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ROY IS A NO-NONSENSE, no-fuss, no drama kind of band. The guys enjoy simple things like a stiff drink or cold brew, range life, and hard work. Their music embodies this down-to-earth attitude by combining cowboy motifs with traditional folk protest songs and straightforward rock. Brothers Dave and Ben Verellen, and childhood friends Brian Cook and Mike Cooper, first met while skating the streets after dark in the Tacoma, WA suburb of Lakewood. They developed an unfaltering bond and sense of self that's helped guide them through the ups and downs of more than 10 years of friendship and playing in bands. On the group's second fulMength, Killed John Train, the first for Louisiana indie Lujo Records, the one time suburban boys with rebel minds reaffirm their fierce independence and commitment to making timeless, well-crafted songs that deft genres, expectations, and even their own musical roots.

Roy is an entirely different sound from the previous heavy and hardcore bands you've all played in (Botch, Harkonen, These Arms Are Snakes). In what way do you express yourself creatively that you didn't in your other bands?

Brian: For me, it's the lyrical aspect. I enjoy writing music based around vocal ideas, because TAAS is so guitar driven and all about the tiff.

Dave: There is a lot less pressure with Roy than when Brian and I were in Botch. In Botch we were open-minded with one another but really combative as a group, and as we got more popular we also catered more to our listeners. With Roy, everyone is free to write songs in different veins.

I know you guys were disappointed in how your 2004 debut release, Big City Sin, Small Town Redemption, was handled by your then record label Fueled By Ramen, but instead of allowing yourselves to get caught up in the industry limbo it was almost like it made you all that much more committed to the music you were making. Would you agree?

Dave: There was definitely a conflict between our artistic integrity and what the label wanted. They told us we had to play with certain bands and on tours like Warped Tour to be successful, and we didn't want to do those things. When they signed us they should have known better.

Brian: I believe that if you do what you want to do and are passionate about it, people will seek it out and connect with it. The label was really pushing us to become something we were not, rather than letting the band be a natural thing that develops on its own.

What experiences releasing that record and touring on it did you learn from and then bring to Killed John Train?

Brian: That we'd rather focus on making records than touting in support of them.

Ben: Being in a band is a gamble. It's not like a lot of trades, where the harder you work the more likely you're guaranteed some kind of success. Instead you cross your fingers and hope it doesn't blow up in your face.

With three distinct songwriters in Mike, Brian and Ben, is it difficult choosing songs for each album?

Brian: There seems like there should be a lot of creative drama with Fleetwood Mac-esque blowouts, but we respect one another so much that no one in this band has a problem playing critic to himself or one another.

Ben: The band could easily be three solo projects, but it all goes through the same filter.

You each have varied writing styles. In what ways do you play off or inspire one another? What about the other's styles do you appreciate or enjoy?

Brian: We're all okay songwriters and our styles compliment one another. With Coop, there is no shortage of ideas, his lyrics are straightforward and accessible. Ben's songs are more guitar-minded and clever, and I'm somewhere in the middle.

Ben: I admire how Brian's songs are both literal and tasteful, and how Coop's songs are always entertaining. I usually end up stealing from the two of them.

Brian, your songs tend to be more autobiographical. Is it hard to channel the truth in your songs, or do you find it necessary?

Brian: I don't want every song to be a diary excerpt, but I also don't want to lie and make things up. I'm trying to make music that people will connect with years from now, and I feel as a songwriter that if you don't have anything to say, you shouldn't waste the listeners' time.

Mike uses satire to make his social commentaries, while Brian is politically outspoken and his songs tend to be also. Are there specific issues that are best suited to particular art forms?

Mike: For me, a bad song is when there are no interesting ideas being explored. I respect bands that aren't afraid to say what they feel. Not every song needs to be a love song.

Brian, what's the lure of cowboys and the Wild West for you?

Brian: Living in Seattle, I feel so entrenched in this noisy, urban-based, fashion-conscious sound, I try to escape it through country music and rural culture. I like wide-open spaces and solitude. I like the idea of there being undeveloped and unexploited places still left to be seen.

What sorts of things usually trigger a song?

Mike: When I'm hung over, sitting on the couch just fooling around with the guitar, that's when the most brilliant ideas come out.

Which storytellers do you find exceptional, and what about their style or technique do you find so interesting?

Mike: I like how Neil Young is able to combine lyrics that make you think with a melody that sucks you in.

Dave: I feel like we're kind of taking the Guided By Voices approach of, if you record 150,000 songs, someone is bound to like one of them.

Ben, having produced records for several other bands, was it difficult producing your own band for the first time?

Ben: It was really difficult to step outside the band and have a critical ear. For most of the process I felt like I was trapped in this cave of a studio, tearing my hair out, trying to learn things like Protools and not really being able to enjoy the process of making music with my band.

For the rest of you, what was it like to be produced by your fellow bandmate and for Dave, your younger brother?

Brian: I loved it. We went into the studio with a lot of ideas--not necessarily songs, but ideas--and having Ben there to oversee everything made it more casual and fun. I'd like to do every record that way.

Dave: Ben is such a multi-talented person that I welcome his opinion and direction, but sometimes I wanted to stop and remind him that this wasn't the first time I'd been in a recording studio.

After all these years of playing music together, what do you still love about it?

Dave: I still view hanging out in a club and playing to people for an evening as a perk. I'm always going to be doing something with these guys. I enjoy Roy for what it is; a bunch of chuckle time with my best friends.
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Author:Locks, Jesse
Article Type:Interview
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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