When Tennessee rockers Rusty Shipp were introduced to us as a combination of Beatles-esque songwriting and riff-heavy rockier influences like Muse and Nirvana, you can forgive us for getting a little bit excited.
Of course, it’s easy to put words and comparisons against any band, but the trio from Nashville more than justify the claims with their unique brand of ‘nautical rock.’ The band have also described themselves as “something every music fan can set sail to” (see what they did there?), and they’re right in so much as there’s an intriguing blend of melodies, vocal delivery and pure rocky heaviness.
To find out more we had a chat with frontman Russ T. Shipp – whether or not that’s his real name you can decide for yourself – and first-up asked him to describe the band’s sound.
Russ told us: “It’s modern, heavy, hard rock music, but is distinct from typical modern rock in that it has a big surf rock influence, so there is a lot of reverb and surf rock guitar sounds, which are combined with vocals that weave between raspy and ghostly sounds.”
Rusty Shipp began in 2013 when Russ moved to Nashville from the Washington D.C. area, where he’d tried but failed to start bands but found it unwelcoming to musicians. He soon found fellow musical mariners Jake Adams (bass) and AJ Newton (drums) and the ship was set to sail.
As he explains: “I wanted to work with serious musicians who could help me take this somewhere because music is probably the one thing I know I can make that I feel is my greatest contribution to the world. To start out, I put a lot of ads on Craigslist and did as much networking as possible to try to find guys that wanted to come together, and we transitioned a few times until we got who we have now.”
The culmination of this hard work will be the band’s first full-length album Mortal Ghost, which is out on 9 June and sounds like being a rollercoaster ride. As Russ tells us: “This album is really diverse. No two tracks sound the same, and there are many different styles blended throughout. We have really hard, heavy, grunge songs like Devil Jonah and we even have an acoustic song, which we’ve never done before in this band.
“There’s a little bit of everything else in between, including fast, old-school style punk rock sounds, but mostly, this album can be characterised by really unique, hard-hitting guitar riffs and interesting chord progressions.”
The first offering from the upcoming album is Devil Jonah, which opens up with an awesome chugging guitar riff that’s soon joined by huge crashing cymbals and big beefy bass in a big intro. Chuggy bass and guitars continue through the opening verse before bursting into life in a big singalong chorus followed by impressive wailing vocals. It’s big, catchy and hugely atmospheric. The second chorus is followed by a big rock-out with chuggy guitars that flow into a repeat of the chorus and then bring the track to an excellent ending.
Check it out in the video below:
Rusty Shipp’s music is heavy yet catchy, with Rusty drawing his songwriting influence from The Beatles and combining that with peculiar chord progressions and wild vocal melodies. Combine that with the heavy, riff-driven rockiness akin that Russ attributes to the influence of the likes of Muse and Thrice, who are also his greatest lyrical influence for their philosophical messages, and the band are very much into a winner.
Last year’s single Sinking Scarabs is much more punk-infused, while Wrath To Rope, the opening track from excellent 2014 EP Hold Fast To Hope, sounds like it could have been lifted straight off Nirvana’s Bleach album – which can only be a good thing – and from the same EP the hugely energetic F-Words (You Don’t Mind) sounds like a combination of the two.
Speaking to Russ it’s very clear that music is his passion. He tells us: “I love music, and all my life I’ve had an extremely strong connection to it. It’s the thing that resonates with my innermost being more than almost anything on earth, and because it moves me so much, it’s naturally a huge part of my life and how I communicate. I find over and over that a lot of the songs that I write come from a similar place, which usually comes from a personal, emotional experience in my life that has been so powerful that it bubbles up and has to come out of me.
“A lot of it is an expression of the struggle with the human condition which conflicts with my pursuit of idealism. I have this deeply engrained conviction inside of me for how I think the world and my life should be. When I look around at all of that, and I see the destructive effects of hedonism and selfishness, it grieves me and compels me to do something to inspire a change, so creating music and writing challenging lyrics is something I know I can give it back to the world.”
Mortal Ghost is out on 9 June and available for pre-order here, and you can get a taste for it with Devil Jonah now on Spotify. Rusty Shipp are set to be touring the south-east and east coastal United States through the rest of the year with ambitions to one day tour the UK, which Russ tells us “is the dream for us because we have so many great fans there.”