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Peace by piece: A pandemic lull gave Reno’s Asphalt Socialites new music and renewed momentum

5 min read

To paraphrase Shakespeare: Some individuals search greatness, whereas others have it thrust upon them. For Ken Zimmerman, “it” was a bass guitar.

“I’d by no means performed an instrument earlier than, and I walked in on my associates simply type of jamming round, after which I keep in mind Robb checked out me and stated, ‘Hey, Ken, guess what? You’re enjoying bass,’” stated Zimmerman.

It’s now been greater than 10 years since Robb Russo, frontman of electro alt-rockers Asphalt Socialites, gave Zimmerman that bass; the 2 are actually the one founding members remaining after a litany of life and lineup modifications.

In 2020, the band began releasing their first new music since 2014 EP Perpetually and No matter, as a sequence of singles. What began as a pandemic recording challenge, although, has helped the band rethink participating with a music business—and a fanbase—that’s modified drastically within the final decade.

“Now we’re much more hands-on, I feel, with every thing occurring, with each a part of it, from promotion to every thing,” Russo stated.

Asphalt Socialites received their begin enjoying native exhibits and touring across the West Coast within the early 2010s. The title was Zimmerman’s thought; it got here from their behavior of unwinding with just a few beers of their rehearsal area’s car parking zone after band follow.

“They hated it at first,” stated Zimmerman. “We had an entire listing of names, and that received placed on the again burner.”

Russo and the opposite members finally got here round, and the title “Asphalt Socialites” turned symbolic of the diametric qualities of their sound: ethereal but relatable, digital and natural, large enough to fill a stadium however intimate sufficient for solo listening.

“The title was very jet-set and working-class on the similar time,” stated Russo. “(We’re) not seeking to be pigeonholed by making our album cowl the Reno Arch. I’m proud to be from Reno—we each are—however we’re attempting to achieve out to the remainder of the world from the place we’re. And meaning touring outdoors.”

They leaned into their jet-setting methods for the manufacturing of Perpetually and No matter, touring to Chicago to document with the late Bjorn Thorsrud, a College of Nevada, Reno, alum who produced extensively for the Smashing Pumpkins. The manufacturing course of took two lengthy years, with Thorsrud and the band sometimes seeing one another in individual, however largely collaborating as a lot as doable by means of cellphone calls or video chats—a course of they discovered as academic because it was tedious.

“It was so costly to fly to Chicago … anytime we had concepts,” stated Zimmerman. “We have been sitting there attempting to hear and say, ‘You already know that half; it’s two minutes and 41 seconds in, proper earlier than the bridge,’ or one thing like that.’ It’s too exhausting to say what we wish.”

Each Russo and Zimmerman listing ’80s pop-rock icons like The Treatment and Depeche Mode as huge influences; shoegaze’s digital strings additionally go away their footprint on the sound. Up to date listeners may also hear comparisons to fellow Nevada natives The Killers, whom Russo as soon as opened for in a earlier band, or Chilly Play. Russo and Zimmerman credit score Thorsrud for a lot of the album’s cavernous drums, synth-laden swells and stadium-rock vibes—however they admit they felt a bit of misplaced on what to do after they received the album again.

“He was killing it on the manufacturing finish and every thing,” Russo stated. “… (It) was about us having to determine find out how to advertise. And we didn’t do an amazing job after we first began.”

The band toured over the following couple of years, constructing momentum and discovering occasional mainstream success, like getting their monitor “6 Levels” licensed because the theme tune to a preferred reality-TV net sequence. A number of amicable lineup modifications slowed their progress, although; Russo stated it felt like taking one step ahead and two steps again.

The pandemic compelled the band right into a interval of introspection as venues all over the place closed, they usually determined to supply a sequence of recent singles with assets nearer to residence. They added their new guitarist, Ian Tipton, and engaged Rick Spagnola at Dogwater Studios in Reno.

“He is aware of our sound, and we type of know what he’s able to and what he likes to do,” Zimmerman stated. “It’s virtually like an artist with a brush on canvas. I take a paintbrush, and I can do a stick determine—and that’s about it. However over time, we’re working with him, and we’re in a position to get what we hear in our heads and get it out into the only.”

Asphalt Socialites have launched six singles since 2020, a workflow that has given them the liberty to experiment with their sound and neighborhood outreach—resulting in ranges of success that stunned even them. A stripped-down love ballad known as “The One,” for instance, options departures from the band’s stadium-wave sounds, with Zimmerman on lead vocals and Russo on acoustic guitar.

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“Ken had this nice thought for advertising the tune,” Russo stated. “All these little photographs (on the quilt picture) are of {couples}, all walks of life. Ken’s like, ‘For those who’re a fan of our band, do you might have a major different that you simply love very a lot? Who’s your one?’”

Added Zimmerman: “Since we launched it, everybody began listening to it, and it triggered the algorithm on Spotify, and it ended up getting on an precise Spotify playlist. Subsequent factor you recognize, we have now, like, 300,000 performs.”

Specializing in particular person digital releases has given Asphalt Socialites a wider viewers whereas meshing properly with their restricted free time. Each Russo and Zimmerman have full-time jobs and household commitments, and whereas they’ve by no means thought of calling the band quits, their latest success has reinvigorated their devotion to their 13-year-old challenge.

“It’s simply having the ability to have that huge image in our minds, too, that no matter we’re going by means of, the issue of this, it’s not the tip there,” stated Russo.

They’re at the moment engaged on reserving their first reside performances because the pandemic and can be opening for Strangelove: The Depeche Mode Expertise on the Ranch Home in Sparks on Saturday, April 15.

For extra data, go to asphaltsocialites.com.

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