Toby Fournier reports on the Nashville-based rockers RUSTY SHIPP
"Nirvana trying to play a Beach Boys song after hearing 'Dark Side Of The Moon'" is how Rusty Shipp have been described and if their new xRhythms playlisted song "Breaking Waves" is anything to go by, these Nashville-based rockers are certainly creating an undercurrent of holy grunge that threatens to have them riding the crest of a wave. OK, that's enough nautical references for now but surf's definitely up for Rusty Shipp. Sorry. "Breaking Waves" slips easily into the consciousness with its nod to grunge but ups the ante with the band's take on familiar tropes in the genre. The band add their own rock passion and intensity (and plenty of hooks) and of course the spiritual, searching lyrics of Russell Thomas Shipp (Rusty Shipp - geddit?). The band, Russ (vocals, guitar), Elijah Apperson (guitar), Andrew 'Speedy' Speed (bass) and AJ Newton (drums), have voyaged quite some way in the seven years since they first set sail. I'll stop now.
Russ Shipp said to Cross Rhythms' Tony Cummings, "Breaking waves is a metaphor for the breakdown of all the material things man creates - ultimately they will all be worn down and returned to dust and what's left are the souls. It's really a song to remind people what life is all about when it comes down to it."
The nautical theme rests easy on the band. Russ continued, "I want to make something beautiful and intriguing and as creative as humanly possible. If people are like 'what's this nautical band - I'll play a song and see what this is about' that is pretty cool. We want to prick people's curiosity so they check us out." Critics have been quick to compare the band to the Beatles, which is not lost on Russ. "The Beatles are my number one influence, for sure. I'm trying to make music that is as catchy as humanly possible. Every verse and chorus has got hooks throughout. Any album they made you can listen to in full and appreciate the range of styles and genres. We want to do the same with this band. Although we look and sound different, the core principle for us is the same: making creative, intriguing music that is sonically diverse and experimental while not moving away from that core of catchy music."
"Breaking Waves" was the first single from the band's newly released album 'Liquid Exorcist'. An intriguing title for an intriguing album. Following "Breaking Waves", the band have released the singles "Show Me How To Live" (an Audioslave cover) and most recently "Detonator", each song accompanied by videos. The band have always had a mainstream focus; writing thought provoking songs with the non-Christian in mind, in a bid to turn their minds to the spiritual and the eternal but in the process have found a hunger among Christians for their brand of angsty rock with spiritually-focussed lyrics.
"Detonator" is a paean to the new-wave of the early 1980s with its prominent bass line around syncopated guitars that takes this writer back to his teenage years in Ford Capris and being really excited about the experimental rock of the time. But "Detonator" is not about the Ford Capri. Commented Russ, "It's about mines [explosive devices in the sea]. The revolving concept with the new album is that it's a story of a naval warfare that was happening and it's similar to 'Breaking Waves' in respect of taking a look at a person's soul. It's a first-person narrative about a sailor caught in naval warfare and he's taken to the afterlife."
During the band's seven years in existence, they have been steady in their output. Starting with their 2014 EP 'Hold Fast To Hope', the band have since released the 2016 single "Sinking Scarabs", 2017's "Devil Jonah" and 2018's "Crack Baby", which are both from their first album 'Mortal Ghost'. Now comes their second album.
Russ rejects the notion that now we have entered the streaming era we are seeing the end of the rock album. He said, "We're definitely in a singles industry for sure, but I don't think that human beings will ever move away from wanting larger bodies of art that flow together, that are a cohesive masterpiece." The concept album is alive and well in the mind of Rusty Shipp and there's not a cheesecloth gatefold shirt in sight.
The band rejoice in their independence. Russ said, "The very fact that I'm talking to you right now is a testament to our independence. We don't have a record label. We don't have management. The fact that we can get our songs onto radio, Spotify, playlists shows that our music is spreading by word of mouth. That's really amazing and a testament to the era we are living in. It's a very challenging time but there are more opportunities than ever before if you're willing to work hard."
'Liquid Exorcist' has to be one of the best titles for an album in years. It really could be anything - rock, funk, hip-hop, but as it turns out, it's a cracking experimental rock album with so many nods in so many directions that it will make your neck hurt. Now pass me that neck brace, me hearty.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.