Frontman Keaton Rogers of rockin’ brotherly duo Raised On TV joins us at sister-owned Santa Monica neighborhood cafe Cafe Zella to discuss the release of Season 2, becoming a two-man band on the fly, and not being afraid to discuss real, everyday topics in their music.
Raised On TV is comprised of:
Keaton Rogers – guitar, vocals
Kacey Greenwood – drums
So you guys recently released your sophomore album Season 2. Care to give us a little bit of insight as to what inspired some of the lyrical themes and instrumental elements that you’ve included?
Keaton Rogers: Yes! Absolutely! So for our second album, Season 2, a lot of the inspiration as far as the lyrics kind of came from where I’m at in life, and also the other guys in the band too. There’s just two of us now…
A story for another time?
Keaton: Pretty much, yeah. So the lyrics kind of came from having a lot of rotten stuff happen in life. It’s not that it’s extremely dark, but it’s also not extremely uplifting either, you know? Like, we’re talking about financial struggles and being in a situation where you might be working three or four part time jobs to support your dream. In our case, having the music and being in a rock band it’s still not enough somehow, even though you’re working your ass off.
That’s the L.A. lifestyle for sure.
Keaton: Yeah. And a lot of it does have to do with being in L.A., or being in a big city in general I guess, because the cost of living is very high yet wages don’t match up with that cost of living.
It’s literally the worst.
Keaton: Definitely. So yeah, a lot of the lyrics and themes of the album have to do with the economics of all that, but not all of it, because the album goes into a lot of other stuff too. One of the songs called “Where the Sun Goes” is about our old tour van that we named Paulie, and it was this old, Ford, piece of crap van that would always break down on us. We had a lot of great times in that van for sure, so we had this song that was kind of like a tribute to that van. And a lot of the album too is kind of where our band has gone, and the journey of our band up to this point, encapsulated into an album. Some of the album’s about, you know, relationships or romantic themes and relationships not working out, sadly, heartbreak. There’s a song about a girl that rejected me in, like, high school that I still think about.
I think a lot of people have that person. *laughs*
Keaton: Yeah, for sure! That’s what the song “Stole My Heart Away” is about. And let’s see, what else? We have another song called “Smog City” that was partly inspired by the crazy experiences of driving for Lyft in the middle of the night in Los Angeles, like, the people you meet, or how you feel connected to your city but at the same time, you feel extremely disconnected, or isolated. That weird duality or feelings running through you at the same time is insane, and there’s not much you can do about it. Like, you’re trying to talk it out or trying to talk to people, trying to understand, but kind of getting nowhere in your pursuit. But yeah, a good number of them have to do with economics or having to do with money, just trying to get enough to live and do something that you love.
Yeah. The idea of struggle for your passion is a relatable topic. Regardless of if you’re here living in L.A. trying to do something with your art, or if you’re somewhere else, a lot of people tend to relate to those struggles.
Keaton: Yeah. And you asked about the music too, not just the words, right? So musically with Season 2, we’ve built on a lot of what Raised On TV started with, which was a lot of psychedelic guitar, and inspirations from the sixties, you know, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, and so on. And then also trying to write songs that were well-crafted and not too lengthy if they didn’t need to be. Season 2 was very much that case where a lot of these songs are a lot shorter than have to be in order to get to the point to not linger or waste time, you know? I’m not trying to lose people’s attention, so we worked to make sure the songs were very direct and to the point. There’s still some psychedelic influence, but maybe it’s a little more straightforward. We went very nineties with this one, like, Smashing Pumpkins guitar layering and things like that. I mean, we tried to write nice, pretty melodies and put on some cool harmonies, really cool guitar riff sections to hook you in.
And it shows!
Now you were already kind of giving a little bit of insight on some of the differences with the songwriting, but did you see any differences with the recording process between the two?
Keaton: Yeah, 100% huge differences between the two albums. Season 1 was basically us in a studio that wasn’t as professional as some other ones, but you know, it was pretty affordable. A friend of ours was working at that studio so we were able to go in there for a weekend. We banged out, like, fifteen songs as quickly as possible and then did overdubs later, so that one definitely felt very much like a live album. For Season 2, we had a very different approach. We took our time, we spent a lot more money, like, way more money than we actually had, to be able to pay for the studios that we were in. One of them was Studio 606, which is run by Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, and we got to use some of their gear and their amps and stuff, that was extremely cool. There was another really nice year that we worked on called in Hollywood called Elephant in the Room that was really cool too. So yeah, these were great studios with top of the line gear, great boards and things, great equipment, so we tried to spare no expense when it came to recording the music and making sure it was as top quality as possible. We also spent more on the mixing, like, we hired a guy who was fairly expensive and definitely out of our price range, but we thought that was worth splurging a little bit on in order to make it sound good, you know?
