Words by Shelley Te Haara
Ahead of their show in New Zealand this November, The Speakeasy was lucky enough to have a chat over the phone with the lead vocalist of Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Ronnie Winters.
The Speakeasy: Kia Ora Ronnie! How are you?
Ronnie Winters: I’m doing good. It’s a nice day here in Southern California. I’m just, you know, soaking up the good weather while we got it.
The Speakeasy: You guys are described as post-hardcore. Is that how you’d describe your sound to someone?
Ronnie Winters: I don’t know. All of our albums have different kinds of sounds but I guess we jump into the post-hardcore world the most, so I can understand people saying that. We were part of the iPod generation so you could just shuffle what you had and everything played randomly… I’ve always written our albums in that sort of way with the exception of our recent one. We do have songs that are straight ballads like Guardian Angel and then there’s some rock type tracks but it just depends on the track.
The Speakeasy: So you’ve just released The Awakening which is the album you are touring here. I feel like it has the sound we can expect from you guys but there are also elements that seem a bit surprising. What was the creation process like for this album?
Ronnie Winters: It’s different because it was a concept record. My first attempt at writing one. I produced the whole album with my wife Angela. My brother engineered the record. And I hired an old, old, old regional mixer to mix a bunch of the folds. So a lot of people have heard throwback stuff in there. They’re all over the record. But yeah it’s a concept record. It flows perfectly not only lyrically but sonically.
The Speakeasy: I noticed Unfinished Business, which was a nice way to end the album, has a similar sound to Your Guardian Angel. Was that intentional?
Ronnie Winters: Correct. You wouldn’t expect that song from a post-hardcore band would you [laughs].
The Speakeasy: Yeah I noticed it because for a second I got caught off and assumed my phone must have shuffled because I just sort of felt the emotion from Your Guardian Angel come through.
Ronnie Winters: It’s definitely not the same song. The chord progression is different and the lyrical melody is different so it’s a completely different song. However it ended up being like Your Guardian Angel. I play very similarly with the guitar so it was kind of a cool trick of the hat. A lot of our fans and other people have already been calling it Your Guardian Angel Pt2 which is kind of cool.
The Speakeasy: Do you have a favourite track on the album? Or favourite track to perform live?
Ronnie Winters: I don’t know if Unfinished Business is my favourite. It’s more of an aftermath to the whole record, because it’s the last thing I wanted to say that I felt like I hadn’t said after I finished writing the first amount of songs. It’s just kind of a final thought track that culminates the whole record for me. I haven’t played it live because it’s really kind of an emotional song for me. I presume that when I do perform it, it will be my favourite.
The Speakeasy: I believe a congratulations are in order, for On Becoming Willing hitting 10 weeks at #1 on the US Billboard Christian Rock Charts! Why do you think it’s doing so well?
Ronnie Winters: Thank you. I don’t know you know. Obviously we’re a Christian band and I’m a spiritual guy. I give all the credit to God but that’s just how I roll. This album, it’s a great record. Concept records are kind of tough. They’re hard to write. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, ever, in the history of this band. I hope that some of the other songs get as much attention but if they don’t that’s fine. But either way 10 weeks at number 1, how could I not be happy?
The Speakeasy: Do you think it will get to 11 weeks?
Ronnie Winters: [Laughs] I don’t know. I mean just getting to 10 weeks seems a bit unbelievable. We’re just doing our thing. Hopefully it just goes on forever.
The Speakeasy: Where did the idea for a typewriter as the album cover come from?
Ronnie Winters: You’re the first person that finally asked me about that. I just got really into the idea of them and thinking about how people would sit there thinking and type out manuscripts, news reports and letters home to family they haven’t seen. I feel like it’s something we’ve sort of lost in this generation and I was just trying to find a typewriter actually. And I came across one while I was writing this record. The album just kind of came out and it was kind of just what I was thinking about while writing.
The Speakeasy: I’m surprised I’m the first one to ask you about that because I actually wanted to ask about that album cover. Where did the idea come from? It gives off a bit of an anarchy feel but it’s also scratched over.
