I recently described this album as - “Take The Potion is a highly infectious blend of modern based Stoner/Sludge Metal riffs that you will easily become addicted to from the start. If you are a fan of recent Small Stone Recordings bands then you are going to find much to enjoy here. Small Stone Recordings should sign these guys now as they would easily fit amongst their amazing roster of bands.”
I loved this album so much I bought the Vinyl right away. I wanted to hear much more from ROMERO so it was cool they kindly agreed an interview with me. So lets get down to business with the brilliant ROMERO.
Q1 – Hi Guys, Thanks for doing this. How are things with you guys Today?
Q1 – Hi Guys, Thanks for doing this. How are things with you guys Today?
Jeff: Hi, Mr. Sludgelord! You are quite welcome. Things are equally awesome & horrible...as is the norm these days.
Ben: Real spiritual high, brother. Real high.
Q2 – For people not in the know can you give them a brief history of the band and how it came about?
Jeff: Romero happened completely by accident. I had been away from music for many years, living in northern WI, completely immersed in my toys & collectibles business. I saw a local Craigslist post looking for musicians for a stoner rock band. I was certain that the ad was placed by a friend up there, so I answered. It wasn’t my friend, it was another dude...that dude was nice, so we started writing songs together. We made demos, found a drummer and just kept playing. Our influences & surroundings really dictated our path. Well, that & the pot...
Steve: I joined the band in January of 2012 to take over for Josh Stanchik on bass. My previous band, Rust Belt Sermon, had played with Ben, Jeff and Josh during their first show as Romero. Jeff and I also had a lot of common acquaintances from the 90s Madison/Milwaukee punk/hardcore scene though we never met back then. Seems like every time we reminisce about some show we were at, the other person was also there.
Ben: I came into the game after an album had been written. A damn good record, too. Since then, I just try to keep my head on straight while we lay down some crush.
Q3 – How would you describe your sound?
Jeff: Heavy blues? I don’t know...We started out pretty stoner-droner, but have since upped the blues & the prog and really have developed into our own sound. We are a bit all over the place lately, but I think that is a good thing. There are so many flavors that need to be tasted and explored. On the other hand, I still love my vintage tube amps, pedals & stacks of cabs. There will always be that tonal element to whatever we do.
Steve: Apocalyptic space doom rock with a sprinkle of kief.
Q4 – Which bands and artists influence you directly as musicians?
Jeff: All 3 of the members of Romero have been influenced and affected by a ton of music throughout the years. From the well known bands to the basement dwelling DIY scenes, we have listened to and absorbed all of it. My list is way too long, my friend.
Steve: It really varies for me as I am a bit A.D.D. when it comes to bands. If it isn't on commercial radio, it is fair game.
Ben: As far as I can tell, we're all into music as an artform, as opposed to one particular style. Personally, I like a good pop song as well as I like crusty, fucked up hardcore. Lately, it's been a lot of psychedelia. That new Goat record makes my brain melt.
Q5 – Are you all full time musicians or do you have regular jobs to pay the bills?
Jeff: I work all day as a shipping robot in a warehouse and I hate every second. I have been a full-time musician in the past and I have owned a business, so the sooner I can get back to one of those things, the better.
Steve: I'm a graphic designer by day.
Ben: The man is still twisting my balls off, if that's what you mean.
Q6 – Are your family and friends supportive of your music?
Jeff: So supportive! I am constantly touched by the kindness and understanding I receive from my family & friends.
Steve: It would be a tough go if they weren't. Most of my friends are either current or former members of bands so they get it. My family has always been supportive of my music—even to the point of letting us hold basement punk shows in their house when we were kids.
Ben: Hell yeah.
Q7 – What is the songwriting process in the band? Is it a group collective or is just down to one individual?
Jeff: Songwriting happens a few different ways in this band. A lot of our early songs were written and developed by myself and brought into the band. Other times, I will have a riff or series of riffs and we will structure the song collectively. Lyrics and vocals sort of develop as we go...maybe starting with a melody, then phonetically adding words and phrases that fit.
Steve: I write my parts and that is about it so far (except for the parts Josh was already playing).
Ben: Starts with Jeff, ends with neuromatic menage a trois.
Q8 – Well what more can I say about – TAKE THE POTION – A truly brilliant new album. It has seem to hit a nerve with the Stoner Rock crowd. Some great reviews I have read so far. Stupid question – You pleased with the responses so far?
Jeff: Oh, man...it’s really nice. The record seems to have gone viral very quickly. We are hearing from people in areas of the world that we never thought we would reach in a million years. It makes all of the personal and financial sacrifices way easier to take.
