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"Blonde, Keyboards, Stutters", Stephen Hull of Rocky Loves Emily Speaks -By Mary Magpie

Helen and I  got the great opportunity to interview Rocky Loves Emily’s keyboardist, Stephen Hull.  In the cozy upstairs room of Hamden, CT’s The Space, we were ready to get started.

MM: Lets get this out of the way, whats with the band name?

Stephen: “A lot of people think we got the name from the Four Letter Lie song.  Which was actually not the case at all.  It’s from a movie, from the 90s called Three Ninjas.  It’s about these three brothers who would learn all these ninja moves from their asian uncle who teaches them all these sweet kick-some-butt moves.  It was a really funny story, it was a b-list movie, but it was all one of our favourite movies growing up.  There’s a scene in the movie, where they make fun of the oldest brother, Rocky, for liking the girl next door, Emily.  The brothers start teasing him and start saying “Rocky Loves Emily, Rocky Loves Emily” and so on and I remember we were sitting around as we were kind of talking about what we wanted to do for the band name, and we started talking about our favourite movies and that came up and we started saying that and it was either Pete or I, we always go back and forth with who actually said it, but we were just like “that should totally be our band name”.  That’s pretty much where it came from.”

MM: So Tell Us How It All Began

Hull: “We were all in many different bands, we had all been in bands before and we all were from the greater Detroit area and we knew of eachother.  And Brandon, the lead singer, pretty much was the one who was friends with a lot of us in the band.  I met him at a show that we played together in the Detroit area and I remember he was looking for a keyboard player for his original band at the time, and I remember he said that he saw me and was just blown away or something and he said the same thing about Pete when Pete played the drums and it ironically happened to work out where all of the bands that we were in at the time happened to break up around the same time so we came back in the summer he was just like “I wanna get a band together with some of my best friends” and he literally just called us up and was like “hey man, I’m putting a band together, want to know if you want to give it a shot, see what happens”.  We all just got together, started making music, and it was friends before music kind of thing.”

MM: Its said you revist venue to reconnect with fans as friends.  Tell me how that started.

Stephen said: “We try to hit the same areas over back and forth.  That’s just like, the golden rule.  It’s good to hit the same area at least every month and a half.  The biggest thing is everybody that keeps coming back to our shows are the people that we literally have had great conversations with and got to know on a personal level.  The main thing about this band is that we’re not trying to gain fans as we are trying to be friends with a lot of people, our mission is not really to go out and sell as many records as possible, but like become friends with as many people as possible and that’s just like even on the worst days, that’s the highlight of the day and we walk away and will be like “oh remember this girl who told us about having this happen in her life, blah blah blah” and we can go back and we can give things back to those people.  Because they do so much for us.”

 h

b: how’s that going to go when their fan base grows larger?

Hull said “I’m sure there will be a point where it will get to be very overwhelming, but at the same time all of us feel like God has called us to do this and it’s not so much about the record sales, it’s like we are going to take the time to try and talk to every single person because what’s music all about?  It’s about the network, and the community of people who come together and take something away from that and we always wanted to be as much a part of that as any thing else.”

MM: You have a history with the store Hot Topic, how did that partnership come about?

Stephen: “Hot Topic is awesome.  We started off in the first year of the band touring, Hot Topic saved our butts so many times.  We would do shows, usually ones on the weekends but we’d do longer drives, so in order to go out on those drives, we would take advantage of their Local Static thing, which is like they bring bands in to come and play a couple of acoustic songs, talk about the band and promote.  And Hot Topic has been doing an awesome job with those and so they just opened the doors for us and they’re doing so many of those in one year.  We did about 160 in a matter of a couple months.  We literally blew up on their radar.  When the record was finally going to be released, we approached Hot Topic and were kind of like “hey, would you guys be interested in possibly putting this just in your stores?  To feature it just in your stores because we’ve built such a home.”  And we know almost every single tour manager, we know most of the people who run those stores.  It’s like “yo, Kelly from Nashville Hot Topic, how’re you doing?”  We just approached them about it and they were so stoked about it and it was just a great experience and a great opportunity for us and we couldn’t be happier with it.  They’re great people at the company.”

MM: Your albume is called “American Dream”, whats that mean to you?

Hull said “I would say the record’s pretty much 80% about girls but at the same time, our American dream and the whole conception of the album was that it’s our American dream to go out cross country and meet people and become friends with them.  Nowadays, the cookie cutter white picket fence and a 9 to 5 job, wife and kids, it’s a little more unrealistic than it used to be.  And it’s about finding your own personal American dream, and finding that and following your dream and not having to worry about what used to be.  It’s kind of an idea that we collected together songs that were like “here we are, we’re going to follow our dreams, and that’s our American dream”.

hb: How do you keep this pure mindset with all the temptations and pitfalls in your way?

