I've discovered many an amazing band through comparisons to Isis. The Ocean, Buried Inside, Kayo Dot; all were compared to Isis in some way, and that alone got my attention.
Chris: First off, state your names and role(s) in the band.
Well over a year ago, I heard mention of a band from Philadelphia, PA, by the name of Rosetta. Their sound, described as "Explosions in the Sky in a fist fight with Isis while Sean Ingram from Coalesce referees," struck me as something that would most definitely be worth checking out. Unsigned at the time I found them, they had an impressive 4 song demo up for download on their site, which they also offered to send through the mail at the price of three dollars, including a hand-painted and numbered case and CD with each copy ordered.
In the months that followed, I learned that they had been picked up by Translation Loss Records, and that they were recording a full-length album. I then learned that this full-length debut was going to span two discs. Needless to say, I was very excited and was anticipating the album's release, which saw numerous delays throughout 2005.
With the arrival of October, Rosetta's The Galilean Satellites finally saw the light of day. After repeated listens of demos and un-mastered songs, I finally had the chance to hear the album the way it was intended to be heard. I recently caught up with the band and was granted the great privilege of conducting their first online interview ever.
Armine: Armine, vocals and electronics.
Dave: Dave, bass.
BJ: BJ, I bring them tea and give massages...and sometimes play drums.
Matt: My name is Matt Weed, I play guitar. I also provide Myers-Briggs commentary.
M: And I talk about post-modernism. That's all I'm good for.
A: He puts us all in little boxes.
C: Could you give a brief history of the band? How did everyone meet? What are some of the things that Rosetta have found to be interesting or influential?
M: Can I take this one?
D: As long as I can say Jeff Buckley is the greatest thing ever.
M: We've known each other since we were in high school, at which point we were all in different bands. BJ was actually in two, one with Dave and one with me.
BJ: And numerous other side-projects.
M: Then one night at a show Armine had booked, Dave suggested that BJ and I should get Armine to sing in a band with us and it would be "tech-metal." (laughs)
M: Dave played guitar but had never played bass, and actually sang in his last band.
M: So we got together on Sunday night, June 22nd, 2003, and made a bunch of stuff up.
BJ: Holy exact-date, Batman!
M: We practiced 3 times and then played a show with all of our other bands in Philly on August 20th, 2003. At that show, we also made everything up. We decided it was an official side project and then just started getting shows and practicing and writing songs.
(at this point, Dave's computer apparently started messing up and he disappeared from the chat)
A: I would like to add that Matt is also making all of this up...possibly. (BJ laughs)
M: We wrote track 2 of our album and it set the direction for us. We wrote that in September of 2003. And we started sounding more like Isis/Hydrahead stuff/whatever instead of like our old bands.
A: I would also like to add that touring with these guys keeps things interesting and influential.
BJ: I would like to add to Armine's "Rosetta Van Rave!"
C: Is there any significance behind the name "Rosetta?" Was it a purely aesthetic choice, or is there a specific reason that it was chosen?
BJ: I don't remember why we chose the name "Rosetta."
M: Rosetta was originally just something that Dave made up for no reason. Then I liked it because it referenced the Rosetta Stone.
BJ: I think Dave's comp broke.
A: His comp is poop.
M: Last week, I found out that there's a European space agency called Rosetta, which is great.
A: Tell the people we named it after the Euro space agency.
BJ: 'Cause we're all about space and spacemen and space-travel. (laughs)
A: I like time travel.
BJ: Armine's actually from the not too far future.
A: I am from the land of tomorrow.
C: How is the band's relationship with Translation Loss Records (from here on, it will be referred to as TL) and other artists on the label?
A: Wow. Our relationship with TL is fantastic.
BJ: We pretty much get along fine with all the other bands. We love Slacks!
A: They were the first small group of people to "get" what we are doing, and they were super supportive from the get go.
