Robert Jon & the Wreck keep blues/rock alive in OC's surf-saturated music scene. Begun by Robert Jon Burrison around three years ago, the Wreck—Andrew Espantman (drums), Steve Maggiora (keyboards), Derrick Wong (bass) and Kyle Michael Neal (guitar)—were 2010 additions.
They're currently spreading their sound to the world via their two-and-a-half-month tour, one free download card at a time—which they've been passing out left and right to cops, bartenders and passing cars to promote their new album, Fire Started. They return to California to play a CD-release party Friday in Long Beach. We spoke to them while they were on the road to get a glimpse at how the tour is going.
OC Weekly: What's your favorite show so far?
Robert Jon: We played in Nashville, which was one of the funnest parts of the tour. Keith Urban's guitar player, Brian Nutter, just happened to be playing there that night. A few of the guys got to jam with him, and we all hung out afterward and swapped tour stories.
Kyle Michael Neal: He was really excited when we showed him the van. He was just like, “That's so cool! I remember touring in a van!” But we're like, you have a van with a bunk and a designated driver. You win.
What's Nashville like?
Neal: It's hard to walk into a town that's known for amazing musicians. You walk in [to a venue], and you're like, “Oh, my god. I'm some California boy who learned guitar in school.” Now, all of a sudden, I have to play with these people. But also, again, awesome.
Whose idea was it to post videos of your tour escapades online?
Jon: We all knew that we needed to document this tour and share it with the world. Our keyboardist, Steve, has done a lot of video editing and knows his shit. He took the reins on filming and editing. We started this series called Kyle Takes a Break. We have 13 episodes now. It's us being bored—that's really what it is. It's fun for us. We don't care if anyone likes it.
Neal: They started the whole Kyle Takes a Break thing because I'm not driving. I book all the days we haven't filled yet. I'd be in the back seat, furiously emailing hundreds of venues. I'd work for a couple of hours and just get really frustrated and say, “Screw it! I'm done.” They'd try to catch me when I'm angry. Now, they try to catch me when I'm off-guard, including coming out of a restroom.
Is there a running theme in Fire Started?
Jon: There's reoccurring words in the lyrics that we realized after: love, ice, fire, down. It was a potential title, actually. We have cards that have a link for a free download of the single. Steve is absolutely king at that. I'm convinced that every human he interacts with, he ends the conversation with “By the way, here's a free download.”
What do you do in your free time?
Jon: If we have Internet access, we try to rekindle our lives. Derek's the only responsible musician. He's the only one who practices. We played basketball once.
Neal: He's the singer, so he's kinda like Kim Jong Il on that point. He's our fearless leader.
This column appeared in print as “Wreck and Effect.”
When not running the OCWeekly.com and OC Weekly’s social media sites, Taylor “Hellcat” Hamby can be found partying like it’s 1899.