Features, Interviews

Spaceland, Patron and the Next Great American Band: A Conversation With Rocket’s Lauren White

In 2007, I stumbled across a video of a rock band playing a live show at the late, great Spaceland. The band was Rocket and I was immediately obsessed. The lead singer asked the crowd if they could buy their drummer some booze before launching into a loud, catchy tune with snarky lyrics. They felt like the future of rock music. Like they were clearly the next big thing. They also had two members named Lauren, which is always a good sign. The Donnas weren’t actually named Donna!

Of course, things never work out the way they should. There was a brief appearance on a Fox reality show that attempted to replicate the American Idol formula with rock bands (surprise! it didn’t work). New songs were written and recorded but never officially released. Rocket remained a cult favorite that never got to put out a full album, and the band members went their separate ways. The memory of that live video stayed with me.

Rocket recently put out their small but essential back catalog on Spotify, including an EP that sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. I recently spoke with frontwoman Lauren White, who discussed the life of Rocket, reality show blues, and the importance of pre-show Patron.

Chris Busch: How did Rocket get together?

Lauren White: Rocket was established in the parking lot of Spaceland (now The Satellite) in about 2003?  We lied to a music and nightlife writer (Jim Freek) about our band, and told him to write about us. And he did! That’s sort of how Rocket was born. That writer ended up owning an awesome indie label called Teenacide Records. He was also a genius producer and magic musician. Then he signed us and helped develop us. I think the world can agree, History was made that night.

CB: Your second EP, Girls With Candy Hearts, is remarkably accomplished. What were your influences when writing/recording it?

LW: Thank you! Lauren Clark and I were obsessed with glam rock.  We loved Bowie, Mark Bolan, The New York Dolls…etc. also loved classic punk like the Dead Boys and Sex Pistols, riot grrl bands like L7 and Bikini Kill, 60s girl groups like The Shangri-La’s.  Of course we were also obsessed with modern pop a la Britney Spears, Shampoo and the Spice Girls. We decided to take from our favorite influences and make an ep that spoke to our hearts! The covers really represented our influences. We were just little babies having fun making music.

CB: In 2007, you appeared on a Fox reality show called The Next Great American Band. Do you ever regret agreeing to be on it? Was there the usual manufacturing going on behind the scenes?

LW: Oh man. The stories we could tell. Being on that show was so not cool that now I look back on it and find it ironically cool. Sheila E really loved us, and so did Johnny Reznik (sarcasm). There were times he would fall off his chair in rehearsals cause he took too many pills. And then he called me a primadonna for some reason. Very strange times.

We were young and naive at the time, and took everything very personally and seriously. The show fucked with us. Was it a mistake? At the time I thought so, now I don’t care and it never had a lasting impact on mine or anyone else’s career. It sort of faded into oblivion. But I’ll tell ya what, it sucked at the time! Don’t go on a reality show!!

CB: The Rocket catalog is finally up on Spotify. Do you think it’s easier for a band to get an audience through streaming now?

LW: It is finally up!! 8 years after we went on un-definite hiatus!  Fuck it why not? We were only accessible on SoundCloud, and we had about 4 fans that were begging us to stream our music. So ask and you shall receive.

I don’t know if it’s easier to succeed in streaming or just how it is now and everyone kind of transitions to figure out a new way of finding and exposing music. I think it’s always been hard for artists to get an audience, now there is just over saturation on the internet and everything is fleeting.  Anyone can be an artist, so there’s a lot of bullshit. What’s hot one minute might be lame the next. As an artist, I can’t figure any of it out. I just wanna put out music and leave it to fate cause otherwise I’ll go crazy.

CB: There’s always been a sense of dry humor running through your lyrics. What’s a lyric that you wish you had written?

LW: Good question! I wish I had written “Toxic” by Britney Spears.  I think it’s the most genius pop song. I wish I had written the entire song.  

But a singular lyric I really wish I had written? “Sucking on a chili dog outside the tastee freeze” from Jack and Diane. That line really always just spoke to me. John Mellencamp is a combination of Fergie and Jesus for sure.

CB: What are you listening to these days?

LW: Hahah. Pretty much the same stuff I used to listen to!  Lots of Bowie, lots of Fleetwood Mac. I’ve become more obsessed with Don Henley as I’m growing up. Newer bands I love are Venus and the Moon, Warpaint, Tame Impala and Beach House.  

CB: I was always waiting for the big Rocket full-length studio album that never happened. How much recording did you do, and why did it never come to pass? How did you select the songs for what became the digital Rocket EP?

LW: Ugh. We recorded an entire LP.  It’s really depressing it never saw the light of day. Our management was pushing us hard, we were showcasing with everyone from Max Martin to Capitol. We ended up with a Deal on Epic Records and our future looked so bright! In the final hours, the president at the time who had signed us got fired and then they fired half of their staff.  Our project never got off the ground. It was a very strange time for the music industry in 2010. The internet was destroying music. We had worked so hard. Classic industry story.

So basically we’ve been sitting on these songs.  I’ve never known what to do with them. We put them on SoundCloud and generated over 100,000 plays on our own.  Which is shocking to me! We decided to release the Rocket EP on a whim on Spotify, and I chose some of my faves from our 2010 recordings.  Part two will be out soon with the rest of the songs that were never released. Stay tuned!

CB: I used to love watching YouTube videos of your live shows because of your stage banter. Do you have any banter tips for up and coming musicians?

LW: Two shots of Patron about 30 mins before hitting the stage really did the trick for me! Other than that, be yourself and just say whatever the you want. Because YOLO. It’s extremely cathartic and therapeutic.

CB: Last, but most important: will there ever be a Rocket reunion one day? I would love a documentary about the band, too.

LW: Documentary perhaps!  We have tons of debaucherous footage and we always talk about editing it! As far as a show, only time will tell :)))

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You can follow Lauren on Twitter and stream the Rocket back catalog on Spotify.

April 27, 2018

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Christopher Busch Writer, napper, obscure reference maker.


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