Steve: We worked so long and hard on this album, that it is really reaffirming to get the reaction we have had. The reviews from other countries have been awesome and Google Translate has made the language nuances instant comedy as well.
Ben: Love it. We wouldn't write the songs if we didn't like them; it's nice to know we're not the only ones.
Q9 – Was it an easy album to write and record for? Has many great hard rocking riffs and moods to please all fans of the genre.
Jeff: None of it was easy. The songs collected on “Take The Potion” are from different times in Romero’s history. We took great care in selecting songs that work together and flow easily. The recording process was very intense and very expensive.
Ben: Very difficult, I'd say. Trying to keep the flow going while bringing in all the aspects of rock we hold dear, and not letting the record move into masturbatory territory was a challenge we all signed up for from the beginning.
Q10 – How did you guys hook up with Grindcore Karaoke to release your album. And your releasing it on Special Edition CD and Vinyl (Which I have already bought).
Jeff: GK is J. Randall from Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s online label. Agoraphobic put records out on Bovine Records back in the day. I had a lot to do with Bovine & my band, THUG, put records out on the label. If I am not mistaken, J. may have been introduced to Scott Hull via Bovine. When J. had the idea to start his own label, he went ahead and called it Bovine Records...as a tribute. He was interested to see what, Bovine owner, Sean thought of this, so I helped put them in touch. J. also really wanted to release a discography of all of THUG’s material. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, so ROMERO is his consolation prize. HA! Just kidding... He heard our stuff and dug what we were putting down. He is very energetic and super supportive. Thanks for buying the physical copy! We really appreciate that.
Ben: ...well, basically Jay loves weed and weed-induced music. He pretty much found us and has been our champion ever since.
Q11 – You pleased with your debut album being released on Vinyl? Not many bands get a chance for their first album to be released on Vinyl.
Jeff: So pleased! It’s true, not many bands get to have their debut on vinyl. However, we aren’t ones to sit around and wait for someone with money to discover us. We knew what we wanted, so we made a video and created a whole Kickstarter campaign. It fucking worked! It worked because we work...we work hard! Once our fans & friends saw that, they got behind us and helped make it happen.
Steve: Ecstatic about it being on colored vinyl. Brings me back to my youth of flipping through the punk records at Earwaves (iconic Milwaukee indie record store).
Ben: We're pleased, but knew the whole time that vinyl was the home these songs deserved. What we're really shocked and excited about is that fans from around the world teamed up to help us make the vinyl release a reality through our Kickstarter. Brings a green tear to my eye.
Q12 – You have toured with a few famous bands such as The Sword, Jucifer, Weedeater, Clutch, Dead Meadow, Black Label Society amongst others. Who have been your band to tour with and perform with?
Jeff: We have played with those bands, but never had the opportunity to tour with them for long periods of time. We would jump at the chance to package with another band and reach a larger audience. Who wouldn’t?
Ben: Well, all the bands you're talking about there were sweet dudes. Personally, I loved hanging out with Bryan and Kyle from The Sword. All around great guys, awesome band; plus they know how to pre-game for a show like winners. Two words: fruit bong.
Q13 – What is the live ROMERO experience like?
Jeff: Heavy, loud, very, very high. Green lights, bright white lights, smoke, stacks of amps. Intense, emotional, in the moment rock-n-roll!
Steve: Tune low—Play slow. Loud. Dynamic. Heavy in the lungs.
Q14 – What are your favourite bands around at the moment? Do you listen to modern day rock/metal or do you just listen to the classic era of Stoner/Sludge/Doom/Post-Rock/Post-Metal?
Jeff: I listen to everything...all the time...depends on my mood. Lately...The Atlas Moth, Danzig, Cinderella, Orange Goblin, Opeth, Mastodon, Black Mountain...
Steve: This week has been a lot of Baroness, Goes Cube, Young Widows, Gojira, Isis, Gospel, Red Fang, Pontiak.
Ben: I love me some Black Sabbath, and I love me some Torche.
Q15 – What are your views of blogs such as Sludgelord featuring and reviewing your records as opposed to the mainstream magazines?
Jeff: Blogs such as yours are on the front lines. You search the world for music that you love and you waste no time in talking about it. It is a passion and it is legitimate. Mainstream magazines are often just catalogs trying to sell products. Mainstream journalists are assigned stories based on money & faux popularity.
Steve: Blogs are the modern version of independent zines. With so much music being released, blogs serve music addicts like myself as a filter or sorting service to help rank what is out there. I don't read the mainstream music magazines.
