Frontwoman Janelle Barreto from L.A. pop-punk act ROCKET joins us at Tanner’s Coffee Co. in Culver City to discuss their latest EP Get Huge, effective marketing tactics for independent artists, and the struggles that women face in the rock n’ roll industry.
ROCKET is comprised of:
Janelle Barreto – lead vocals
Eric Wibbelsmann – guitar
Steve Kilcullen – guitar
Jordan Lawson – bass
Paul DePatie – drums
So you just released your long awaited EP Get Huge this year! How has it been riding the highs of the new release and especially since your last release?
Janelle Barreto: Ya! So, it actually took some time to get this one out, but that’s usually how the recording and writing process is for us. Even though we’re done with the recordings we still had to time the release perfectly. Like, we don’t want to release anything around Christmas time or right at the top of the year. Then there’s artwork to be considered, CD layouts, and all that stuff. But ya, we’ve actually had these recordings since last year. When we released the EP we had a big CD release party at The Viper Room on April 21st. It’s been awesome and super exciting! We had a college radio campaign going around the EP so we just got played on over 100 stations across the country, so we got to watch the buzz and the increased numbers of that. More fans and more people are gravitating to our social media pages. Now Instagram tells you how many people are coming to your page per week. We were over 2,000 people every week just in the last few months so that’s been really exciting! And then combined with people like yourself who are reaching out to us right away wanting to do reviews on the CD, and interviews with the band. The feedback has been super positive. It’s great!
Yeah! And what made you decided to do a college radio campaign for promotion?
Janelle: Just from the knowledge that I’ve gained in pursuing music business, the music industry, and what I’ve learned about radio. About a year or so ago, we did a what you would call an ‘Adult Alternative Specialty Campaign.’ That’s what you do when you want to make an impact on the industry. It’s almost the equivalent of appearing on Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon or any of those night time talk shows, but in radio. So our next logical step would be college radio. They say you do college radio to garner fans. So one targets the industry and getting industry buzz, and the other is targeting new music fans.
Cool! And what was your favorite song to write and record for Get Huge? And these can be separate songs as well because I know the process is kind of different between recording and songwriting.
Janelle: I can probably answer that for both with our song “Fading Out.” It just seems like some songs are made when the heavens open up, the portal just comes straight down into you, and then the song writes itself super quickly. So I think “Fading Out” was one of those. The concepts were written, then the lyrics came quickly, and the vibe of the song came together fast. With recording it in the studio, because it’s a really quick, pop-punk, edgy song we were able to lay the track down really really fast, and meld together as a band really easily on that song.
And how would you say the recording process for this EP was a little bit different than your past work?
Janelle: It was easier because we were more melded together as a band, and we were now used to being in the studio together. We were used to each others patterns and habits, like, ‘Ok, these are the steps that we know that we do when recording.’ So we’re more familiar with each other as a cohesive group.
You chose “Hey Baby” as your official single for Get Huge. If you had an infinite amount of money, what would you do for a music video?
Janelle: *laughs* That’s such a good question because when we did the music video for “Hey Baby” it seemed like it was an infinite amount of money and expense. It started off with one price, and then when we were done it was thousands more than what we expected. But if I had an unlimited budget, gosh, I don’t know, I guess we would have celebrity appearances, flamethrowers, and helicopters. Probably a bunch of dancers. There would definitely be a bathtub with diamonds. And, I don’t know, maybe some fur coats. *laughs* Gangsta!
The lavish lifestyle! *laughs*
Janelle: *laughs* And it would be recorded at some mansion somewhere! *laughs*
I mean, Hollywood definitely has a lot of those! *laughs*
Janelle: *laughs* Just the total cliche video. *laughs*
I mean, it’s an infinite amount of money. You can do whatever you want! *laughs*
Janalle: *laughs* Totally! We’ll have to come back to that one when we’re ready. *laughs*
One day in the future!
Janelle: Yes! *laughs*
And you guys just got named the winners of the LA Music Critic Awards.
Congratulations to that!
Janelle: Thank you!
How did the opportunity come about and what other types of music contests have you participated in?
