I had the chance earlier this week to sit down with John Russo, the lead singer of one of my favorite up-and-coming bands, Reverse Order. The rest of the band had other obligations (probably a good thing; the interview might have been an hour long if they’d all be there), but John filled me in on their upcoming tour, new music, a new video, and even answered a fan’s Twitter question.
Reverse Order came together in 2008 and consists of brothers John (vocals, guitars) and Cruise Russo (vocals and drums), bassist Frank Spangler and guitarist Drew Katsock. They’ve opened for Action Item, Allstar Weekend and others, and through Twitter and Youtube their fan-base is growing nationally. You may have seen them on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT last season, and that’s where our chat started:
ANTHONY: So the last time I interviewed you, via email, was before you were on America’s Got Talent.
JOHN: Okay, That was a while ago.
ANTHONY: Yeah. What did you guys learn from that experience and how did you apply it moving forward?
JOHN: That’s definitely an interesting question. That’s the first time that’s been asked. I mean, being on America’s Got Talent, you have to be very professional, very punctual, things were a lot more complicated than people think they are; you have be there 9 days beforehand, every single day you’re training with music directors, different vocal coaches, you’ve got b-roll taping, all the different cameras are outlined, they place you along the whole thing, you practice your exact positions you have to move into because there’s like 100 cameras programmed around the stage that you have to hit your marks at the right times because the cameras are programmed to switch. I mean, I guess it was more just learning more professionalism in that kind of environment. So that was definitely a good thing for us.
ANTHONY: And I remember Howard was not as impressed as we hoped he would be.
ANTHONY: So how did you respond to the criticisms? There were little snippets of post-interview with you guys, but now that you have some perspective on it?
JOHN: Yeah, I mean the best – the only thing you can really do is take what they say and try to apply it as much as you can. Certain things you just kind of ignore (smiles) because you really don’t connect with what they’re saying, but other things you try to apply to yourself and at least do something to better yourself.
ANTHONY: True. So let’s talk about the new music. When is it coming out?
JOHN: We’re trying a new approach this time. Instead of just releasing one cd at a time … because we’ve found, nowadays at least, when you release a cd, everyone’s really into it for about a month, they’re really excited about it, and then the rest of the year, you don’t have anything to offer them. What we’re doing this time is we have about six songs recorded but we’re going to release them slowly. We’re going to release them maybe once a month. So this month people will be into this song, next month they’ll be looking for something new, we’ll release another song. So that’s kind of how we’re doing it. Three of the songs were recorded with Rob Freeman who did a lot of production on like Warped Tour bands, he was in a band called Hidden In Plain View, he produced Hit The Lights, he on “Stereo Hearts” by Adam Levine and Gym Class Heroes, so he’s doing some songs. There’s a guy in Staten Island named Armando who’s doing a song for us; a guy named Mike Lisa and a guy named Kevin Kumetz. Kevin is actually the guy who recorded our last cd, so we’re working with him again. The music’s … for the most part it’s still rock, it’s still alternative rock but it’s slightly different from what we’ve done before. Right now, there’s a lot of our stuff that is very pop-punk and then there’s some pop-dance and there’s like keyboard and stuff like that. This is more alternative rock, you know, Fall Out Boy, One Republic, The Fray, so it’s more Top 40 alternative rock than like Top 40 Pop. So it should it be good.
ANTHONY: So you’re doing away with keyboards and stuff like that? Stripping it down to the basic instruments, or..?
JOHN: No, we have the keyboards and synthesizers and stuff, but whereas like Save For … is a dance song, synths in that respect, it’s going to be more synths and keyboards in the respect of like One Republic, big sound arena rock, or like The Killers, kind of like that.
ANTHONY: It’s funny, the other band I talk about a lot, The Dalliance, who are guys I went to high school with, that’s how they released their music. It was almost a year’s worth of “a song a month,” and then they culled from that to release the album they released last year, and rerecorded some stuff. I don’t know if they’re going to do the same thing with this next EP.
JOHN: They put all the same songs together on one EP at the end?
ANTHONY: Yeah, although they did remaster and retrack some stuff.
JOHN: That’s what we’re planning to do, put it all together on cd at the end.
ANTHONY: And that way, people who wanted a physical CD could still get one at their cd release party or later. And yeah, that seems to be the way lots of bands are doing it now. Seems to be the smarter marketing.
JOHN: Plus it gives you more time, while you’re working on other stuff, to still fix some stuff. You know, all the big bands on the radio, they have the luxury of having other people write their stuff so they can tour, release, tour, release, tour, release. Where we don’t have that luxury so you have to time it out.
ANTHONY: Exactly. So, the video you’ve been working on. Let’s talk about that.
JOHN: Yes. The video we actually recorded in February. A friend of mine who I met years ago in California goes to film school so he decided to film us a video. And it’s just taking long to edit because he lives in California and I live in NJ, so we’re at that point in the communication where he sends me an email and it takes me five days to get back to him, so… The video is actually for “Go,” so we’re really hoping to get that video out before we release any new songs. It looks weird releasing a new song then releasing a video for an old song, so we’re trying to do that. I’ve seen it, there’s only three small things that need to be edited.
