Form of Rocket isn’t a local band anymore—that is, if you subscribe to the theory that a record deal negates roots. Since signing to New York City indie label Some Records (Eric Mingus, Six Going On Seven, The Exit) last year, the complexity rockers have encountered a few fans (and some press) that would have them renounce their Salt Lake-ness now that they’re “rock stars.”
The quoted consensus of the band? Bullshit.
Sure, you reckon rock star status with all the trimmings would make life easier on Peter Makowski (guitar, vocals), Curtis Jensen (more guitar, more vocals), Ben Dodds (bass) and Tyler Smith (drums). But despite the fairytale plotline (Act I: releasing 2002’s sublime Se Puede Despedir a Todos; Act II: touring behind said album in a rickety, floorless van given to inopportune breakdowns that miraculously lasted from to NYC and back; Act III: coming home to a phone call from Some Records offering ink) fame and fortune haven’t arrived and isn’t expected. Rather, they have to work harder now—but that’s quite all right.
“We’re not after instant gratification,” says Smith. To which Dodds adds, “We realize it’s not going to be immediate. And it’s not going to be easy.”
And yet, as they gear up for a road trip with punk stalwarts Strung Out and upstarts Eighteen Visions next month, it will be a bit easier. The record deal may not have brought fame and wallet-thickness, but they hold some aces of ease. Not the least of which is a slightly more reliable ride and the fact that they wield the associative talents of one of the best booking agents around, Stormy Shepherd and her SLC-based Leave Home Booking (The Offspring, AFI). This latter bonus frees up Jensen from booking FoR’s tours, which amounts to one huge advantage: Form of Rocket is free to concentrate on the business at hand—rocking—on the brilliant, brutal new album, Lumber (FormofRocket.com; released this week).
Makowski says the writing and recording process on Lumber differed greatly from Se Puede in that it’s the band’s first record with Smith (he joined early last year), whose writing and playing changed their approach. They also altered their recording process, taking time to record to analog tape instead of going digital and spending three more months mixing this record than the last.
“It was a labor of love,” Makowski says. “We wanted this record to be more organic, all the samples and sounds we recorded ourselves. We wanted to put out something made of dirt from our own hands.”
Accordingly, Lumber is more diverse and more focused than Se Puede, gritty but retaining the mathematical meticulousness that is Form of Rocket’s hallmark. They run precise, like souped-up Rolexes and ride time changes and craggy sonic terrain like a merry-go-round, only to stop on dimes and run over those who can’t keep up or aren’t paying attention. Jensen’s and Makowski’s guitars are urgent, angry and thoughtful; Dodds and Smith are a snorting bull of a rhythm section, seeing red and pissing acid—ready to gore. The result is by turns Iron Maiden with a fuel-injected scientific calculator, Shiner with the taste of blood, Fugazi sitting on the business end of a chainsaw. They say they’re not after instant gratification, but it’s what they deal—like trenchcoated, doo-ragged drug dealers—and what they have.
“The songs on Se Puede are great,” Makowskit says, “but not very diverse; a lot of them have the same feel. Our writing style has expanded. We can play and write all different types and styles, basically whatever we feel like playing, and it speaks for itself: there’s no bullshit.
“We’ve started to venture out and try out new things,” he continues, “which keeps it fun and interesting. We never want to get tired, things have to move and change constantly or we’ll get bored with it. Movement brings longevity, and that’s what we are shooting for.”