Janelle: Well, I have been a longtime colleague of a gentleman named Robert Leggett, the head of Indie Voice Blog. Many years ago, I was in a band called Exploiting Eve, it was one of my first bands, and we were playing around Long Beach and Orange County. Robert Leggett was a music reviewer at that time and I don’t know how he found us, but he started following that band and writing reviews for us. Then our paths kind of split apart, there was a period of time when I wasn’t in a band, and didn’t have a project. Then we put ROCKET together, and thanks to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg helping everyone stay connected now, we started to promote ROCKET, and Robert resurfaced again. He’s still a prominent music reviewer here in Los Angeles, but now at this point he’s even more prominent. At the time that he had resurfaced for us, he was writing for AXS.com as The L.A. Music Critic. He did amazing reviews for us. He did a feature about me and on independent women in music. Throughout the years, he had been doing the music awards so he named us the Best Alternative Rock Band in Los Angeles and he’s throwing a showcase for all the winners. We’re going to be performing on June 21st at The Mint. It’s all of the award winners, he asked if we could headline, and so of course we said ‘yes!’ It’s been about a 10 year friendship with Robert Leggett.
And if you could run your own annual contest, kind of similar to this, what type of contest would you run?
Janelle: That’s such a good question!
I know, and there’s so many different ones too!
Janelle: I know right. I think it would definitely have something to do with young people, music and bands and maybe, like, putting bands together on the spot. That kind of thing where you have to meet your band in the moment, then get put on little teams, then have to write a song, and then maybe perform it live. Something like that, where you had to do it impromptu and be in the moment.
It can also be the spark of the next big band too.
Janelle: Ya! Almost like a School Of Rock type of scenario.
I mean, that’s totally how they did it back in the day of boy bands and such in the 90s.
But this seems a lot more fun. *laughs*
Janelle: *laughs* And everybody would win cash prizes! And record deals of course. *laughs*
Yes! And kind of going back on the social media aspect because you had mentioned Facebook being a great connector and also for promoting for your band. How would say that marketing in general just from watching the music industry trends has changed with the rise of social media being the dominant way to promote yourself now?
Janelle: I mean, there’s be a lot of talk about the stuff that’s been going on in the news with Mark Zuckerberg. The poor guy has been brought through the coals with having to apologize for the privacy and all of that stuff. In that, I’m starting to hear people say that everyone is going to move away from Facebook, and social media, and not use it any longer. I’ve been saying out loud that that’s not going to happen for the artists, the musicians, the entrepreneurs, and the small business owners, because social media has given us a platform for free marketing, and free promotion. But now, it’s a little trickier because you have to boost your promotions. Facebook tends to hold your posts hostage now and not show them to anybody until you fork down some money, but then all of a sudden 500 people will see your post.
It’s still pretty affordable though.
Janelle: Yes! You’re absolutely right! I feel like since the invention of social media platforms, it’s really empowered the artist. It’s definitely a way that we would have never been able to get to our actual fan base, gain new fans and constantly keep them updated on what we’re doing, and when we’re playing. It’s so valuable to be able to tell people that we’re playing at this time on this date, and be able to pack a venue using it. Back in the day you would have to go out into the streets, go into the clubs, bring fliers to flier the venue, hang posters, good old fashion phone calls, and then drive around the city to drop off tickets. So it has made things so much better, especially for the independent artist. It also means that you don’t necessarily need a record label in order to already be out there playing music, releasing music, and doing shows.
Yeah, and it kind of started off with Myspace. You have people that were Myspace famous that are still fairly prominent and then you have people that were discovered from Vine. I mean, R.I.P. Vine, *laughs* but it’s crazy how big social media has gotten in regards to the music industry.
Janelle: Even YouTube has been a really big help with how easily we’re able to release video content, and Instagram with little ‘My Story’ videos, all that stuff. It’s so valuable and it’s almost like appearing on TV in a way where you have a whole other platform. You’re like a visual celebrity or star if you’re making your content properly, with enough hype and it’s done well.
Janelle: Yes, never-ending content. We feel like that for sure.
So kind of going into how you were speaking about how you had gotten interviewed for a women in music piece. It’s kind of very known, especially in the pop-punk community, that female fronted bands and even all-female bands still seem to be fairly rare even in this modern age of women empowerment. Do you think that a woman needs to portray herself in a certain way in order to be successful in the music industry or have to do certain things a certain way in order to be successful?