BJ: Yeah, Drew [Juergens] has supported us soooooo much. He's our "#1 fan boi."
A: They have done everything we have asked of them, and in return we are working as hard as we can for them.
M: I feel like TL has done us a big favor by assembling a group of artists that I would totally want to be associated with, i.e. Dysrhythmia, Mare, etc.
A: I do have my reservations about some of the other bands, but I will keep my mouth shut about that to keep this positive.
M: Well, yeah, they're not all on the same level.
A: We have an awesome relationship with Dysrhythmia and Slacks!
C: Do you think the album will ever be released on vinyl for all of the vinyl collectors out there?
BJ: Yes! We've had discussions about this in the van.
A: Yes. We are not sure who is doing it yet. TL has hinted at the idea, but we are gonna wait to see how the record sells on CD before TL makes that investment or before we start pitching the idea to other labels.
M: It's all ideas right now. I anticipate conflict over this issue, because we are pretentious and everything we do is waaaayyyy too much. (BJ laughs)
A: If there is vinyl, it's going to be on 2 10" in a gatefold.
M: 2 12".
A: Oh yeah. Like BJ.
BJ: (laughs) Yay!
M: Actually, 2 2xLPs. A total of 4x12" of vinyl! Symbolic!
BJ: Only for guitar...I play drums.
A: It has to come out the way we see it, or else its not worth it.
A: Where's Dave?!
M: I don't want to put out a half-assed, bad-sounding vinyl version. I want the vinyl to sound better than the CD.
A: 180 gram.
(just before I was getting ready to ask the next question, Dave returns to the chat)
BJ: Hiya Dave.
D: My computer hates me.
C: When writing for The Galilean Satellites began, was it already planned to be a double album?
A: Nope. We simply had that much material.
M: Well that's not completely true.
A: Yeah, I'm lying. The idea was there.
M: We were going to put noise tracks in between songs on what is now disc 1. But then we were like, "What would we be into if our favorite band did it?"
A: I would like to add that I don't remember things all that well.
BJ: I'm guilty of a faulty memory too.
M: So we decided to do a whole extra disc of noise material, after getting approval from TL. And then we decided that we could record it over a render of disc 1 and make them synchronize.
BJ: And thus Drew decreed it to be awesome...and then it was.
C: I've synched the discs a few times, and I must say that the result is very cool. Where did the idea to do this originate?
A: Neurosis, Tribes of Neurot.
M: I'm not gonna lie. Neurosis.
A: Yeah, we can't hide that.
M: Seriously, that Times of Grace thing is so badass.
A: We are paying tribute to them and every other band we have looked up to in the genre.
BJ: Or just saying, "We love you, take us out on tour."
A: "Hey, Mr. [Steve] Von Till! We love you!"
D: I like Scott [Kelly] more.
A: Yeah, this synch-up idea… All about Neurosis.
M: But now that we did it, the result is really a different animal.
BJ: It's a goose!
A: I enjoy listening to the 2nd CD by itself.
BJ: I love going to sleep to the 2nd disc.
A: I love humus!
C: The liner notes do not include the album's lyrics. The only mention of the concept is in a brief sentence that states "These songs are about a space man," which I'm told is also stated at the beginning of every Rosetta set. Could you explain the story behind the album?
M: It's about an INFJ*. Har.
A: Okay, lyrics…well, to be perfectly honest… It's a narrative about a man, who hates the world around him, sees too much uneasiness, emptiness, and wants to leave. So he simply walks off the earth, to a place where no one will find him, and he can build his personal utopia.
A: He finds out that solitude can only last one so long and that after a while, being alone with your thoughts is just as self-destructive as the world he left behind, and that at home, there were great things that he never truly appreciated.
M: Like community.
BJ: And his girlfriend.
M: No, there aren't any girlfriends. This isn't emo. There's just his mom.
A: Nope. Not about girls, just awesome moms.
