Plugged In: A Rocket to the Moon
Written by Chrissy Mauck
A Rocket to the Moon B-Sides
In the video for “Mr. Right, everyone in the band is wearing a piece of clothing borrowed from the fashionable Nick Santino, who says if he has money in his pocket it’s probably going to American Apparel or Urban Outfitters.
“See we’re smart,” Andrew Cook explains. “We know you can’t wear 300 shirts at the same time. Some of those shirts are going to fall by the wayside and we’re more than happy to take the leftovers.”
Justin Richards earliest claim to fame? In the 4th, 5th and 6th grades, he was in a hip-hop dance crew. His friend’s mom served as the crew’s choreographer. The same friend’s sister ended up as one of the dancers for Beyoncé in her “Single Ladies” video.
If Andrew Cook didn’t make his living playing the drums, he’d be trying to become a screenwriter. An avid reader of books (100 Years of Solitude is among his favorites), Cook could pick up some tips for a writing career from his relative by marriage, author Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors).
Eric Halvorsen LOVES driving the band’s van.
“It’s turned into an obsession,” he says. “I try to see how long of a leg I can drive before giving up my turn at the wheel. I’m definitely going for a continuous driving record.”
“Annabelle” was written on a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Phoenix
Best Buy, Borders and Target employees out there in Massachusetts, be wary of how you answer any middle-aged gentlemen who point to A Rocket to the Moon’s debut album On Your Side and begin an inquisition. As drummer Andrew Cook reveals to Fender News, it just might be the father of the band’s lead singer Nick Santino.
“Nick’s dad goes undercover into stores and pretends that he doesn’t know anybody from the band,” Cook says. “He’ll first ask them how many copies they sold that day and then repeatedly ask, ‘So, you like these guys? You like these guys?’”
An affirmative is probably in order when one considers the drastic measures overprotective parents can sometimes take–picture Liam Neeson’s character in the movie Taken for instance.
“I don’t know who you are,” Neeson says to his daughter’s kidnapper. “I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you; I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you.”
Okay, so that was only a case of getting a little carried away over a badass quote. In reality, Santino explains that his dad merely wants to boast about his son’s pop rock band. “If they say ‘yes, they like us,’ he’ll tell them ‘That’s my boy!’”
A Rocket to the Moon (ARTTM) initially began as a solo project back at the Santino household in Braintree, Mass., when an 18-year-old Nick––inspired by Helloandgoodbye’s electro-pop hit “Here (In Your Arms)”––started fooling around with computer programs and recording electronic songs.
“I was a year out of high school and really didn’t want to go to college,” says Santino. “I was just kind of bored in my bedroom one day and that song had been killing it on the radio. So I thought I’d make a few electronic songs like that just for fun. I posted some on MySpace for my friends and they liked them, and then word quickly spread.”
Desiring anonymity, the then-soloist, who as a kid used to dream of outer space and aliens (he’s got a large tattoo of ET and Drew Barrymore on his right bicep), tagged his futuristic-sounding music under the A Rocket to the Moon moniker—fitting considering the rocketing ascent of ARTTM from childhood bedroom to aisle endcaps in major retail giants.
“I never actually intended for ATTTM to get this far,” Santino confesses.
But after playing awkward shows by himself that felt a little too much like karaoke, Santino began searching for band mates, eventually adding co-writer and guitarist Justin Richards from Chico, Calif., bassist Eric Halvorsen from Phoenix, and drummer Andrew Cook, who grew up the closest to Santino in Belcher Town, Mass.
Although strangers at the outset, the guys quickly bonded over a similar philosophy when it comes to the pursuit of such an unstable profession.
“My heroes are people who do what they love,” says Cook. “There are so many different avenues in life and not everyone has to work a standard 9 to 5. I respect anybody who takes a gamble and takes a risk and does what they want.”
Following affirmative head nods from Santino and Halvorsen, Richards adds, “My parents and a lot of my friends’ parents just hate their jobs. It seems like our generation is really trying to do what they want to do and what makes them happy. I think that’s what everyone should do.”
“Blink-182 was the first band that I ever worshipped,” says Santino. “Tom DeLonge had his custom Fender Stratocaster and if you told me when I was like 12-years old, ‘Nick, when you are 21 you are going to have your own Fender custom Telecaster,’ I’d have been like, ‘SHUTUP.’”
That passion for music fueled the band’s debut album, which hatched back at the Santino household with Richards and Santino writing most of the songs on acoustic guitars before heading to a garage in Arizona to round out the music with their drummer and bassist.
“It’s weird because Justin and I just write together so easily,” says Santino. “A lot of the songs we wrote didn’t take us more than an hour.”
With the help of multi-platinum producer Matt Squire, ARTTM also recorded the material at a brisk pace––in a mere 17 days.
“It really worked out to be perfect timing,” says Santino. “We knew obviously we needed to get it done, but we never really felt like we were under the gun. I think it helped that we had a really good idea of what we wanted the record to sound like before we even entered the studio.”
The guys did have to stick to their guns however as their veteran producer wasn’t buying into some of the country sensibilities present in songs like “Like We Used To,” “On a Lonely Night” and “Baby Blue Eyes.”
“Squire was a little skeptical about those songs, but we are big country fans,” explains Richards, who experimented with a banjo and pedal steel on the album. “We had to ditch some of our ideas for sure, but we were stubborn about some things, too. We really wanted to scatter a few country tunes on the record, and maybe we’ll get a few more on the next one.”
“We’d love that,” adds Santino, who envisions ARTTM eventually doing the opposite of Taylor Swift with a pop to country crossover.
Already, Santino––whose first and second concerts ever were to see boy band ‘N Sync––is trolling for the likes of Swift’s younger audience.
“I think if you can get younger kids stoked on your band, they’ll be fans for the rest of their lives,” says Santino, citing ‘N Sync, Swift, Hanson (whose upcoming five-day spring tour quickly sold out) and Disney artist Demi Lovato as examples. “We went to one of Demi’s appearances and there was a line of at least 800 young girls with their moms; both the moms and daughters were completely decked out like Demi or wearing her merchandise. It sounds kind of creepy, but we say ‘Get them while they are young.’”
The Richards-Santino songwriting tandem is off to a good start with earnest lovesick lyrics that tend to appeal to a younger audience. Take for instance “Annabelle,” a take-that, I see the real you type of track and “I’m pretty sure I’m over you” or the bit-by-first-love track “Dakota.”
“The lyrics I write are just stories; I’m never too literal,” shares Santino. “We purposely picked ambiguous names and girls we’ve never met. If we’d chosen something more common like Sarah, people would start to wonder if it was so and so. I think it’s easier to write either from someone else’s experience or to just make up a story and go with that.”
Fans can experience this up-and-coming pop rock/alt-country band live with plenty of spring dates across the United States to choose from as ARTTM tours with We The Kings and Motion City Soundtrack. Dates available here.
And to plug in and give On Your Side a listen, click here now.