Janelle: *sigh* I want to stay positive and say ‘no’ that you don’t have to. As an artist, if I’m speaking to other female artists my answer would be ‘No, stay true to yourself and do what you believe in your heart.’ I used to be in a band called Exploiting Eve, and I picked that name specifically because I was making commentary on the concept of ‘selling the girl’ and selling the ‘female image’ in the music industry. However, as of late I’ve watched award shows and see how the Hollywood actresses go up there looking all glamorous, with tears in their eyes, talking about how hard it is to make it as an actress in Hollywood, and how roles for women are not written for them, and age limitations. When I look at them and see their success, it makes me think about when I go up there and win my award. I’m going to be like ‘Hey women of Hollywood. If you think it’s hard to make it in Hollywood as an actress, guess how hard it’s been to make it as a woman in rock n’ roll.’ ‘Cause when you really think about how many women have had commercial successes in rock music in the last decade, you can probably name them on one hand. There have been very very few actually in the history of music. I was growing up in a family that was like ‘Mija, whatever you want to do, you can do. All of your dreams will come true.’ But it’s not until you get older that you realize that some industries are really dominated by men. Music is absolutely one of those. When we get into the genre of rock music, there are pretty much no women. You’ll see music business conferences where there’s panels and people speaking, and even when you go into the record labels and see their rock departments, you will see that there are hardly any women. So, I do want to believe that not all women need to be pop stars Number 1. Number 2: we don’t all have to be wearing hot pants and bras, showing our stomachs, bending over and grinding on the floor in order to have music careers. I want to believe that. It’s just, I’m hoping to see more proof of that in my lifetime.
If a young girl came up to you saying that she wants to grow up to be the lead singer of a rock band, what advice would you give her?
Janelle: To focus and train your mind to believe that it’s your destiny, and you will absolutely make it. From there, just never give-up. Press on. Because it’s a discipline, get excellent at your craft. And because it’s a Business….learn Music Business.
Music is ever changing.
Janelle: Yes, that’s right! It’s true!
Keeps you on your toes for sure.
Janelle: Yes, especially with streaming and downloading and social media. It’s like the wild west atmosphere. The internet has created a wild west where everything is being made up for the first time.
I know, I remember when it was not too long ago actually where I would go to school and bring my walkman with my CDs. I would burn through my walkmans like every other month and now everything is on my phone.
Janelle: Ya, right!
It’s just so crazy how technology has grown in such a short amount of time, especially in the music industry. It feels like it was one way, then you blinked, and it was completely different.
Janelle: I know! Ever changing!
ROCKET has actually been featured in some streaming playlists highlighting female fronted bands, who would you say that some of the essential women in music are that someone should listen to? Maybe even that same little girl who wants to be a rock star?
Janelle: I think you have to go back to the foundation and the roots so I would say the mother of the rock n’ roll bible is Janis Joplin. She’s one of the first to sing rock n’ roll music, so I would definitely start there. That’s definitely when rock music and playing rock music in festivals, the summer of love, was all happening for the very first time. They weren’t copying anybody. They weren’t ripping anybody off. They were actually making it up for the first time. So I would definitely visit someone like Janis Joplin to learn those real raw vocal chops and the energy of rock music. Then I would visit somebody like Joni Mitchell to learn the singer-songwriter side of being a female artist, how important storytelling is, and poetry and lyrics. Then I would listen to Heart to learn vocal prowess like being able to sing with a tremendous range, with a lot of strength, and a lot of vocal depth. And then maybe somebody like Blondie, that has more of a punk edge, with pop sensibility, and a little more sex to it. Those would all kind of begin to touch the bases of all the different depths to being a female rock artist.
And kind of speaking on music festivals since you brought it up. What kind of music festivals would you want to see yourself on? I know you guys did the Warped Tour battles last year correct?
Janelle: We did do the Battle of the Vans Warped Tour, we made it into the finals, and then we also did the Road to Alaska Vans Warped Tour and made it into the finals for that. They really brought out the fact that you’re not just playing a show. You’re competing while you play a show so it actually brings your performance level up, and you’re trying to get a response from the crowd, because you need the judges to hear your crowd going crazy. It’s kind of good because not only did it put us in front of a lot of people that we wouldn’t have been in front of otherwise, but it brought out a certain level in our actual performance. Now at this point, the festivals that I have on the bucket list are the Weenie Roast and Almost Acoustic Christmas. We’re perfect for those lineups. We wanna play Lollapalooza, Coachella, Rock On The Range, and Bonnaroo. We wanna play Dave Grohl’s Cal Jam.*laughs* So we’re ready. Are you ready Dave? *laughs*
*laughs* Yes! Dave Grohl if you’re reading this, next year’s lineup.
Janelle: *laughs* Yes please!
If you could choose three artists to go on your own personal world tour with who would they be and what would your tour be named?
Janelle: *laughs* Hmm. Highly Suspect is my number one. Foo Fighters. Green Day. And us. *laughs* And what would it be called? It’d be called The Melting Faces Tour. *laughs* And Paramore can come too. *laughs*
Secret headliner! *laughs*
Alright! And who would you want to collaborate with and why? And these can be on a songwriting basis or on a production basis or touring.