Ben: Everyone in the blogosphere supporting underground music is a hero. What you guys do is the equivalent to what we do in some ways...it's the ability to focus on art and freedom as opposed to net profits and marketing. Let's just agree to keep both our ends of the bargain; we'll keep saying "fuck you" to the trends of the market if you will.
Q16 – Has BandCamp been a big help in getting your music across.? Was it an easy decision to release your music for free download?
Jeff: Absolutely. We would be virtually unknown without Bandcamp.
Ben: Bandcamp is the best way to release music from the underground, bar none. I love those cats. They're funny as hell, too - try reading some of their tutorials!
Q17 – What are your views on record companies shutting down blogs and websites due to illegal downloading? Some people are for it and some people are against it.
Jeff: That’s tough. I understand why companies feel like they have to protect their investment, but I feel like it gets too crazy with all of the fines & shit. It’s not murder, it’s music! Power to the people!
Ben: I'm against it. We want people to hear my art, otherwise we wouldn't be making it.
Q18 – What are the most and least rewarding aspects of participating with the band? Obviously, the reality of how expensive it is being in a band could be considered as a negative aspect
Jeff: The most rewarding is the connection with fans, it’s human, it’s real. I just really like my time on stage, wherever we are. Most of the rest of touring, at this point in my life, is exhausting, frustrating and pretty fucking boring. Somehow it is all worth it for that 40 minutes to an hour of rock every night. The feeling and energy exchange of the 3 of us back & forth with a crowd that gets it? There is nothing else like it.
Steve: Money is always tight. People don't realize how much it costs to create music: recording, equipment, transportation, media etc. Past that, the grind of practicing several times a week. Biggest thing right now is having to lift an Ampeg 8x10 cabinet up and down a narrow 80 year old staircase at our practice space!
Ben: Yeah, I'm signed up for the whole process. Screw the negative aspects; I can't remember what they are anymore.
Q19 – What pisses you off most in music? Mine is manufactured pop-shit from the Disney and Simon Cowell blend of music. No soul or originality. There never seems to be any end of it. Also how some people turn their noses up at Sludge/Stoner/Doom Metal music in general. They seem to think we are all drugged out hipsters. Which couldn't be any further from the truth.
Jeff: I’m not very wishy-washy when it comes to music. I don’t think it is for everyone and I don’t think everyone can do it or should do it. Some people just shouldn’t be on stage. It’s all just a matter of taste.
Steve: RIAA suing people for thousands of dollars for downloading a song, forcing them into bankruptcy, criminalizing something we all have done because of their inability to adapt to new technology and a new business model.
Ben: What pisses me off the most is the inability of people to pay for live gigs. I've heard other touring musicians have the same attitude. I understand if you're broke - hell, I've been there - but let's be real about live performances for a second. Kids (and by kids I mean anyone in the underground...it's just a good term for us) are willing to go out and pay $6 for a cup of shitty coffee at Starbucks, but those same kids will bitch and complain about a $10 ticket to see a widely touring band. Come on. If you're going to get the recordings for FREE, at least be willing to pay a reasonable price to watch a practiced, professional performance from the group that handed you that art.
Q20 – What words of wisdom would you give to a band starting out or some friends wanting to start a band of their own?
Jeff: Don’t bother...enjoy your life. :-P
Steve: A good drummer solves a lot of problems. Drummers also seem to create a lot of problems. So yeah.
Ben: This one's easy. Two quotes come to mind. Henry Rollins once said, in words close to this, that being punk is really about not stopping. Don't stop. Keep doing it, even when you think no one gives a shit. If you make music, eventually someone will. Which leads me to the second quote. Duke Ellington said, "If it sounds good, it IS good." Doesn't matter if the music is out of trend, or if no one in your hometown likes it. Fuck 'em. If you think it sounds good, probably a lot of other people will, too.
Q21 - Finally, Do you have anything to say your fans?
Jeff: Thank you for listening, thank you for supporting us and we hope to see you all one day.
Ben: You guys are fucking rad. All of you. Come party with me.
Well guys thanks for talking to me. Been a real honor in doing this. Good luck with your excellent album. Hope you sell out all of your CD's and Vinyls and you will hopefully tour the UK sometime. All the best from Sludgelord.
Jeff: *throws up the horns* \m/
Well thanks to the guys for giving us such a great interview. If you haven't checked out these hugely talented Sludge Rockers then WHY THE FUCK NOT!!! -Your really missing out.