BJ: The spaceman's mom has to be awesome, letting him venture that far...
A: She lives in Saturn.
BJ: Hope he has clean underwear.
A: No underwear. Underwear is banned in space.
BJ: Only belts that look like thongs. (Armine laughs.)
C: What is the origin the monologue at the end of "Itinerant," and what exactly is being said?
A: The samples?
A: Oh, what track number is "Itinerant"?
A: The piano song?
D: It's the Berserk sample.
M: Dude, we are so put together.
A: Oh. Yes, that's from Berserk..."Darkness, how long have I been stuck here?" There is sample of a Buddhist monk chanting the Sutras layered over it.
D: Berserk is an anime/manga I'm obsessed with. I lent to Armine and he got into it as well.
C: Space seems to be of great interest to the band. Do you think future works will continue to explore this motif?
A: Yes! Actually, the story just continues.
BJ: And eventually we will be the first band to play on the moon and elsewhere.
A: We love NASA.
M: I'm even taking astronomy this semester to improve our "conceptual awareness."
A: Matt backs me up. He's good like that.
M: For example, Armine did some research and the concept of Europa's "oceans of ice" is based in reality.
A: So is it's iron core. That's where the space man lives.
BJ: (laughs) And I'm constantly checking nasa.gov and other space-related websites.
M: We'll ride the space rocket until it burns out, then we'll do other stuff. I don't see it continuing forever, but at least for a while yet.
A: I don't know how long we will continue with this story, but it just seemed logical. I still have more to get out of my system, I think, and the analogy still fits.
BJ: Not to ruin the story...but when the spaceman comes back to earth, he has a touching reunion with his mom...but they both get eaten by wildebeests, and they eventually take over the world. (Armine laughs.)
C: Were there any songs from the recording sessions that didn't make it to the album? Is there any chance that the public may hear them anytime soon?
M: You're asking about 6, right? The answer is no. All the songs we wrote for this album are on this album.
A: We have more stuff recorded, but that was afterwards.
M: We weed out the unfit material during the writing process.
BJ: (giggles) ...weed...
M: We have recorded 3 new songs, instrumental demos for our use, and an acoustic remix of track 4 since then. We are musical Darwinists.
A: I think we should make mention of how many hours we -- really Matt -- put into the record.
M: Approximately 700 hours from August through December .
D: There's a different version of track 4, but no one will ever hear that.
A: 34! That's the answer!
BJ: No, no...it's 6. We refer to the track numbers 'cause we don't actually remember what we named them for the record.
C: Scott Hull (Pig Destroyer, Agoraphobic Nosebleed) was originally lined up to master the album, but it was announced that he was no longer part of the project. What happened?
A: Damn! Take it away, Matt! Matt kicks ass. Fin.
M: Okay, here's the deal. I'm no audiophile, but I am a pretty critical listener. Some people were pushing Scott to make it louder. Always louder. I was happy with the third version he did, but that wasn't "loud enough." It wasn't really going to get any louder though. So Scott got burned out on the project, I think. When we got his final masters back, I was really, really unhappy with the quality. It sounded crackly and distorted.
BJ: Which would be fine if we were The Strokes...
A: Wait, we're not The Strokes?
BJ: No, Armine...give up the dream.
A: Because Saturday's band practice was right up their alley.
M: So I basically sent an email to TL saying, "Go ahead, release it," but I wasn't happy with it. It worked out after a couple of days of talking that I would master it myself, and I did it in about 48 straight hours. TL really liked it, so we went with that master and changed the credit in the artwork at the last second.
BJ: Matt worked his ass off.
A: Slacker...just kidding.
M: Yeah, I suck. It could be better.
C: Other than the artwork for The Galilean Satellites, everything with Rosetta's name on it (the website, merch, etc.) has been done by the band. The artwork for this release was done by Aaron Turner (Isis, Hydrahead Records). How did this come to be?
A: TL asked, and he said yes. It was that easy.