You get what you pay for for sure!
Keaton: Absolutely. We also just spent way more time on it in general. Season 1 was done in a weekend, and Season 2 was done in a year. That’s one of the biggest differences. More money, more time, more polished.
Which song was your favorite to write and then record?
Keaton: So for that, I’d say the first song on the album called “Soul On Fire,” which we put out as a single, was the one I had a lot of fun on. When we were recording that song, it just kind of felt like we were in a good zone and a good place mentally with it. Sometimes when you’re in the studio it’s stressful, I mean, a lot of times it is because there’s a lot on the line, money’s being spent and you don’t want it to be wasted, things can go wrong and then that time is just gone, and it sucks. I feel like for “Soul On Fire,” like, that session we were all on top of our game, we were in the zone, and it was really fun. We got creative, trying out random ideas. We did this weird thing where we were clapping and we turned it into this cool sample. I don’t know, we were just on a roll creatively.
So with the way that modern music listening has been more focused on shorter releases like EPs and singles, and even kind of what you were saying with songs being more straight and to the point, why do you think the music listening experience has changed to fit that?
Keaton: Yeah, that’s a great question that I think a lot of people are trying to answer and think about, but I think a lot of it has to do with people’s attention spans just getting shorter in general and the way people take in entertainment. I think that has a lot to do with the Internet and the way content is delivered to us, like, everything’s just quicker and faster, and with that comes people’s need for entertainment to be faster and to the point. People just don’t have the time to sit down and and listen to an album as a collective piece of art, you know? It’s almost like people are taking in once, maybe two, songs at a time, and that’s if you’re lucky. It might even be, like, half a song or even less than that, which is crazy, and I feel like songs are getting shorter because of it. I’ve heard a lot of hip-hop artists talk about the fact that they’re purposefully making songs way shorter because it takes thirty seconds of listening on Spotify to get the stream credit. They’re like, ‘Why bother with making songs that are two plus minutes? A song that’s a minute and a half being streamed gets the same amount of money as a five minute song getting streamed.’
I think it’s the same for YouTube to get credit for a video stream.
Keaton: I wouldn’t be surprised. So yeah, I think a lot of our lack of attention has to do with streaming music and videos on YouTube and Spotify. Both of those empires have kind of infiltrated our everyday lives, and not that it’s right or wrong or good or bad, it’s just how it happened and how things have evolved. I feel like between the both of those, they suddenly changed the game for artists, and it’s led to the songs getting shorter, and also kind of the death of the album itself in a lot of ways. Not entirely of course, I don’t think the album will ever fully go away, but it doesn’t hold the same weight that it used to, and it’s a shame because I feel like albums are such a great way for musical artists of all kinds to evolve throughout their career. It was also a way to kind of section off parts of their career and what they were doing artistically. Like, Led Zeppelin for example, everyone knows the different chapters of their career by the hits that came out. But without the album having that sort of weight or value, you kind of lose that a little bit.
Luckily it seems like the rock industry is pretty heavy into the album stuff still.
Keaton: Yeah, for sure. Like, I don’t think it’s going to go away completely. I’m glad the cultural significance that it used to have is gone, but you know, that’s kind of the history of art and humanity going back hundreds of years. Technology changes, things evolve, and in turn that affects the art. It’s like, you can bitch and moan about it, which I do, *laughs* but at some point, you kind of have to accept it and figure out what can you do that is significant.
That definitely makes a difference for the listeners. We notice when your heart isn’t fully in it or if you’re rushing things.
Keaton: Exactly. Right now with us, since Season 1, we kind of had this plan to kind of drop singles for a while. For a year, basically what we did was separate them out by two or three months and so hopefully they would get some traction. We’re still a band trying to make our mark, you know, but all the while we kept the album in mind when going forward to put out Season 2. We recorded most of it together, and we had some separate sessions just because of scheduling and such, but it was never like we were ever single release minded. We were always album minded, but we just kind of needed to break up the release of the second album to try and fit the current market a little better. We had to try and appeal to people with the modern attention span.
