In the music world, Bryce Avary sticks out as something of an anomaly. He taught himself to play the guitar and drums as a kid, and by the age of 16 he had self-released his first EP as the Rocket Summer. Nine years and three LPs later, he has scored a major label record deal, won Yahoo! Music’s “Who’s Next?” competition, and graced the cover of Alternative Press. Perhaps most startling, however, is that he writes and records all of the material himself.
It is increasingly common for today’s artists to rely on others to write songs for them, exemplified by the American Idol craze. Instead Avary, who writes on both guitar and piano, opted for a different route.
“I don’t like manufactured pop music whatsoever,” Avary said in an interview before last Wednesday’s show at the Music Box. “I mean, I like poppy melodies and stuff, but writing from your heart is something that’s a huge part of what I’m about.”
Avary’s sincerity and passion, which are translated into the band’s bouncy live shows, has been the cornerstone of the Rocket Summer since its beginning. Currently co-headlining the Alternative Press tour with All Time Low, Avary spent years of touring and hard work to get to where he is today. Along the way, people gradually came onboard, and the band developed quite a rabid following as a result.
“It’s a more intimate, loyal kind of fan base, rather than as opposed to some flavor of the week,” Avary noted. “I don’t know where we’d be without them. It is the foundation of our band.”
Many of its fans have also connected with the band on a deeper level, embracing its authentic and positive lyrics. Songs like “So, In This Hour…” deal with Avary’s relationship with God, while others, including “A Song Is Not a Business Plan,” criticize today’s musical landscape. With modern pop music usually permeated by materialism and hollow instincts, Avary makes it a point to avoid such contrivances.
“It definitely is in the forefront of my brain a lot of the time when I’m writing songs just how much songs actually mean to people,” Avary said. “To be able to use them as a tool and bring hope to people – it’s just crazy that songs can do that.”
After signing with Island Records, it appeared Avary would finally get the opportunity to test that out on a larger scale. His major label debut, Do You Feel, was released last July and sold a solid 15,000 copies its first week out. Despite the strong start, the label never gave it much of a push, which seemingly left the Rocket Summer out in the cold.
“It’s been really weird to know that we have a record that has the potential to be kind of a big record,” Avary said. “There’s been a lot of big changes up at Island Def Jam. A lot of people were fired. It kind of screwed us a little bit, so I don’t know. We’ll see. It might just be another Rocket Summer record that the masses don’t hear, but at the end of the day we still have amazing fans and a loyal audience. I guess that’s all that matters.”
Avary, who has acquired something of a reputation for being overly sunny and upbeat, knows how to be grateful to have a music career in the first place. Now with a set band lineup in place for the first time in the Rocket Summer’s career, this is all Avary’s ever wanted, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
“I’m a songwriter and I’m a performer – it’s what I do. I don’t really know what I’d do other than that, as far as an occupation goes,” Avary confessed. “I just sincerely hope that our fans will grow with us and stick with me. I’ll keep making records as long as they stay with us, as long as there’s an audience there, and that’s something that I hope never goes away.”
Originally appeared in The Chimes