By Brian Ossip, D.C. Music Live
US & THEM are a five-piece rock band from right outside of the District. Though only in existence for a year, the band has already started to make waves in response to their debut album, Adventures Into The Dark, nine action-packed rock songs that leave the listener feeling charged up and ready for more.
D.C. Music Live had a chance to sit down with singer Mike Miller and guitarist Antonio Rucci before their recent show at the Fillmore in Silver Spring to talk about the creation of the band, the formation of their sound, and the struggles of making it as a band out of the District.
Tell me a little bit about the band and your sound.
Mike – Well we’re a 5-piece band, and I think we’ve got a good rock sound going. It’s aggressive but it’s still kind of soft-spoken at the same time.
Antonio – I think it’s a blend of all of our styles, to an extent.
Mike – After all these years we finally just did what we wanted to do. We combined the sounds of all the bands we’ve been in, and just threw them together. We’re not worrying about genres anymore.
Antonio – We really don’t want to label ourselves.
Mike – I hate writing the same thing over and over. It just gets old. I think our sound has a mainstream rock sound, though – something that we think everyone can get in to.
How long has the band been around?
M – About a year or so. As soon as this band started we were in the studio, recording an album. And we started from ground zero and built it up. It’s the only way to do it.
You guys released your debut album, Adventures Into The Dark, not that long ago. What was the process like of recording it?
M – Long. Long and grueling, haha. We worked with Taylor Larsen, who’s right down the street in Bethesda, and that guy knows what he’s doing. He gets really good sounds. But he got sick in the middle, so we had some time off, and then we had some other issues. It just dragged. It took about 6 months to do. But in the end, we got a great CD I think.
A – For a debut CD I think it sounds pretty damn good.
M – I’m pretty proud of it. I think it’s what I’m most proud of out of all the [music] that I’ve done, by far.
Are you guys writing new material?
M – We always write. We don’t ever stop writing. You don’t want to rush that process. That’s why we all kind of write throughout the year.
A – I think definitely with a lot of bands, the first album is where they kind of let the world know what their sound and style is all about.
M – And that’s why I think our album is so different sounding, because we really aren’t going for any one sound, necessarily.
A – And I definitely think we going for just a raw old school, kickass rock.
What do you guys think about the D.C. music scene?
M – From what we see, it’s pretty much non-existent for our genre.
A – D.C. is really good for that indie, electro style. If you go to the Black Cat or D.C. 9 any given night of the weekend, you’ll see people busting out songs.
M – I think for us though, the problem is that we’re not always heavy enough to play with the bands that are around here, and we’re not always light enough to play with the other bands that are softer. We just kind of get stuck, in a way.
S what are some of the other local bands that you listen to?
M – I like Life on Repeat. They are pretty local. They’ve got a great album out.
A – We play with them a bit, too.
M – We have one that we think is a really, really good metal band called In To The Depths. I think people would really like them that are in to that style of music. They are really talented.
So what is it like trying to make it as a band out of the D.C. area?
M – It’s hard, haha.
A – For bands like us, we really do have to play out of state and tour for those markets that do appreciate our style of music more. Down south we do great. Even in New Jersey, New York, they have really great scenes up there. Bands like us, though, you really do have to tour.
M – You have to get your name out there. No matter where you are from, though, you just have to play wherever you can and try to spread your music to as many people as you can. You can’t just stay in one city, no matter what.
A – D.C. though, the city itself is just a hard nut to crack, for our style.
Are you trying to plan a tour right now?
A – We’re going on a couple weekend tours. We’re doing a tour in May, heading south. We’ve got a few things that we are trying to work on. A short run in June, with a band called Honor Crest.
What can a fan expect for their first time seeing you live?
M – Our show can be pretty intense. We have a pretty cool light show that goes with it. It’s pretty epic.
A – We do have a good production value for the size of band we are, with no crew, no help outside of the five of us. We do think we put on a pretty amazing show. Also for how long we’ve been around, only a year. Remember the visualizer on your iTunes? Well our light show is like a live visualizer.
You guys just released the music video for “Living A Lie.” What was that shoot like?
M – That was quick. Two days. And cold.
A – We were down in Ocean City. And we froze our ass off.
M – We played all night.
A – It was really, really cold. We may as well have been in a freezer. It was maybe 20 degrees outside, right on the water.
M – Then the next night we had some friends and fans come out, and play a show, basically. We played along to the track of the song maybe 10 times, and people were just really getting in to it, every time. It was awesome.
What are the next steps for the band, what do you guys have planned for the future?
A – I think we are going to make an EP. All digital, online only. Nobody’s buying albums anymore, but with iTunes it’s the way to go.
M – We might do a vinyl also, actually. Maybe as some sort of special edition thing. People love that stuff. It’s pretty popular right now.
A – And just playing some more shows. Always trying to play shows as much as we can.