Or lack thereof. *both laugh*
Keaton: Unfortunately, yes. But Season 2 is here and that is the new chapter of our band now.
So you guys have gotten to play in many venues across the country. Have you noticed any similarities or differences in regards to how shows are run or how excited the audiences are in comparison to L.A.?
Keaton: Big differences for sure. Like, the similarities is that I’m on a stage playing. *laughs* But in general, people tend to be a little more excited in smaller towns where they don’t have as many crazy things going on in comparison to a place like Los Angeles or New York, you know? It ends up being cool because they’re actually more excited and more willing to be open to you as a band even if they’ve never heard of you. I feel like in L.A. it’s so competitive because so many people are out here trying to make it, and with that it kind of becomes cutthroat a little bit. Not always with everyone, but that kind of cutthroat vibe kind of kills the community a little bit. For example, there’s a bill for a night with like five bands, and maybe eight times out of ten the other bands will split right after their set.
Yeah. Even I’ve noticed that.
Keaton: Yeah, it’s not subtle. Like, I actually give a shit about the other bands so I always try to stay and watch them. That’s a big difference when we’re playing around the country because that’s not really the case. All the bands kind of stuck around, almost like that percentage was flipped around where maybe ten percent left and ninety percent stayed. That just shows a bigger feeling of community. Luckily we’ve found some bands in L.A. that we know are really cool and have played many shows with and kind of formed a community with, so we all stick around for each other. It’s not like I’m speaking only from negative experiences, because we’ve absolutely gotten some positive ones, even in L.A. But yeah, we have played a lot of shows around the country, and there’s more community for sure. The crowds are a little more excited and a little more non-judgmental. L.A. is very much like this ‘arms-crossed-why-the-fuck-should-I give-a-shit-about-you kind of vibe,’ you know?
That’s the most accurate description I’ve ever heard! *laughs* And if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would you choose and what would you name your tour?
Keaton: Ah man! That’s such a cool question! Well, you definitely should not put Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World together because they were just on the tour, and I guess they hated each other.
Holy shit! Really?!?
Keaton: Oh, yeah! The drummer Jimmy Eat World went on Twitter and talked all this shit about Third Eye Blind.
TBH I’m not too big on Third Eye Blind. Team Jimmy Eat World. *laughs*
Keaton: I love Third Eye’s first album for sure, but yeah Team Jimmy. *laughs* But to answer your question, not those bands. *both laugh* I definitely want the Foo Fighters in there just because Dave Grohl is such a cool guy. I met him once, like, way back in the day completely unrelated to music. I was working at this really random French lotion store in the mall in The Valley. I was like eighteen or nineteen, and I needed a job. One day in walks Dave Grohl! It was the holidays so he must have been Christmas shopping, and I sold him like five hundred dollars worth of lotion when he was there, and it was like the coolest thing because I made all this commission off of it! Yeah, The Foo Fighters would have to be on there. Smashing Pumpkins would be awesome too! And then maybe, like, Tenacious D to throw in some comedy! Man, that would be a kick ass tour to have these kings from the nineties. I’d probably call it the ‘Super Badass Kickass Tour.’
So going into a little bit about social media and how much we love it.
Keaton: Oh, yes. The best. *both laugh*
Right now it’s pretty much the main form of marketing, whether we like to accept it or not. Do you think it makes it easier or harder for independent artists to make a name for themselves?
Keaton: I’d say it’s both. It’s a double-edged sword, in which it makes it easier in the sense that it’s right in your hand at all times, you know? You can always put something on Instagram, or put something on Facebook, you know, easily show your songs and your videos to the people already in your circle, and then you also have ways and means of trying to expand your circle through these sites. But at the same time, while you have that power and that ability, so does everybody else. It’s so flooded now, and there’s so much to get through that it kind of makes sense that the power that you gain from it can be lost at the same time.
You kind of break even in a sense.
Keaton: Yeah. It’s like, it gives while it takes, but everyone can do it. So now with social media, since everyone can do it, it doesn’t make it doesn’t make anyone special. You don’t gain any sort of special thing by doing it ,so you kind of have to be special, and then share what you have to try to get it to spread and gain traction. Yeah, that’s the big difference with it. It’s like, you have to use it because that’s where we’ve gone marketing-wise, but it’s really just a double-edged sword. I mean, it’s cool that it’s there and we can all use it, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Well, everyone else can do this. What else can we do to be special?’ I guess that’s what it really comes down to.
