12 or 13 at our shows … of course, their parents probably turned them on to us … but it is still fun.”
“I still get nervous before I play,” he adds.
Their latest album, Days of Pride and Hunger, is a testament to the idea that radio-ready rock ’n’ roll can be still be desirable. “The songs come pretty easily,” he explains. “Graham has this amazing ability to write melodies and lyrics off of a simple riff. … We can get a song together in a matter of hours.”
Lyrics on the poppy title track lend insight into the band’s manifesto, addressing the inherent hardships of the DIY route: Living with the demons in your mind/Learn to coexist to ease your time/With a little help from all your friends/Work to bring your struggle to an end.
But don’t dish your “awwwws” just yet. Robb Roy may not be as “hungry” as they used to be. General Motors recently purchased the rights to the band’s uplifter rock anthem, “Roll On,” for use in a national Hummer television ad campaign. And despite the lack of major-label greenbacks, the band has managed to put together a music video.
Available as a bonus track on the new CD, the video for “What If” was directed by locally based filmmaker, Kevin Carrico (director of photography for the White Stripes “Hotel Yorba” video and director of Blanche’s “Do You Trust Me?”).
And at a time when the kudos are being dished out to a much more lo-fi oeuvre of Detroit-based rock ’n’ roll, Cottos shows no signs of breaking.
“I am not saying that garage rock is a fad, but the kind of music we write is something that we have always believed in. … It’s a mainstay.”
Cottos adds, “We have faith in each other. We really are like a family.”
The release party for Robb Roy’s fourth album, Days of Pride and Hunger, happens at Fifth Avenue Downtown (2100 Woodward Ave., inside Comerica Park) on Saturday, Oct. 25. Singer-songwriter “V” will open. Call 313-471-2555 for more information.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org