Catch up with LA-based band Rough Church's Greg Franco and watch the video for their latest single "5 AM Shadows" off their upcoming sixth album, Queen's Sacrifice, out February 24th.
What got you interested in starting Rough Church?
Greg: I had a band for 10 years that I kind of split up [laughs]. It was called Ferdinand and I had an offer to make a solo album in New Zealand and I did that with these guys in this band called The Clean, then I came back to LA and some friends wanted to jam and I was like, "maybe I'll start a new band with some different people," so we called it Rough Church and it's been around since 2005, about 12 years.
Where did you come up with the name Rough Church?
It just sort of hit me,. We live in rough times, it's kind of exciting but also trying times, and the idea of bringing people together is church-ish. Musicians playing together is kind of our church, in a way. It was rough rock & roll and church and it just hit me one day.
Which musicians would you say you've been influenced by?
Well I've always been a huge fan of this guy D. Boon from the Minutemen; this guy from the '80s who died at 27 - a young guy - he was a hero of mine when I was in my early 20's. He was in this punk, really unique, LA band and his music had a lot of politics in it, so he's always been a huge influence. And Frank Black from The Pixies and I'm sort of a bigger guy so I like these big rockers and big dudes. Screaming - musical though, not just screaming. Kurt Cobain, punk, all that early '80s stuff, I was into everything: Sex Pistols, Joy Division, all that stuff.
Is there anyone you're hooked on right now?
I like Courtney Barnett. She's my girl, she's just a lefty like me who plays guitar and she sings great lyrics. And I like her influences too, all the Aussie stuff. We go over there and play sometimes and I really am just loving the Australian music scene almost more than any place.
How would you describe your sound to someone who had never heard your music?
I think we're trying to recreate the whole idea of the punk rock ethos with '70s classic rock. Really well-recorded, good songwriting, good singing, harmonies, vocals. There's a pop element to it but there's also a rough punk edge to it, but we also have some songs that are really languid and beautiful and sweet and this girl plays violin. The song "5 AM Shadows" on our record is kind of a hit right now, it's been featured on a lot of blogs and they like it, and it's really pretty, groovy, pop rock.
What were your inspirations behind that single "5 AM Shadows"?
It's neat because the riff came in from the guitar player and he was like, "this is a really pretty riff, what do you think?" and then Kaitlin and I wrote the lyric on it. It got really groovy and we liked Cocteau Twins and Stereolab and bands like that a lot and they influenced that song. We were going for something in the head that was beautiful and organic and natural for that song. The drums are real, every thing is live, and the original take is us in the room; that's what we're trying to do, is preserve the idea of live recording.
Is that single indicative of what we can expect to hear on Queen's Sacrifice?
I think we're going more in that direction but then we have some angrier songs about the times we are in. "Speak" is one, so we have some political stuff. "Book Junkies", which is a pop rocker but it has some energy. We have an album probably coming out next year so it's going to be like a double with this one and it's kind of all over the place. We have this ability to write songs like little mini movies so everything is different and each song is its own person with very different features and blends. But I have the main songwriting people in place now, which took me a few records to get it done. Everybody's working together in harmony and we all love each other and that's not easy, that's the hard part with bands, I think, to get that part done, and then that's when the music can get really good. It's a good record.
Is there a track off this album you're most excited to perform live?
I think that one, "5 AM Shadows". We're playing our record release party on Friday and I think "Speak" is one. We can do longer versions of the songs and have solos and, in that way, we can be a jam band and take songs and lengthen them; it can be a 4 minute song and we'll turn it into a 10 minute thing where we have solos and jams and make it so the audience gets a little bit more of what they paid for.
How would you sum up Queen's Sacrifice in one sentence?
It's a journey through a modern era but it doesn't want to waste your time.
It's a short record, it's only 8 songs. In the era of making records for vinyl, we want to make records for all time. There's records I've been listening to for 40 years and a lot of them are really like 39 minutes long, they're not really long records. Like Steely Dan's Aja is a good example, I've been listening to that record and I still hear new things on it. I just want to make songs that hold up over time. Queen's Sacrifice is a reference to chess in that, it seems like your opponent's winning 'cause you gave up the queen but then it turns out that's exactly the right move to get them thinking that they're winning and then you win in 7 moves. It's a 7 move checkmate, so that was intriguing to me as a title. We're trying to make a short amount of songs for a record, but then you need to hear it again; it's like a drug. In the beginning you're always skeptical, but by the end you're left devastated, like this is one of the great records. I want to make records that I'm remembered by, so that's what it is. It doesn't mean you have to put out every song that you demoed - we demo 100 songs and release 8 at a time - but we really fussed over this record, it took us 2 years to make it. It was quite a journey and one of the songs we recorded in Wellington, New Zealand, so we're willing to go anywhere to find the gold. We'll take our pickaxes out and chip away at it.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
It's always about love and any kind of healing that we're trying to do for people. People go through all kinds of things in life and the music, you need it. We all need music, and not just any music, but music that touches us. I want those songs to be touchstones in people's lives, that's important to me.
Is there anything you want to add?
Just a shout out to everybody in the band. Alfredo's busy with his band Gogol Bordello and he's playing drums for them and he was in the Beastie Boys. I just want to shout out to everybody in the band for doing such a good job. Dante for writing and to my mom, Rosanne Hall, who helps us a lot and supports us, and my wife, Michelle Davis; people and my family who have really been supportive, because it's not an easy thing to do to hold onto this dream.