Rival Sons are the Rock N Roll superheroes of these days of shallow characters, come down on earth to fill the void with passion, talent and smoking guitar riffs; add one of the more soulful and powerful voices this side of Plant and Rodgers, and you’ll have the perfect mix to attract both young and not so young rockers worldwide. I had a chat with drummer Michael Miley on the past, present and future of the rock band everybody inevitably loves.
(2014) First off, thanks for keeping the real Rock N’ Roll sound alive.
You guys raised a great interest in the old continent; for you, which are the main differences between American and European audiences at the moment?
I think it’s quite apparent that Europe “gets” music a lot sooner than us Americans. The US mainstream is kind of scary; well, it is in Europe too. I’ve heard some crap on pop radio in Europe as well, but their “niche” market is bigger; more fans are ready for new music, and more open too. But once America gets on board and behind you, they’re some of the best fans in the world.
Which kind of audience is yours? Nostalgic aged rockers, or there’s still a spark of life in the young generations too?
We seem to be blessed with both. I meet and talk with people of all ages at our shows. You have the quintessential cool parents bringing their kids, and the kids are blown away. Then there’s the high school/college kids who are wearing a Doors T-shirt looking half-baked (which was me in high school!).
From Hard Rock to Soul, Blues and so on, anyone could spot your main influences being rooted heavily in the ’70s and ’60s decades; do you think we are testifying a form of ever-returning revivalism, or is rock’n’roll still a young animal that just never went away?
Definitely, revival, as it has been so hybridized over the past 4 decades. Most people don’t have a definitive definition of what Rock and Roll really is. Of late, thankfully, you have Jack White, Dave Grohl, and The Black Keys raising awareness that Rock doesn’t have to be perfect on a grid, or platter, served up to the mainstream’s liking; rock and roll was originally the “punk rock” of its day. Elvis, Chuck, Little Richard were SO punk rock, while playing Rhythm and Blues; they freaked out the parents! Then you have The Beatles, The Who, and the Stones who borrowed this new brand of Rhythm and Blues and made it their own: The British Invasion.
So yes, we are heavily inspired by this ’50s, 60’s and 70’s brand of Rhythm and Blues, that became Rock and Roll. The 80’s killed that; though, I love me some Iron Maiden and Metallica like the rest of us! Rival Sons plays “Maximum R&B”.
Since the 80’s there have always been bands carrying on the torch of traditional rock’n’roll, but those were often seen negatively for having a foot in the past, while now, bands like yours are seen like being the future of rock…why?
I’m not sure of whom you speak regarding the ’80s. The Police, Phil Collins, and Jane’s Addiction were about the only original thing (in the mainstream) coming out of the ’80s. And of course, the advent of Heavy Metal and Thrash. Jane’s Addiction (the late 80’s) was the first time I heard a rock band play blues’ licks in a solo in a long time.
But to try and answer the last part of your question, I’m hopeful that we can continue to be the future (and the present!) of Rock, because, well, we are! The Heritage acts will only be here so much longer. We’re here to stay and are trying to stay faithful to the old Rhythm and Blues which everyone relates to; we just happen to turn it up a little louder, harnessing more influences, and using more technology. Not only do we get inspired by Chuck Berry, Elvis, and Little Richard, The Beatles, Stones, Who, and Zeppelin, we have 4 other decades of music to draw influence from.
You supported AC/DC in 2010, and they are famous for being very kind with opening acts; you also supported heavy metal icons, Judas Priest, a very different brand of rock from yours. What did you learn, or simply get from these experiences?
That people and fans are not boxed into loving one style of music. Most people I know like multiple genres. I have everything from Bach, Zappa, Miles, to Beatles, Zep, Who, to Metallica, Maiden, Soundgarden, to White Stripes and the Black Keys. I just went to see the LA Phil play Rachmaninov and was moved to tears. I’d say we all like all kinds of music; especially when we see something real and from the heart.
And if you could choose your dream band to open for, who would you pick?
I think we’d be great with the Foo Fighters or The Black Keys. But we’ll open for anyone. These days, you just gotta get out there.
Between an oceanic crowd roaring to the big stage of a festival, and the sweaty hot atmosphere of some intimate club, which is your favorite situation?
It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 people, or 20,000, we come to rock faces and always give our best. I’m particular to festivals of course because they’re so much fun, all day.
You’re known for spending very little time in the recording studio, probably to preserve the primal nature of the songs; but how these songs are usually born?
We start a riff, a groove, or melody, and that’s the embryo; that’s what leads us to the next part. It’s organic.
How much of your studio work is tracked and how much do you record ‘live’?
All of its live, and then we overdub to fatten certain parts.
Is there a studio ‘boss’ or is the recording process full-on democracy?
Well, that’s why we have a producer, Dave Cobb, to sort of “police” what is good and what is not. We can come up with some real crap! haha. We police each other but Dave is our barometer.
I hear you are in the studio? Are you on some different creative path with the new songs?
We’re always searching for new territory and soundscapes. We definitely have our brand of Rock and Roll but we always want to attain freshness. I think maybe there might be more acoustic stuff on this one. I’m really happy with how it’s going. We have a new Bassist, Dave Beste, and the grooves are really effortless. We get most of the songs in just a few takes. The guitars are pretty ridiculous too. And Jay of course, need I say more? I’m looking forward to finishing this and getting back out and playing it for you!
How is the new album coming on? When can we expect it?
In the last years what rock records really lacked was that “lights and shadows” quality that made unforgettable the classic albums of the past; you went back to that attitude of switching moods and atmospheres from song to song, you are proper musicians, your singer can really sing and…you have success! What’s happening?
Thank you. I think we just try and be truthful, really. Honesty is the best policy.
Name 3 things on your bucket list.
Wembley, Grammy, and being a good father and husband.
Name 3 songs that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Maybe I’m Amazed, My Generation, and In My Time of Dying.
The worst venue you’ve played in?
Name 1 nasty habit you can’t live without.
Marshall Tucker Band or Thin Lizzy?
Thanks for taking some time to chat with us, been a blast!