The Burning of Rome are one of those bands… One of those bands that has been compared to Abba and the Misfits… and Oingo Boingo… and Mike Patton… but that’s not a bad thing… The So-Cal outfit’s sophomore effort, Year of the Ox, hit shelves this May. The album was [co] produced and mixed by producer extraordinaire and Butthole Surfer Paul Leary. My first thought on the album is that the band could’ve comfortably fit onto any major traveling summer music festival of the past 25 years… Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, Warped Tour… They fit all the bills. They do moody pop rock that angsty ‘90s teens and tweens would have found delicious; they do epic orchestrations that are equal parts punk cabaret and those hard rock bands from Finland; and (at their best… at least to me) they do post glam/space rock that has a remarkable kinship with Spacehog… whom I’m pretty sure are the most critically underrated Rock’N’Roll band of my lifetime. The sound of The Burning of Rome is certainly “other-worldly,” but I recently got a chance to chat with the band’s songwriter, lead vocalist, and keyboardist, Adam Traub, and he proved to be quite down-to-Earth. I asked him if, amidst all of these very disparate comparisons, there’s anything that he feels is especially key in understanding his band, and he tells me that their influences may be the best place to look.
“Influences are a good start. I mean, if you like any of our influences, of which are very eclectic, you might like the band. Our producer, Paul Leary, and I were really into Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, a True Star album, which blends a number of genres. And then there’s also albums like John Cale’s Paris 1919 and Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain that do something similar. But then there are also contemporary bands, like the Magnetic Fields, that are also doing similar things. It’s a tough genre to describe, but I think there’s a common and cohesive soul to the artist.”
Traub admits to me that the recording process of Year of the Ox had as much to do with the band’s latest evolution as anything else. The album was recorded under conditions that were thus far alien to the band, but that seem to be very much responsible for their current state and the intimacy it has achieved.
“We learned a lot from the process of making the first record. We recorded the last album back in Hollywood at the studio that Frank Sinatra built to record ‘My Way,’ but for this one, we recorded it at Sonic Ranch in Texas. It was in the middle of nowhere. I mean, there’s no cell towers, where it’s you and the coyotes, which is pretty much it, and that lends itself to the process of being focused and there’s no distractions. It’s great when you’re isolated like that with a group of people you’re working with. It’s more of a personal experience. It’s a desert island experience.”
The Burning of Rome have spent quite a bit 2014 on the road, playing their latest creations live. Traub tells me that their recent travels have proven to be many of the highlights of the band… but that the highlights themselves are ever growing and changing.
“It seems like every few months something comes along that trumps what was last year’s highlight. After releasing the album we went on a pretty lofty tour and we got to play in Mexico City, opening for Nine Inch Nails at the Vive Latino Festival, which was pretty amazing. We were pretty much the only American band and got to play alongside Placebo, Arcade Fire, and The Polyphonic Spree. After that we got to tour America with the Dirty Heads, who are also awesome and really great people. I mean, I’m looking forward for the next highlight to happen soon.”
When I ask Traub what The Burning of Rome has planned for the future, I’m not only pleased to hear that they intend on being back on the East Coast in the near future, but impressed by the quite postmodern multi-media projects that he seems to think are significant for bands of their age to partake in.
“The biggest thing is going to be shows. The bread and butter of getting the music out there is the live experience. We’ll have another East Coast run, hopefully at the end of the summer. We just got back and we’re playing catch-up. Shows are on the horizon. New music videos are on the horizon. The ‘God of Small Things’ video should be coming out soon [The video hit the web a week ago and can be seen below.] We’re also taking all of the stem tracks of ‘God of Small Things’ and releasing them separately so our fans fan remix them and get creative and make the song their own. We’re working with our label to do this to give the song a new dimension where someone could get involved creatively.”
And while The Burning of Rome are yet to play a proper Philadelphia show, Traub tells me that the city is very much on their radar and somewhere they hope to play soon. He also tells me that the somewhat distant suburb of Stroudsburg was the site of one of their best gigs to-date: “It was one of the best shows on tour, if not the best show on the tour. It was in this theatre with 1.500 kids screaming and singing all the lyrics. It was great, but we really want to get to Philly and I promise we will be out there soon.”