Once upon a time not all that long ago, there was a group of badasses from Boulder who played rock and roll like the past three decades had never happened. Those boys, still in high school, rocked the socks right off their fans. Literally. Every time Rose Hill Drive played the Fox Theatre, the stage would be littered with socks. Impressive, sure. But that's nothing compared to Statewide Emergency. Bet those Rose Hill dudes never got weed in exchange for a pair of their socks.
"She was definitely really high," says Statewide Emergency frontman Matt Paradis, recalling a gal he met at last year's South Park Music Festival. "She acted like she really liked our band and was worshiping us. She wanted any article of my clothing. At first she wanted my headband, but I told her I wouldn't give her my headband, but I'd give her my socks."
Before they began trading on the sock exchange, the members of Statewide Emergency were wide-eyed tweenagers looking up to Nate Barnes and the Sproul brothers. "They were definitely a huge inspiration, especially starting out, just being a rock band from Boulder," notes Paradis. "Those guys took a really legitimate route doing what they did. I think they turned down making a CD with some pretty major labels and really had a vision in mind, and they stuck with it and worked really hard on the road and toured their asses off.
"We look up to them in a lot of ways," he goes on. "I think our music has kind of gone in a different direction than theirs. We kind of started out similar, but it's branched a bit away from that. That's good, because we don't just want to be doing the same thing — just another rock band from Boulder playing the same music. It is cool to have them as an inspiration because of how hard they toured for so many years."
Naturally, the Statewide Emergency guys — Paradis and guitarist Luke Johnson, bassist Caleb Kronen and drummer Keith Slack — are likewise striving to make music a full-time endeavor. "We all put more than enough into this to make it our lifetime goal, I'd say," declares Kronen. The timing couldn't be much better. Three of the guys are graduating from high school this year, while Paradis is finishing up his first year as a music-performance major at the University of Colorado Denver.
The guys, who've all been playing instruments since they were in grade school, display the proficiency of men at least twice their age. As it turns out, unlike most kids, the music that inspired them early on was, in fact, made by men twice their age. Well, except for Paradis, who got his start on piano at age five before moving on to guitar a few years later after being inspired to cover some Avril Lavigne songs — which he's understandably hesitant to admit now. "Luckily," he points out, "within a few months I moved on to other stuff that was actually kind of cool."
Soon Paradis began composing his own songs. "I'd have two different chord progressions," he recalls, "and one would be the verse and one was the chorus. But it didn't have melody or lyrics; it was just me alternating between all the chords I knew."
Not too long after that, Paradis, who went to Shining Mountain arts school in Boulder, started Statewide Emergency. Although he was in a band with a few buddies prior to that, Paradis admits he was the only one who was musically inclined. As he got more serious about music, he let go of the guys who were less serious and brought in Slack and Johnson, themselves students at Peak to Peak, a charter school in Lafayette. In October 2008, Kronen, who's graduating from Boulder's New Vista High School this year, joined the band after seeing an ad on the group's MySpace page.
Bonding over a mutual admiration of classic-rock icons like Led Zeppelin and Cream and more modern rockers like Queens of the Stone Age, the outfit has crafted a sound that leans toward Them Crooked Vultures. "Josh Homme and Jack White are probably the two biggest influences," notes Slack. "I think I have respect for a lot of older artists, but I tend to gravitate more, at least nowadays, toward newer sounds that aren't like listening to the same songs over and over, because I like to listen to current stuff that's being explored."
"I think it's really easy to create that with classic rock," Paradis says of tapping into the heaviness and intensity of bands like Zeppelin and Cream. "But with melody, the bottom line is that you can create music that sounds good without being super heavy and intense. But what I realized from the whole classic-rock experience was that heavy and intense sound is super cool live, and it was something we wanted to continue doing live.
"Our first few live shows, even though the songs weren't the greatest, they were just high-energy songs," he continues. "And they're so solid and heavy and rock-and-roll that they were really great songs to play live — or at least they were back then. I think that's how we started to get recognition as a band, is that we were a really powerful live band. That was the most important thing I was trying to keep in mind, even though I was trying to write songs that were melodic."
When writing songs for the act's new six-song effort, Carnivorous Carnival, Paradis says he didn't want to lose any of the heaviness and intensity of the band's live set. So when it came time to lay down songs for the record, they recorded them live, doing three takes at the most for each track, at Macy Sound Studios. Part of the reason they chose Macy's was to achieve a big drum sound, which was key for the band.
The new disc, Paradis insists, is better and more modern-sounding than the band's debut, 2008's Another Point of View. "It's just tighter and musically more advanced," he says. "It would probably fit more into the genre of alternative and modern rock. A lot of the newer music is a lot more melodic, and I think it has more rhythmical hooks in it, like specific rhythms people can remember and get caught in their head. I think melody and rhythm are pretty much the most essential parts of the songs being catchy, too."
Paradis's songwriting approach was shaped in part by former Firefall singer and guitarist Mark Oblinger, who taught a songwriting class at Paradis's school. Oblinger also had a hand in helping with Another Point of View, the act's first record. Making the album was part of a school assignment, and he was Paradis's mentor on the project. "He wasn't that involved with it," Paradis clarifies, "but what he did do — it was really clear that he had a connection with the music, and he got what we were trying to do."
When it came time to start recording Carnivorous Carnival, Paradis says it made sense to work with Oblinger, who acted as producer on the album. "The first few songs are the most rock-and-roll. It just starts out straightahead rock. It's not that classic-rock sound from a lot of our first album. Toward the end of the album, it gets kind of weird and dark, and there's a slower song in there."
In addition to drawing inspiration from Rose Hill and receiving tutelage from Oblinger, the band received more sage advice from some other elder statesmen. Kronen, whose dad is friends with Allman Brothers drummer Jamo Van De Bogert, says the best advice he ever got was from sitting down with Van De Bogert, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.
"They basically said, 'Play as many live shows as you possibly can. Just play, play, play.' Last summer and all last year, that's what we did. This time last year we played five shows in one week or something — so that was definitely a good word of advice."