Monster Truck Interview Backstage at Rockville
I caught up with Jeremy Widerman and Steve Kiely of Monster Truck backstage at Welcome To Rockville and we had an intriguing discussion centered on breaking through on the American rock scene, and a few other random items of personal interest: Florida heat, NASCAR, Video games and more…
Cretin: What do you think about the Jacksonville weather today?
Monster Truck – Jeremy: It’s pretty off the charts for us. When we left Canada a few weeks ago there was still snow on the ground. But we like this better. Honestly, cutting our teeth touring in Canada all of the time in the winter has worn us out to where we hate the cold weather. Coming out here where it’s hot and humid is something we only get one month a year.
Cretin: I saw you guys on another hot day, right here two years ago and with your distinctive Southern rock sound, I was surprised then to learn that you were Canadian. Did you have Southern rock influences?
Monster Truck – Steve: Yeah, we were influenced by Southern rock more than any Canadian rock. There aren’t many Canadian bands that we try to listen to or model our sound after, however, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers are bands we really did like and that influences us more than anything Canadian.
Cretin: With those two influences being from right in this part of the country, I imagine the reception has been great?
Monster Truck – Jeremy: It’s been mixed. A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re trying to get on mainstream radio, and although we get a lot of love at some places, others are just playing modern rock or other things. But, I think we need to keep working at it, and people who are holding out because it sounds too retro need to see that there is demand for it. We get a lot of love from fans, we get a lot of love at shows and from headliner bands who want to take us on tour. I think some people are afraid because there aren’t a lot of bands like us with that mainstream retro rock vibe.
Creedon: That’s too bad.
Monster Truck – Steve: Part of it is that we really haven’t come here very much so we can’t expect too much if we’ve only been down here once or twice. No matter where you go in the world, you need to go 4 or 5 times before you really see if they like you.
Cretin: To be honest, in general, the Florida radio scene is horrible for rock. Are there other American cities where your band is particularly popular?
Monster Truck – Steve: The ones close to home, Buffalo and Detroit, because they get Canadian radio. Monster Truck – Jeremy: That’s how we know it works, because around the border, we have great American fan bases. We just have to keep working. The other thing that gets people going is when they see the live show. Sometimes if you’re sitting there with a pile of CDs and you see a name like Monster Truck, it might be easy to skip over after listening for a few seconds, especially if it’s not a perfect fit.
Cretin: For sure, a lot of stations aren’t willing to take chances on new sounds any more.
Monster Truck – Steve: Exactly, they play it and if it doesn’t fit the current playlist, they move on whereas if you’re at a festival like this and you catch a full set, you see that we’re not full of shit and that we’re a real rock band. The other thing that helps is that there are other up and coming bands in our vein, too. Bands like Rival Sons and Crobot helps to build awareness. You can play us and five other similar bands, diversify your format and play it all.
Cretin: How has the reaction been back home for your new album Sittin’ Heavy? Has it elevated your status any?
Monster Truck – Jeremy: Definitely, and we concentrated a lot on Europe and the U.K. because that’s where we saw a lot of potential quickly. So we immediately went there to capitalize on that, and keep our business healthy while we come to America, where we take a hit financially to keep pushing over here. Elevating the status in Canada, elevate the status in the Europe/UK and then keep banging on America’s door until you let us in.
Cretin: Well, is radio critical success critical to making it over here in the States?
Monster Truck – Steve: We don’t know. We haven’t done it yet, but it seems as though that could help. The fan base in all of North America is a little more fickle. In Europe if you make a fan, they’ll come and see you for 20 years, they’re really dedicated where a lot of people over here will forget about you after a year or two if you take time off to make a record or tour other places. That’s partly why we like playing over there.
Cretin: When you are getting passion back from the crowd, I’m sure it’s easier to put on a good show.
Monster Truck – Jeremy: More juice for the squeeze. But, America is the hardest place to breakthrough, and American bands say that, too. It’s hard for all bands in America, it’s a giant place, it’s like ten countries in one, all fractured in different sections with different ways of doing things. It can’t help but be challenging, but we’re up for it.
Cretin: How about satellite radio, is Sirius XM’s Octane an option?
Monster Truck – Steve: We are on it, but the listener response has not been as good as we hoped. We realize we are different than a lot of stuff that’s on there.
Cretin: Yeah, even that does not seem the perfect fit for your sound.
Monster Truck – Steve: We’d probably fit better on Ozzy’s Boneyard, but they don’t play much new music, unless it’s Ozzy’s.
Monster Truck – Jeremy: It’s this weird fucking paradox where they can’t play us on the classic rock station because it’s too new, but we’re too classic rock for modern rock.
Cretin: It does suck, you’re making great rock, but it’s hard to find a place to play it.
Monster Truck – Jeremy: It’s okay, we’re making great traction in Europe, we have great traction in Canada and it’s starting in America, and eventually I think we’ll just force our way in. We’ll come and play to five hundred or a thousand fans regardless of whether your radio station plays us or not, even if we have to play to 10,000 in the UK first.
Cretin: That’s not a bad fallback.
Monster Truck – Steve: We’re not there yet, but that’s where we’re headed.
Cretin: I can think of a couple of American bands who made it big in Asia or Europe, or a place like Finland, and they made a pretty good living off of that.
Monster Truck – Jeremy: There’s lots of stories like that. We’re going to try as many places as we can. Hopefully if things go well there, you build a fan base and you get to keep going there.
Cretin: I’ve heard your stuff on my kids’ video games. Is that something you focused on doing?
Monster Truck – Jeremy: I was basically beating our label to death about it because I felt it’s easy. Video game companies are typically not looking to spend much on licensing fees, but it’s huge exposure when a game sells half a million copies and you’re forced to listen to it every day. I’ve found a ton of bands that way. I still play a ton of video games and I think our music is suited perfectly for those formats. We started giving it away and then they started asking for us and paying for it. We’re moving onto bigger things with NASCAR. Our album “Sittin’ Heavy has been featured three times on today’s Talladega 500, we have a car in the race with our band name on the hood, we’re syncing with Hockey Night in Canada and the World Juniors. It’s great sports music and an easy sell.
Cretin: Next, we need to get you on NFL or NCAA Football here in the States.
From there we settled into a nice chat on our shared misery rooting for our respective hockey teams, who were all eliminated from the playoffs. I won’t rub it in that both the Maple Leafs and Canadians missed the playoffs, but I will be watching the games listening for some killer rock ‘n roll from Monster Truck.
Keep in touch with everything going on with Monster Truck and all of their tour dates at http://ilovemonstertruck.com/
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