Do you feel like it also adds on pressures to constantly have things going on in your life or how you portray yourself to your audience?
Keaton: Yes, I think it does add pressure. Since it is always there, there’s kind of been some expectations that I feel have been formed for bands and artists to always be posting, and I think it leads to people posting things that just aren’t that cool. It’s like, out of every ten posts that you make, five might actually be something cool or interesting, and then five are just random crap that you just threw in there to fill the void, you know? So to answer your question, yes, I think there is a lot of pressure that forms from social media now. Like, you’ve always gotta be adding to your stories, but the story only lasts twenty-four hours so you’ve got to make new ones to stay in people’s minds and stay relative. If you go quiet on social media for too long then it’s like, ‘Are people starting to wonder if we’re still a band, or if we’re still around and doing anything?’ You know, I’ve been broken up like I think. I think that’s the thing that’s it’s a real thing. I wouldn’t say it gives me anxiety, but maybe a little bit when you’re out on tour and there’s cool shit happening and you want to share those moments. But it’s like, ‘Damn, this is a full time job!’
Someone’s gotta do it, right? That’s why there’s so many social media jobs now!
Keaton: Oh yeah, big time! I’m a big supporter of that, especially when you’re amazing at it. I wish we could afford somebody to do ours. Hire somebody that’s super passionate about it. That’d be really cool.
Shout out to all you social media mavens out there!
Raised On TV is comprised of you and your brother doing awesome shit. *Keaton laughs* How is the experience working with a relative on a musical project?
Keaton: It’s awesome man! It’s really cool because we can fight and disagree and not get along on things, but then be able to work it out. That’s one of the coolest things because, honestly, a lot of projects that I’ve done not with family, you know, when a disagreement came along you didn’t always bounce back from it, and the project might end because of it. It’s a damn shame how often that can happen in bands. But yeah, working with Casey, my brother, is awesome. Not just because of the fighting thing, *laughs* but in general it’s just really fun! He’s a great drummer, we have a lot of similar tastes in music, and we have a lot of fun playing together and working on this band together. Because of this band, it feels like that’s why we’re really close, and that means that every success that we have in this band feels kind of special. But also, when we’re going through a low period, it feels especially low and hurts and sucks more because family’s involved. We want to really get this off the ground and we want to succeed. A lot of emotions are intertwined, so the highs are especially high and the lows are especially low.
But at least you’ve got someone there to feel all the emotions with.
Keaton: Yeah, for sure.
Having a family member is the band is especially lucky in music. Do you think that it’s kind of hard to nail down the right combination of band members, especially here in L.A. where everybody is trying to make it?
Keaton: The short answer is ‘yes.’ It is really hard to find the right lineup. You’ve got to find people that all come together creatively and share a similar vision who also don’t hate each other and are able to go the distance. That’s honestly the hardest part of being in a band, and I don’t think a lot of people realize what they fully signed up for when they get into a band. People were kind of looking for a short road to some kind of success. It’s really difficult, but once you do find a good combination of people, it’s a special thing and it should be cherished and taken care of, because it is really hard, not impossible, but difficult as hell, to maintain that kind of relationship.
Yeah. I feel like there are only a handful of bands that have had the same lineups throughout their entire careers.
Keaton: Oh yeah, for sure. That’s like the coolest thing when you hear about it because it’s just so rare. But for us, when we were a three-piece we were a solid lineup and we had a great run. Within three years, we did a lot of tours and we did two albums. But some developments came about that led to the third guy to leave the band, and it happened at such a crazy time. We were on a nationwide tour and he just bailed. So me and Casey were kind of forced to form a two-man show because we had no way of replacing him in time. We were already there, and it was like, ‘Our guy just quit, and we’ve got to be onstage in an hour, so let’s fix something. Let’s make this a two-man show.’ And that’s exactly what we did, we did it for twenty shows in a row, out on the road, all over the country. We’ve definitely been enjoying being a two-man band, but we totally open to finding more people once it feels right.
The universe will align eventually. But hey, your two-man shows are going strong and people are loving it!
Keaton: Yeah, something will happen eventually. What we’re doing right now is we play the bass track and run it through a bass amp, so it’s like there’s a bass player there without having a physical person there. We’ve been talking about getting a cardboard cutout and putting it up on stage with bass, and just leaving a blank space on there. It could be someone funny and random, you know, make it a new one for every show!
That would be so cool!
So how do you balance your personal life with their professional life?
