Sitting in a back booth at Mockingbird Station's Urban Taco restaurant, the six men of Big Red Rooster look every bit the part of rock stars. Their haircuts, their ball caps, their facial hair, their attire—it's all pretty well put-together, all intended, it seems, to showcase the band members' somewhat glamorous, if also approachable, personae.
There's a seventh man joining the band on this afternoon, sipping beers and smiling with these, his friends. This is Markus Pineyro, a successful young entrepreneur (owner of this soon-to-be-expanded Mexico City-influenced restaurant) who also happens to be one of Big Red Rooster's two managers—which, yes, is as telling a sign as there is into the designs of this rap rock outfit. This is not a band meant to thrive within the local scene; this is a band built for a national takeover.
Whether the band's hopes will come true is still up for discussion. First of all, there's the music, which, to a large degree, is pretty generic—and, yes, that's more a knock on the merits of the band's chosen genre than a knock on the individual talents of Big Red Rooster's players.
Big Red Rooster
Big Red Rooster opens for Sublime tribute band Badfish on Friday, January 23,at the House of Blues
There's an ingrained homogeny in that sound. Rap rock, really, can only be taken so far. Its creative spectrum is only so wide. Plus, it's 10 years past its prime.
But the guys in the band seem to know this. They cringe when the term rap rock enters the conversation. They argue that they aren't a rap rock band. They argue that their influences extend far beyond the Sublimes, the 311s, the Linkin Parks and the Flobots of the world. Hell, they say, guitarist Ted Lauck doesn't even listen to hip-hop, and that, unlike so many other rap rock projects, their vocalists are hardly rock influenced: "Lots of bands have done the rap rock thing," the band's emcee, Multi (real name: Andrew Meals), defends. He points across the table to his fellow vocalist, J Sabin, an R&B singer the group added during a lineup change a few years back. "But no one's done it with an R&B sound."
Maybe not. But it's all semantics. Because, actually, Big Red Rooster's sound is the least interesting part of its story. Far more interesting is the fact that Big Red Rooster truly has its shit together—at least business-wise. And not just because of band management. Bass player Phil Griffin, whose fellow band members proudly tout as the sole "classically trained" musician in the outfIt, works by day as a financial analyst. The group's DJ and synth man, DJ Pac (real name: Pierre Cohen) works as an advertising coordinator for Sony Music. Four of the band's members, meanwhile (DJ Pac, Multi, Lauck and drummer Dustin Boersch) have become fairly proficient in three different computer-based production programs (GarageBand, ProTools and FruityLoops)—y'know, just in case. Lauck also uses his interest in film production and editing to create all of the band's promotional videos on YouTube.
Hell, the band even goes so far as to videotape each of its live performances. Why? Not so they all can be released for online viewing; rather, those tapes allow for Big Red Rooster to self-evaluate, to watch those tapes after the fact and determine how it can tweak its live show for future gigs.
"When you're on stage, there's a euphoria that takes over," Griffin says. It makes for a good time, sure, but it also makes it difficult to truly gauge the performance. "You can compare our watching these tapes to a sports team watching film to prepare for their next game."
It all adds up to an impressive, incredibly well pieced-together package. In fact, everything about the band (that the public sees, at least) is carefully tailored to create a very powerful, instantly recognizable image—one that portrays the band as a professional, experienced outfit.
"We're trying to brand all of our ideas," Multi explains.
So much so, Lauck adds, that the band has chosen to emphasize its logo (a large, red, toy rooster) over the faces of its members. That logo was chosen carefully: "The rooster is a representation," Lauck says. "It's an emblem of the fresh sound we bring, like when you wake up and hear a rooster clucking in the morning. That's kind of like what our music is."
DJ Pac, who says his time working for Sony Music has taught him plenty about the state of the music industry, explains that this emphasis on the branding concept is just a matter of the band working the way it must in the current climate: Bands need to market themselves long before the record labels will. It's the most practical way to garner label interest, he says.
"It'd be great," he says, "if all we had to do was write the music. But it's really like running a business. We sit around and think about this stuff all day long."
And because the band's ultimate goal is recognition and fame, they have to do these things. There's no choice in the matter.
"If this was just for us," Pac confesses, "we wouldn't release our songs. They'd just stay on our computer."
Whatever you think about the band's sound, Big Red Rooster's lack of modesty deserves respect. Too many local bands do rest on their laurels when it comes to self-promotion. Too many bands do seem to be waiting for the white knight of the record label (or the blogger) to come in, hear their music, tout the sound and reveal the package to the masses as the Next Big Thing.
And, actually, here's a bit of irony: According to Quick's reader-voted music awards, held last April, Big Red Rooster is the Next Big Thing. The band's ability to self-promote and engage its audiences found Big Red Rooster taking home an award named just that at the Morning News subsidiary paper's award ceremony, in spite of the fact that, after seven years as a band since forming at SMU, the group rarely plays small clubs any more, instead preferring to book as opening act for touring projects that stop by the House of Blues.
Why? Well, it's simple: More people are at those shows.
"We are getting ready to be the next big thing," Multi says.
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"We just wanna get our music out to as many people as we can," Griffin continues.
"Can't be shy about it," Lauck adds.
Is it a little bit of an emphasis of style over substance? Absolutely. But, as marketing goes, Big Red Rooster is setting a model example. And there's no shame in wanting to be a rock star.
Actually, there's far more shame in wanting to be a rock star and not doing anything about it. Credit Big Red Rooster for tossing modesty out of the equation.