Janelle: I would love to write a song with Pat Smear, who is one of the guitarists for the Foo Fighters. Pat Smear has one of the most beautiful, electric guitar tones that I’ve ever heard and he’s got that real alternative rock sound. It’s the kind of sound that can move an entire crowd just based on his guitar tone only; he’s super special. I would love to write a song with Matt Cameron, Kim Thayil, and Ben Shepherd, some of the band members of Soundgarden, just so I can imagine what it would be like to be Chris Cornell. And then there’s a producer named Rich Costey. He produced an album called The Great Escape Artist, one of Jane’s Addiction’s newer albums. The production on it is just off the charts. It’s so beautiful. It’s strong and sonically it’s just big, but it has so much clarity. I would just love to be able to produce even one song with that guy. Other than that, I would love to write a song with B.o.B. Do you know who he is?
Janelle: Yeah I would love to write a song with someone like that who is so prolific with lyrics and pop culture. Even just to see his thought and poetry process, because I have a big respect for that. I think B.o.B. is great at it.
Cool! And what kind of audience do you think your music appeals to and what do you hope your audience takes away from your music?
Janelle: I think our audience is that kind of youth culture that’s kind of Millennial but still Generation X. We’re the people that are the non-conformists, that like skateboarding, surfing, tattoos, and dressing weird. We like things that are unique and out of the box. People that don’t need a lot of authority, don’t want a lot of structure, want things to be weird and quirky and unusual. I feel like those are the people that we’re performing for and are gravitating to us. What is our message? That you don’t have to fit in a box, that not all roads are the same for everybody, that things can be weird, quirky, fun, and strange. You can experience a whole array of emotions from intense anger all the way to exhilaration and happiness all through art and music. I like that we’re speaking to that, creating that for the sub-culture, and identifying with those type of people.
And one last question. Apart from going through the post-release process of your EP, what exciting things should we be expecting from you?
Janelle: Well, we finished our college radio campaign just a couple of weeks ago and now we’re getting ready to release a new, live music video for our song “Giants.” It’s kind of a compilation of video footage that we’ve taken of ourselves at all different kinds of shows like, backstage, getting ready, doing soundchecks, those sorts of things. It’ll be like an ‘on the road’ type of video. That will probably be our next release. Then we want to actually do a live performance video to our song “Fading Out.” We’re talking about going back into the recording studio already to lay down another 4 or 5 songs. Again, those songs probably won’t get released until next year. We’re due for a new photo session so I would like to get that booked because we need new promo photos. And ya, other than that we will be playing shows. We’ll be doing the L.A. Music Critic Awards Show on June 21st, it’s a Tuesday night at The Mint for all the LA music award winners. And then we have an awesome show at The Whiskey A Go-Go that we’re excited about on July 17th, it’s a Saturday night, and we’re opening for the Guns N Roses Tribute Band. So you can come and see us, and then we can all dance and sing to “Sweet Child ‘O Mine!”
Paradise Kitty? I may have seen them a few times at The Viper Room.
Janelle: Oh you know what? It’s Hollywood Roses.
Ah yes, the other well-known one.
Janelle: Yes, the other infamous Guns N Roses tribute band! So we’ll play with them, and we’re in the process of negotiating a few other shows in the next few months. It sounds like we’re heading back to the El Rey Theatre in September – September 14th. Hard to believe we’re coming into fall and winter bookings already.
I know! The year is going by so fast!
About Tanner’s Coffee Company:
Not so hidden on the Sepulveda Strip of Culver City lies Tanner’s Coffee Co. Proudly known as the city’s oldest coffee shop, its warm and welcoming exterior of classic brick and bright umbrellas helps it to stand out against the muted neutrals of the surrounding shops in the vicinity. When you walk through the doors, you feel like you’re witnessing how Tanner’s looked when it debuted with its retro surf decor and vibrant color palette. However, given its exuberant interior and somewhat cramped indoor seating arrangements there is still a sense of homeliness that makes you comfortably want to spend the whole day there curled up with your favorite book, playing chess, or catching up with a friend.
Whether you’re looking for a worldly brew or an eclectic tea selection, Tanner’s has you covered. I actually had trouble deciding on whether or not I wanted to go with a South American roast or a fruity black tea from how extensive their list was. The Tropical Iced Black Tea was my jam in the moment and let’s just say that I was woken up within the first few sips. Being that Tanner’s is in my own backyard I can absolutely see myself becoming a regular there in the very near future. I’m definitely ready to embrace their slogan “Meet me at Tanner’s!”