Keaton: *laughs* Not well right now. A calendar comes in really handy, like, a weekly planner, it’s essential. But I guess it also comes down to priorities and how you prioritize things in your life. It’s important that you pay the bills. It’s important that you pay rent. But it’s also important that you pursue what you love in life and that you chase it 100% full on with no regrets. For me, it also comes down to balancing and figuring out when I have to work. I’m completely dedicated to this band, excluding the occasional going out to the movies or whatever.
It’s always important to have a little fun to keep you sane!
Keaton: Oh totally! You really have to put a lot of your free time into your project to keep it alive. You have to be committed as hell and dedicated. Even when you’re going through a slump or you’re feeling down, you have to keep pushing. I guess the way I balance it is trying to make time for both, like, and trying to do it every week or being consistent about it every day. I try to block out time where I’m going to go to Starbucks to do a bunch of emails, take care of a bunch of managerial-type stuff for the band, schedule band practices, schedule out time to work on new songs, all that fun stuff.
And what advice would you give your younger self in regards to what you’ve experienced with music, or with life in general?
Keaton: Man, what advice would I give? I think I’d tell my younger self to be more confident in your vision and your aspirations. Don’t let people get you down or get you off of your course of what you’re pursuing. Be bold and speak your mind. I feel like too often people, when they’re younger, hold back and they end up being more reserved. Sometimes it’s rightfully so, but I feel like too often, especially nowadays, younger people hold back too much when they should be doing the opposite. So yeah, I would say to not hold back and to say the things that are on your mind and how you’re feeling, especially as an artist. Put it in your work, don’t be shy about it, and don’t let too much time go by where you’re not doing the things that you love. Sometimes it happens where you kind of get down on your own goals and what you’re doing artistically. It’s so easy to put down the paintbrush, or put down the pencil, or put down the guitar for months at a time, or even longer. Don’t do that! Don’t ever fucking do that! Play through it. Work through it. Get through it. It’s easy to get that positive outlook when you’re on a good run and on a good streak with things going your way. It’s supposed to be easy when that’s all happening, but it’s not always gonna be like that. It’s not always gonna be easy. It’s gonna get hard. It’s gonna be hard. But don’t let it stop.
Stick it to the man!
Keaton: Stick it to the fucking man!
What do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Keaton: I would like then to take away this feeling of being in the moment, like, this feeling that you get when you really feel awake, you know? Or like, when a great song or a great piece of art snaps you out of whatever funk you may be in on a certain day. I love that. I love it when a song that I love comes on and I just feel more alive, you know? It helps get some things in my head more adjusted where I’m starting to see clearer. I mean, that’s something I would definitely love for people to get out of our stuff – to feel more alive, feel more in the moment, feel more like you can be who you are, whoever that may be.
If sure that you’ll have no trouble reaching listeners with that message.
Keaton: Thanks! I really hope so!
And to end us off, apart from Season 2, what other big, exciting things should we be expecting?
Keaton: Four dozen more tours!
Keaton: Yeah! *laughs* We’re gonna get back out and tour the Western United States some more, like, Northern California, Colorado, Arizona. So definitely getting back out there, in our newer van that doesn’t break down, *laughs* and putting on a bunch of cool shows and meeting people all around the country. Hopefully making more music videos of the newer stuff. We’re not exactly sure what just yet, but we want to get creative with it and have some fun with all that. Let’s see, what else? Hopefully getting to open up for some bigger bands and really increasing our fanbase. Just getting out there and doing things!
About Cafe Zella:
It’s all in the family at Santa Monica’s must-visit cafe Cafe Zella, and there’s no surprise why it receives the praise that it does. Tracy Ngoy, the youngest of the Ngoy sisters, brought this lovely cafe to life in the mid-2000s, and she was lucky enough to have sisters Nina and Nam that shared the same passion of growing the business into the neighborhood favorite that it is. It’s no wonder that many people from the surrounding area have come through to make this spot their home.
Great daily specials are plentiful and split between breakfast and lunch classics, while fresh baked pastries are the cherry on top of the ideal cafe cake. Drinks include yummy juices, an assortment of teas, fan-favorite branded pre-packaged beverages (including La Croix, Snapple, and Coca Cola), and of course coffee in many forms! Their house specialty Viet Coffee (espresso with condensed milk) called out my name. Cafe Zella provides anyone who strolls in to an exceptional customer friendly environment along with an array of quality comfort food and a variety of beverages to fit anyone’s needs.