Interviewed By: Gregory Ayers
Redline Addiction is a D.C. area five-piece with a monstrous hard-rock sound, so it’s only fitting that they’re closing out 2012 in a big way. They’re set to release the double album A to B (which you can listen to here), in the coming weeks, and will play a much anticipated show at The State Theatre on Friday, December 14th.
Rob Robinson, Chris McVey, Neil Mutreja, Justin Liberti, and Justin Ganderson began playing and recording together beginning in the mid 2000s. They’ve since released two full-length albums and an EP.
Robinson and McVey answered a few of DMD’s questions about the band’s history, the new album, and their thoughts on D.C.’s music scene.
D.C. Music Download: How did you all come together to start Redline Addiction?
Rob Robinson: The band started with a core group of three high school buddies. Justin Liberti (drums), Neil (lead guitar), and Chris were all friends at Wootton High School in Rockville, MD. They all played in bands then, either together or independently.
Around 2005-2006, the three met Justin Ganderson (bass) through a mutual friend. They started playing out in the D.C. metro area under the name Into the Breach, fronted by a different lead singer.
I didn’t join the band until mid-2007, after another mutual friend and local musician put me in contact with these guys. After a brief audition period, I was asked to join the band and immediately started laying vocals for Goodbye Miss Dolly (RA’s first record). With the band now fully formed and an album release on the way, the guys decided to change the name from Into the Breach to Redline Addiction.
Chris McVey: Rob underplayed his role in this beginning. After he left the tryout we all looked at each other and one of us literally said “He may be TOO good of a singer for us”. We had been looking for someone at our level, maybe a scrappy upstart, and he came in and SANG. I knew we’d have to up our game with Rob in the band. After years of trying to figure out how to be musicians and struggling through countless setbacks, we knew we finally had something special.
DMD: How did you all decide on the name Redline Addiction?
RR: After I joined the band, we all decided it was time for a fresh start and we wanted to move on from Into the Breach. So we began tossing around ideas for a band name. This is no small task. It’s not as stressful as naming a child, but probably close.
Justin Ganderson was reading Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries at the time, and came up with the name Mainline Addiction – the idea being that our music will shoot through your veins and will grab your attention.
Chris pointed out that none of us have ever done heroin; the name was too drug-themed. So this wasn’t really an ideal name. I randomly threw out the idea of using the word “redline” before “addiction”. We ended up going with Redline Addiction because we liked the way it sounded.
DMD: What vision did you have for the new record? How does this release differ from previous ones?
RR: I think A to B was really an attempt to show our growth as a band and a reflection of the myriad of musical influences the five of us draw from. In fact, that’s part of the significance of the album’s title, sort of a recognition that we aren’t the same as when we started and that the last five years have been a journey for us as musicians, as writers, and as people.
Goodbye Miss Dolly really drew from the ’90s grunge/Seattle sound movement. Our next releases were an EP, St. Elmo’s Four, and the acoustic-leaning album, Letters. These songs showcased the beginnings of the writing style that has brought us to the current album. These songs were definitely more pop-influenced and more lyrically relevant.
A to B is the culmination of that growth. This album has pop-rock ballads, ska tunes, grooving jams, traditional sounding rhythm and blues, and of course, in your face rockers – all spread over two CDs.
CM: This album is different from the past few albums in both scope and budget. We’ve sacrificed more to get this album done than any other. We’ve really tested ourselves during the making of this album. We pushed ourselves throughout the entire process: from songwriting to recording to production.
We had some very heated discussions over creative differences. In fact, at times, the band may have been on the verge of breaking-up because everyone was so zealous about their musical voice and their vision for each song. But as I look back upon it, I realize how lucky I am to be involved in a project that takes itself seriously enough to allow itself to implode from time-to-time. That implosion is healthy and necessary.
We’ve also really grown-up since releasing our first record. We’re not a “new” band anymore; we’ve been in our current lineup since 2007. Some of the guys in the band have since started families. We’re simply in a different place now than we were 5 years ago. I look back at my 18-year-old self, and while some of that music is great, I’ve realized that I ultimately had nothing to offer but questions. This album offers more.
DMD: How does RA go about the songwriting process? Do you have a principle writer, or is it a composite effort by the band?
RR: For the most part, each song has a principle writer. But by the end, we’ve each had our hands in shaping the final product. Chris and Justin Ganderson do the majority of the writing, though everyone has written at least one song for the band.
Chris is the overall principal songwriter and musical mastermind of the band. One of the reasons why we are releasing a double CD is because McVey is such a prolific songwriter.
We collectively decide on which songs we want to invest time into and then begin practicing them as a band, sometimes reshaping a line here or there, or creating a new bridge. Lyrically, it’s the same deal, and vocal melodies are usually the last thing written.
CM: I try to put as much effort into the demos as I can, for my songs, and for the songs written by others. The best songs we’ve produced have been collaborative. Duet and Uptown are both lyrically written by Rob and I, and we are very happy with them. When everyone is passionate about a song, it turns out better.
DMD: What do you enjoy most about the D.C. area? How does it influence your music?
RR: I would have to say the best quality of the D.C. area is its diversity. I think that is ultimately how we each grew to like such different types of music. Ultimately, exposure to different people and sounds has given us the opportunity to truly observe and create.
For a musician, that creation is often a story. I’m not saying that any song Redline Addiction wrote on this new album is a story that’s trying to reflect D.C. society or mirror reality. And I definitely wouldn’t say that we wrote any songs in an attempt to speak on behalf of any group of people either. We are telling our own stories through our songs, or expressing our own emotions.
But D.C.’s diversity is a part of what shaped our world view, for better or for worse. And it’s probably safe to say that we wouldn’t have the same mentality that we have had we not lived here.
CM: In my opinion, D.C. has the largest “learning curve” of any city. It has some of the best unknown local bands anywhere. You can go to Adams Morgan and see one of the best reggae bands at Bukom Café, or billboard chart topping blues or bluegrass bands at Madams Organ.
Rock and alternative bands play out at Velvet Lounge and Red Palace every night and kill it. Half of my actual current CD collection is from touring artists I met at D.C. venues. Unfortunately there’s a large roadblock in the middle and until you reach the occupancy of Black Cat or 9:30 Club, there’s not a ton of support for touring bands in this town.
Looking back on everything, I realize how lucky we are to have made it this far. I lived in the middle of the city for about seven years, and almost every song has a small reference to the city I love. There’s a little bit of “Devil in a Red Dress” found in Chinatown, a little bit of “How to Lose” in Columbia Heights, and certainly some “Uptown” in Woodley Park. I have a feeling D.C. will have a renaissance in about ten years when we have a changing of the guards.