A band’s rehearsal space can say a lot about the group. Some bands practice in cramped, tiny rooms, strewn with empty beer bottles and half-eaten pizzas. Other bands practice in pristine spaces with carefully framed posters from previous gigs. Some rehearsal rooms are just some dude’s bedroom.
Asphalt Socialites’ practice room is a big studio. It’s clean, but there’s a full bar, a wall-mounted flatscreen TV, a pool table and a few couches. There’s a full stage with professional quality sound and lighting systems. A small coterie of friends and girlfriends tend to socialize and watch the band during rehearsals. Simply put, it’s a better music venue than many actual venues.
The band members say that practicing on a stage makes them more comfortable performing on stages. They change the lighting rig to practice playing with different conditions—brightly light stage with colorful light show or dark and moody club.
Asphalt Socialites are an ambitious band, the kind of band that would practice on a big stage because that’s where their aspirations lay. The band aims for that Radiohead balance of creating unusual sonic textures but also writing anthemic songs that play to the cheap seats. There are a lot of late '80s and early '90s flavors in the music, a little of Blur-style Brit pop, Catherine Wheel-inspired shoegazing guitars, and a whole lot of the atmosphere of The Cure, especially that band’s influential 1989 album Disintegration.
The band has been together since 2010. Singer and rhythm guitarist Robb Russo looks like Morrissey if Morrissey went to the gym and lifted weights regularly. He’s a police officer, which is an unusual day job for a musician—not like bartender or pizza chef. His voice is versatile and emotive, and bassist Ken Zimmerman chimes in with on-point harmony vocals. Drummer Jason Hodge plays with precision and a big sound, partly created by sometimes doubling his live drums with a programmed drum machine. And guitarist Scott Taylor plays leads that are melodic and never showy. The group used to have a dedicated keyboard player, but after she left, Russo, Zimmerman and Taylor all doubled on keyboards, sometimes creating thick, atmospheric textures.
The group just released its debut album, Forever and Whatever … which was produced by University of Nevada, Reno graduate Bjorn Thorsrud, a producer who has worked extensively with Smashing Pumpkins. The band members credit Thorsrud with a lot of the best decisions that went into the album. He suggested slowing down “6 Degrees,” an upbeat pop tune, and at the slower tempo, it became a powerful Joy Division-inspired dirge.
“The quality of the album—if you put it on and put headphones on and really listen to it, it’s amazing,” said Hodge. “We really wanted that Disintegration feel, so that everything is swirling and surrounding, and it’s confusing because there’s so much stuff going on. We wanted that—big drums, big bass, big vocals, and we got it.”
The band’s big sound fits with their big ambitions and their big practice room. Lots of bands have their own Facebook pages, and Asphalt Socialites, of course, do, but not many bands have practice spaces with a Facebook page, like Asphalt Socialites Studios. They’re not shy.