Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus scored with their gold certified '06 full-length debut album "Don't You Fake It." But the group's story goes back to early in the decade when Ronnie Winter and Duke Kitchens were banging out Blink 182 covers. From that humble, yet promising beginning, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus officially came into existence in '03.
Choosing a name can sometimes be a make or break deal. A bad name often kills a band - a goofy one means an uphill battle for respect. But a name nobody can figure out gets attention. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus certainly fits into the latter category. "It's 100 percent completely arbitrary," claimed Winter. "When we started the band, we only cared about having a good time and writing good songs far more than coming up with some symbolic, incredibly intelligent name."
Just a year down the road, the Middleburg, FL group issued the EP "Kins And Carroll." That led to signing with Virgin Records.
But Red Jumpsuit Apparatus went through some changes along the way. Guitarist Thomas Amason, bassist Thomas Wurth and drummer Dan Wagler left. Elias Reidy stepped in on guitar and Joey Westwood took over bass. Drums were a little more problematic. Dorman Pantfoeder was the first choice but he proved to be a short-timer with Jon Wilkes finally getting the nod.
'06 saw the arrival of "Don't You Fake It," containing the singles "Face Down" and "False Pretense." Red Jumpsuit Apparatus did an '07 headlining stint on the US Take Action! Tour organized for the prevention of teen suicides. My Chemical Romance and Rise Against were also on the trek.
In another community service effort that year, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus played a benefit concert to rebuild Enterprise High School in Fort Rucker, AL. The school had been destroyed by a tornado two months earlier. They also worked with their label to raise funds for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus went through another adjustment in late '08 when it was announced that Reidy was no longer in the band - and hadn't been for a couple months. But the band's blog also had a reassuring message for fans: "Have no fear - the core of RJA remains intact."
Though sophomore set, "Lonely Road," did better on the charts (#5 on the Rock Chart and #14 on the Billboard Album Chart) than the previous album, it didn't go gold like "Don't You Fake It." Red Jumpsuit Apparatus blamed the sales sag on poor promotion by their label. It's always a bad sign when a band gets to that place. But then Virgin exacerbated the problem.
With declining revenues it's not surprising labels search for ways to cover costs and ensure a return on investment. That's how the "360 deal" came into being. This is where a label receives a portion from every band business activity - music sales/publishing, merchandise and concert tickets - in exchange for a higher royalty rate or some other spiff. Sometimes the label tries to pass off a "360 deal" as just the cost of doing business. That's exactly what Red Jumpsuit Apparatus faced.
So when they say, 'Now we want you to sign this new deal and we get a percentage of your merch and ticket sales,' I'm not cool with that and the band wasn't cool with that," said Winter. "We walked away." So Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and their management company, The Collective, started their own label and issued the band's third album, "Am I The Enemy."
2006 Don't You Fake It
2009 Lonely Road
2011 Am I The Enemy
It's little wonder "Don't You Fake It" sold as well as it did. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (RJA) possesses a keen pop sense with Emo leanings to make them relatable. There're really aren't any down moments on the album, not even the ballads "Cat And Mouse" or "Your Guardian Angel." But the chord driven songs don't kick down the doors or contain inescapable hooks. It could be argued that more risk would lead to greater reward but actually where they are on "Waiting," "Face Down," "False Pretense" and "Damn Regret" is not a bad place to be.
The main difference, at least commercially, between the albums "Don't You Fake It" and "Lonely Road" is the absence of a "Face Down" on the latter. Still, "Lonely Road" has the pop-friendly "Step Right Up" which comes reasonably close. "Senioritis" takes on the topic of life after high school graduation - being remembered by former classmates is a bit shop worn but the song itself is pretty good.
There are three ballads, even one with stings, "Believe." "Don't worry world, I feel your pain and it's a shame" is a line from that song. Are lyrics like that lifted directly from some eighth-grader's poetry journal? And is that kid getting any royalties? Or better still, how can we make him stop? That's why people cringe when the term Emo gets tossed around. Actually, despite the lyrics (and lush orchestration - it's the album's big ballad) "Believe" isn't really a bad song. But the best ballad is the acoustic title track.
RJA fares far better with their uptempo songs - namely "Pull Me Back," No Spell" and "You Better Pay." They mange to cut through their own clutter and produce memorable tunes. More often though they rely on standard issue material and studio polish - that's usually enough.
The band splits the difference between Metal ("Reap") and Punk ("Wake Me Up") on "Am I The Enemy." Their high energy approach works nearly all the time and again glosses over some ridiculous lyrics ("You made my life a living hell, but I wish you well" - from "Fall From Grace").