Ronnie Winters: We were working with a management company then and they pitched the cover. When you’re in a band on a label they just send you ideas and they just keep bouncing back and fourth. But with that album it was a question and it’s hard to put an album cover to that. We weren’t sure how to portray that very well. But yeah some ideas just went back and fourth and got changed and that was the one we liked in the end.
The Speakeasy: I actually wanted to ask you guys about how you went independent because you guys went independent in 2010 and you’ve had success working independently. There are quite a lot of artists taking the independent route these days. If you don’t mind me asking, What do you think record labels are doing wrong and how much longer labels will even be relevant?
Ronnie Winters: Well, no, thanks for asking. I mean anyone could do it but a lot of people have failed. That’s kind of scary. But I run a lot of it and work with others when I need too. We’re hanging in there. It’s pretty cool.
The Speakeasy: You played a few dates on the final Warped Tour ever, how was that for you guys?
Ronnie Winters: It was cool. A lot of mixed emotions. You know Warped Tour was a really big part of our beginning. We actually did three years. Two years on the full tour. The 1first year we played the Kevin Says stage which was Kevin’s personal kind of stage out on the side. But we actually didn’t get to play in our hometown because a huge crazy thunderstorm came in, which I know you guys get big thunderstorms too. But it shut down the entire show.
The Speakeasy: You guys had planned to tour here in 2013 but sadly couldn’t make it. Are you excited to finally be heading over to our shores?
Ronnie Winters: We had quite a few songs do well there and we’ve always wanted to go there. We booked the show, you know we had everything booked, did everything right on our end. Filled out the paperwork but at the last minute we were told apparently there was a mistake. We didn’t understand why we got told so late but it’s something that does happen. We were just as bummed as everyone else, we had flights and everything booked. But yeah they just didn’t let us in.
The Speakeasy: That seems to be happening quite a bit with quite a few artists getting turned away but there are definitely more people making it out.
Ronnie Winters: Yeah we’ve noticed more people are making it out there. But I’m excited. It’s going to be a good show and it’s going to be our first time ever in New Zealand. It’s kind of a really big deal. So I hope everybody gets to come out and see us for the first time in Auckland.
The Speakeasy: So what sort of set list can we expect to hear on your first trip here?
Ronnie Winters: We always try to play the songs people want to hear. We’re going to play some of the new songs and we’re going to play all the ones everyone likes, all of them, every single one. So it’s going to be a long night. Chances are we’re going to play your favourite song.
The Speakeasy: What are you currently listening too?
Ronnie Winters: You’re probably going to think this is lame but I still listen to The Used, My Chemical Romance and all that old stuff. Pretty much everything that was big when I was in High School. Strung Out, Pennywise, New Found Glory and a lot of punk as well.
The Speakeasy: If you could make up a rumour about yourself what would it be?
Ronnie Winters: I don’t even know how to tackle that one. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know I’ve never heard of a good rumour. I try to be a good boy. I don’t know, you’ve got me stumped on that one.
The Speakeasy: What’s one thing you can’t go on tour without?
Ronnie Winters: Oh that’s an easy one, my Nintendo Switch console. It’s a portable game console that plays a lot of games but also the classic games. I’m a big dork, nerd, gamer.
The Speakeasy: Yeah I’ve seen those. You can turn it into a multi-player game console and even put it on to larger screens.
Ronnie Winters: It’s amazing. Quite a few of us have one so you can take them apart and play each other. There’s just so many possibilities.
The Speakeasy: This makes me want one even more now.
Ronnie Winters: You should do it, you wont regret it.
The Speakeasy: When I say New Zealand what instantly pops into your head?
Ronnie Winters: I mean you know I’m a dork so Lord of The Rings. But I have also heard form a reliable source you guys have good meat pies.
The Speakeasy: We do you just have to know where to go. Do you think you’ll visit Hobbiton while you’re here as well?
Ronnie Winters: [Laughs] I don’t know, I mean I’m all about it. I don’t know is it cool?
The Speakeasy: Anything else you want to add?
Ronnie Winters: I just want to say thank you to anybody out there who has followed our band. We’re looking forward to finally making it out there and we’re really grateful.