Stephen: “We’ve definitely had a lot of successful opportunities and we’ve worked our butts off to do it, but we’ve had our fair share of downfalls and depressing moments where certain things haven’t happened and we’ve just got to remember at the end of the day, we do try our hardest to listen to God, to follow God in what he has planned for us, at the same time it’s just like there are so many things in a day that you can find joy in, and just being out here on the road, whether it be stopping and talking to someone at the gas station for five minutes about their life, their story, and walking away from that day like “okay, we didn’t sell twenty albums, but I just had an awesome conversation with a man I’ve never met in my entire life.” 

hb: Jesus is trending in alot of bands these days

Stephen said “I feel like it’s sad to see that(religious views) is a selling point to some extent, but at the same time it’s just like I know these guys and they’ve been my best friends before we were in a band and they’re all just very very passionate.  We go into every minute thinking about all the great things in life.  Not just about how many people are going to be at the show or how well we played that night.  And we do talk about those things, but it’s so rewarding to know at the end of the day that we did something better than going out to a party and doing horrible things and it’s just like you can find so much more joy in just the smaller things in your day and being content with your life and there’s so much more in that than other things.”

MM: All the touring, whats the strongest memory?

Hull “(starts to laugh) We’ve had a few good ones.  I know Brandon, I don’t know if he wants me to say this one, but it’s a good one.  I remember one day we were driving(Pete, their drummer walks in and asks for the keys, Steve tosses them over, and Pete sits down to listen in) we were on a two month tour across the US and it was really early in the morning, we were driving through Montana, and I remember I wasn’t driving, Pete was driving at the time, and we’re pulled over on the side of the road and I wake up because the door was open and I hear laughing really hard and I’m just like “what’s going on?”  Come to find out, Brandon pooped his pants in the van and he was running out to the forrest.  (laughter).  He’ll admit it, if you talk to him about it.  That was one of the more unique, funnier moments on one of our tours for the rest of the week we couldn’t stop laughing and giving him crap about it.”

Pete interjects and asks Stephen “did you tell them about the train tracks?”

Hull says “Another story is we were in Texas for a show and the venue was right next to a trainyard.  There were a couple extra tracks and train parts laying around.  And so it was a very tight, narrow area where kids would load in and I was driving and I watch this guy in front of me like an SUV and a big ol’ trailer, go up the train track and back up a couple of times to get out the right way and I was just like, and there are a bunch of people in bands sitting right there, standing right there, and I’m just rolling down my window and saying “oh yeah? Watch me do this!” and I went to go turn to do it and I ran over a little train tie and immediately hopped the van up on the tracks and popped the tire out.  In two seconds.  And I was just so embarrassed and humbled. 

That’s what I get.”

MM: Have you played with any of your favourite musicians or idols yet?

Stephen: “We haven’t really gotten to play with anybody that we look up to.  When we did the showcase with Tooth and Nail, yeah it was really cool to have a bunch of people from Number One Gun there and we’d grown up listening to these bands and so it was just so like “wow.  These are our heroes standing there and watching us play music” and so that was a very surreal experience.  But I mean as far as touring and stuff like that we haven’t really gotten to play with artists we look up to yet.  We’ve met a few though.  (The artists we look up to are) bands like A Rocket To The Moon or The Maine.  Those are some of our influences.  We’ve crossed paths, some of our tours have actually lined up in a couple different cities.  We’ve gotten the chance to go out and walk up to them and just talk.  And it’s surprising because we’ve actually become kind of associates through it.  It feels kind of cool to be hangin’ with the big dogs, you know?”

MM: Do you have any non musical hobbies?

Stephen: “I do, and the guys they’ll attest to it.  I used to work in restaurants before I joined the band and I used to do cooking.  So I spent about six years in the restaurant business working at higher end places.  And so any time we go somewhere, whether it be somebody’s house or wherever we’re staying, if they’ve got food there, I’ll gladly go out and make the best meal I can make for them.  Without a doubt, people are like “wow this is so good!  Didn’t expect filet minion tonight!”  I’ve seen it done(cooking on an engine of a car), our engine block isn’t hot enough to do it.  One time we were in Huntington Beach, California and we had a day off and literally went to the store and got some burger meat and I got some spices and made up these gourmet burgers on the beach that we cooked with a Coleman grill stovetop thing and these guys loved it and we were so thankful for that awesome meal that day.”

MM Can you describe yourself in three words?

Hull: “I don’t know how to answer that… (To Pete) How would you describe me?”

Pete: “Three versions of Steve.  I would say wildhog Steve, softspoken Steve, and then “no, my way or the highway” Steve.”

Hull: “Blonde, keyboards, and stutters.”

MM Last one, What is one song in your iTunes that no one would expect, or is embarassing?

Stephen: “(laughs) I would have to say I have a secret passion for 80s hair metal.  So any time I’ll get some, like, Poison, or out of nowhere Motley Crue will come on I’m just totally into it and these guys are just looking at me.  I tell these guys I should’ve been born in the early 70s so I would be 16 in the mid-80s.  Playing with Journey, that would’ve been my ultimate dream.  I don’t feel keyboard players get enough credit these days.”

Stephen Hull was sincere, nice, and was found to have a passion for Journey and Poison. 

This made me even more proud to be a fan of the band. 

Mary loves Rocky Loves Emily.

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