ANTHONY: When it comes out, I’ll come back to this interview and add a link or embed it.
ANTHONY: Okay, so you’re about to leave on tour.
JOHN: Yep. We are leaving … our first date in June 25th, so we’re leaving June 24th and it’s essentially a full month so we should be coming back home around the end of July. We’re going to the Mid-west and the South. Our route: we start out in New Jersey, obviously; we’re going to hit Pennsylvania, like the Pittsburgh area; then [zig-zagging back and forth through] Ohio, Illinios, Indiana, and Michigan; and then on to Saint Louis, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, and then once we get back home the regular New Jersey and PA and New York shows again.
We actually have a show in New York though, before we leave, it’s our last local show June 15th at The Vibe Lounge in Long Island. We’re excited to hit the road. We’re going to a lot of places we’ve been to before, venue-wise, and some places we haven’t. We’re playing at a bunch of Six Flags, a bunch of regular venues, “concerts in the parks” that some towns throw where they have like big bands and stuff. A nice mix of shows, doing some nightclubs here and there since we have some nights off.
ANTHONY: And then living room shows.
JOHN: Oh yeah, we always leave time for the living room shows when people are interested. So we’re doing all of that, and the show on Long Island before we leave, and then the Stage-It show on June 2nd.
ANTHONY: Perfect lead-in. Let’s talk about that. How did that come together? I’ve seen a couple of things on Stage-It and they seem to be wildly variable in quality.
JOHN: Yeah. I’m going to try to make ours be quality. I have professional microphones upstairs just because we record our own demos here. So I’m going to see if I can work that into the computer without accidentally muting the volume, because that would be terrible. But a friend of ours … we’re friends with a band called Before You Exit and they had done one and they were telling us about it and we always try to do different things to keep our fans interested and they suggested this. It’s no cost for us to do, why not try it? So we figured we’d do a very small concert, limited to a small amount of people, try it out. It’s kind of a cool way for us to do a show for all those people that – you know, we have fans in Canada and Brazil and other places who can never see us, so it’s a way for them to see us, and I’m hoping it’s good. We’ve never done one before so it’s new for us.
ANTHONY: How do people connect with the Stage-It?
JOHN: They can search for it through the Stage-It site, but there is an actual link, and it’s on our Facebook right now.
ANTHONY: And I’ll post that link right here. So people reading, click here: REVERSE ORDER – LIVE FROM OUR LIVING ROOM and buy a ticket for Reverse Order’s Stage-It. The show starts at 7:30pm, on your computer, at that link.
I have a question for you from Twitter, from a fan in Houston, Texas.
ANTHONY: Yeah, I think she knows of you guys because she’s a big Before You Exit and Hollywood Ending fan, and she knows you’ve played with both of them. So when I asked on Twitter if anyone had any questions for you, she wanted me to ask you how you went from playing in the garage to the venues you’re playing, and any advice you might have for a singer-songwriter, who is also a teenager, as far as getting into playing the local venues, opening for bigger acts, etc.
JOHN: It’s a lot of work. (laughs) I mean, every local venue now, they want you to sell twenty tickets to play a show. Our first thing was school talent shows, school Battle of the Bands. You kind of have to just go to a local venue, for us it was Croc Rock in Allentown, that’s where we got our start opening and playing bigger shows, ask the promoter “we’re a local band, do you have any shows coming up that we can get on,” and they’ll start you out with shows that are like five local bands in one night, no big headliners and they build you up from there. They say “sell twenty tickets,” well the first show, you’re going to be selling those to Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents. But from that show, maybe you’ll get five fans from another band, and the next show you play maybe fifteen are family and five are fans, and you kind of build that way. It’s a long building process, and it takes a while but you gotta do it.
ANTHONY: If Cruise had been here tonight, I was going to end the interview with a “dueling super-heroes” thing. You know, “who would win…” Since like me you’re both big comic book fans.
JOHN: Marvel, clearly. We actually have a thing we’re doing with a guy who just graduated from the Kubert School. Right now he’s submitting to DC and Marvel, we met him at Free Comic Book Day and he did like four of the covers I have upstairs. Probably the best artist I’ve ever met. But he’s actually drawn us individual trading cards, like Pokemon cards but in super-hero uniforms. He’s going to do a card for each of us but then blend the background so they merge into one big card. So he’s drawing that for us and since it’s like Pokemon we’ll have like cheesy power moves and stuff, how much Damage we do, etc. And we’ll have them at the shows, the only way to be able to get them will be from us.
ANTHONY: Pretty soon we’ll be able to play the Reverse Order Game. You’ll need arch-enemies, though, so you’ll have to work on that.
One more time: the link for REVERSE ORDER: LIVE FROM OUR LIVING ROOM, the band’s online concert on Stage-It Sunday June 2nd at 7:30pm. Tickets are still available.
You can find the specific dates for their Midwest-and-South June Tour right HERE.
You can buy their most recent EP, RIGHT NOW, from iTunes.
You can also join the band’s Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter: @ReverseOrder @ReverseJohn @CruiseRusso@FrankSpangla and @ReverseDrew. They also have a Youtube channel, and of course I have to end the interview with one of their older videos, until the new video for “Go” comes out: