What do you get when you take two cops, a real estate agent, an architectural drafting business manager and a college student?
If you answered a rock band, you win a gold star.
Meet Robb Russo (vocalist/rhythm guitarist), voted best police officer in Reno in this year’s RN&R Best Of poll, and his bandmates Jason Hodge (drummer/cop), Ken Zimmerman (bassist/real estate agent), Erin Thompson (keyboardist/student) and Scott Taylor (guitarist/business manager). These five personalities make up local ’80s synth pop meets modern day alternative rock outfit Asphalt Socialites. While the pairings may seem an unlikely fit, the equation has been working quite well for the part-time musicians, who released their debut self-titled EP in late September and have recently rocked five local shows.
Call it fate, or maybe just good timing, but the seemingly diverse members were all able to find a common trail on their individual life paths: music. It all started with an open mic night.
“Scott and I did a little acoustic open mic night down at this one bar,” says Russo. “Erin came down, and she was new to town and seeing what was going on—she saw what we were doing for music and said she’d like to come see us rehearse one day.”
While the majority of the band started to play together in 2008, it wasn’t until this past April, with the addition of a solid rhythm section, Zimmerman and Hodge, that they sealed their staple sound.
The band name soon followed, but not without its own share of feet dragging.
“We had gone through about five pages of band names, and nobody could decide,” says Russo, with a laugh. “Then Ken says, ‘What about Asphalt Socialites? It’s so different!’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, no.’ … But then we revisited [it], and we were like, you know what? We’re over here rehearsing, and we go out into the parking lot and we’ll say, ‘Hey listen to this track,’ or something like that, just socializing on the asphalt, and it started kind of making sense.”
Once the kinks were worked out, the band immediately began recording. Its practice space, nestled away in an office complex, doubled as a DIY studio. The process almost cost them their lease.
“I’m trying to do vocal tracks and the guy upstairs is like, ‘You guys need to turn it down!’” says Russo. “And he’s calling the landlord and complaining.” But they persevered—having the law on your side doesn’t hurt—and they’re all proud of the results.
The EP’s five tracks are a throwback to the band’s influences, such as The Cure and Depeche Mode, whose posters line the band’s studio walls. For a current twist, an edge of Blue October and The Killers shine through.
In the case of Asphalt Socialites’ eclectic mix of members, opposites do attract. The melding of not only personalities, but experience, is a secret ingredient. While Russo and Hodge have both formerly been in bands, the other three members are virgins to the stage. Zimmerman learned to play bass—right handed, even though he’s a lefty—specifically to be part of the cause.
“That’s one of the unique things about this group,” says Hodge. “You have two guys that are more experienced, and then newer people to music, and just the collaboration between those two elements coming together has kind of added—it sounds cheesy—but something special.”