M: We asked first. He's our hero, man! How could we not have him work on it?!
D: Yeah...no great story. All we did was ask.
A: He got a copy of some crappy mixes and said he was down.
BJ: TL sent him the record, he liked it, and said he would do it.
M: He was super cool to work with, really the best dude ever.
A: We are really happy with the way it came out.
C: While we're on the subject of Aaron Turner, how do you all feel about the constant comparisons to bands like Isis?
A: Love it!
BJ: We love them!
M: Well, Isis is my favorite band.
BJ: Mine too.
M: Of course we'll get compared.
A: Isis is band that we all love, and have looked up to, and we do not hide the fact that we draw so much influence from them. So when people say, "You sound like Isis," I say, "Thanks."
M: I don't mind the comparisons, because I feel like we're doing something that's our own, but they recognize where it came from and where we came from.
C: Rosetta has played with the likes of such bands as The Postman Syndrome, Balboa, and Dysrhythmia. Are there any bands you would like to play with in the future?
M, D, and A, at the same time: Mare!
A: Neurosis, Dälek.
M: Mono, Tarantel.
D: King Diamond, hewhocorrupts.
A: Sleep! 27...
M: Explosions in the Sky.
A: I would actually like to do some collaborations with Gruntsplatter.
M: Basically, bands who get their space on, but also bands that are just loud and heavy.
A: Dude. No grind bands.
BJ: Discordance Axis?
M: Grindcore kills.
C: Outside of Rosetta, I understand that everyone is involved in their own artistic pursuits. Would you care to briefly discuss them?
D: I'm the resident asshole. That's my artistic pursuit outside of the band.
A: Dave has some awesome insults.
BJ: (laughs) Dave's gonna write a book on how beards are the basis of judging a man's commitment.
M: I'm an art/philosophy/psychology major at UPenn. Most of what I do is in video/filmmaking, photography, and design. I did a lot of the Rosetta graphics prior to Aaron Turner's involvement.
A: I enjoy photography. That was my intended major in college. I teach high school...I feel that is also an art form. When not doing either of those, I ride a skateboard...also an art form. I also do Yoga, but I am really bad at it. (laughs) That's my F* working.
A: Oh yeah.
BJ: Dave's turn.
A: Share you latest insult with us, Dave.
D: I'll pass on sharing that one.
A: Such an I*.
M: Dude, you're making me cry, and I'm a T*.
D: I major in psychology and sociology at Drexel University.
BJ: Matt's a closet F*.
A: F is for fantastic.
M: (laughs) T is for trashy, which I am.
BJ: T is for tasty.
M: BJ, your turn.
A: I also enjoy playing the bass out of tune and through 5 guitar effects rigs...I'm done.
BJ: I majored in "interactive media design" at The Art Institute of Philadelphia, and just graduated at the end of the summer. I now work at a Marketing firm near me doing designs, layouts, logos, etc.
M: He's the youngest, and he graduated first. Such irony.
BJ: I win!
A: It's his facial hair.
BJ: Yep. Dave can elaborate in his upcoming book.
C: Well, thanks for staying awake and giving me a bit of your time. Any last words? Recommendations of any kind?
M: New Boards of Canada is incredible. And everyone should listen to Stars of the Lid. They influenced us more than Isis.
A: New Slacks! is awesome.
(BJ sends a link to http://mixmediaproductions.home.comcast.net/bruce_computer.jpg)
A: Nice Mac!
D: Danzig's "The Hunter" is the best song ever.
A: Thanks for your time. We appreciate the interview.
M: Yeah, thanks for doing this.
A: Sorry we are so silly. Actually, I'm not sorry, but ya dig?
C: (laughs) It makes the interview more fun.
M: You can write that we are super pretentious, but really we're just complete nerds.
*To figure out what all of these letters mean, check out http://www.typelogic.com.
- Chris Elmore | 2005-10-26