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Subrosa's Madness is Genius by Design
by Kevin P. Courtney and R. Scott Giacomelli
 
photo by Steve Giacomelli, State Theatre, St. Petersburg, August 10, 1997
 

            A few weeks ago at Durty Nelly's, three-fourths of the local band Subrosa sat down with us and chatted about their music, their fans and the direction their band is headed.
            Joining us over a few pints of Guinness were singer/guitarist Travis Tooke, bassist Andy Lord and guitarist Mike Amish.  Drummer Jack Griego was unable to make it due to more pressing family duties; his wife recently gave birth to their first child.
            Subrosa is taking a small break before going on tour to promote their new album Never Bet the Devil Your Head. The album, released July 29, displays Subrosa's wide array of sounds. The band's music has been collectively described as "muddy-rock," similar to the grunge sound of the early '90s. The album title, taken from an Edgar Allen Poe story, "really captured the emotions that we were going through at the time," Tooke said. "It really seemed to fit the feeling of the songs. "You have the 'Never' section, the 'Bet the Devil' section, and the 'Your Head' section. We wanted to divide the track listings to read like a book. In terms of a conceptual thing, we wanted it to read like these were all the thoughts of the band." The album quickly disappeared off local store shelves within a week of its much-anticipated release.
            By some random luck of the draw, a listing of record sales from local shop Hyde & Zeke Records was printed in last month's Rolling Stone, and it had Subrosa at the top of the charts as the No. 1 selling alternative album.
            To those who have actually heard the album, it's not far-fetched to view this as indicative of the album's potential on future national Billboard charts.
            While many have seen local act Sister Hazel rise to the top with their recent appearance on "Live! With Regis and Kathy Lee," Subrosa has yet to receive the national attention their latest album merits.
            The band's label, Sony 550, is finally set to release "Buzzard," as their first single.  It should make it on radio stations in the next two weeks, which would help Subrosa reach a greater fanbase.
            Since recording the album in January, the band has added high school friend Mike Amish to the mix.  He has been playing with the band now for about five months and has made an definitive impact on Subrosa's sound. Amish's additional guitar and electric piano allows Tooke to concentrate on vocals.
            "It has really allowed us to open up new avenues with our sound," Tooke said. "Mike is the backbone that we needed to stabilize our music. His addition helps complete the music and his technical skills really help to do the songs justice," Lord adds.
            The feeling one gets from a conversation with these guys is not far from what you get when listening to their music and lyrics. Comfortable with their stance on their music and its message, the members of Subrosa are insightful and opinionated when it comes to their role in making music.
            "We want to make people use their brain. You've got no-brainer music and you've got music that makes people think. We're trying to make music that makes people think," Lord said. Amish interjects, saying, "Even parents are sometimes afraid that a rock band has more to say over their kids than they do, but it's always nice to have an outside positive influence.
            "And it's not an egotistical thing at all to classify yourself as a rock band who has thinking man's music; music that generates something that is going to have some sort of personal value as opposed to corporate value." Tooke has his own views of "corporate rock." "I think a lot of music now is suffering with disposable stuff, and definitely the industry seems to be leaning towards 'formula rock' and things that are gonna sell."
            The band just came off a summer tour with Athens-based band Five-Eight, and after a few weeks hiatus, they are ready to tour everywhere to promote their album.
            For those who have yet to check them out, Subrosa will be playing the Alachua Music Harvest main stage Saturday. Last year's concert goers will remember their "fiery" performance, as they concluded their set with pyro-technical antics, a la Hendrix (Read: Travis lit his guitar and amps on fire).  This year, the band is playing Saturday night's main stage before Less Than Jake.
            Subrosa sees live shows as an opportunity to relate their emotions to the audience. As far as what the future holds, Subrosa plans to keep touring to do the album justice.
            In fact, Subrosa is planning another tour soon. Possible bands on their bill might include Naked, Creed, or fellow Harvest act Mighty Joe Plum. This band is definitely in it for the long run, and they just want to keep making music. Just as Lord said: "Our music is going to speak for itself. We'll never slow down."