There’s a balance many rock bands attempt, or sometimes forget to attempt, to achieve, and often they fail. It’s a balance struck between being a musically respectable, rock and roll outfit that can explore creative new ways to turn a hook or harmonize guitars and maintaining a sense of fun and likability. As much as a band wants to explore their ability to build to a climax or challenge themselves with speed-of-sound riffs, there’s still a sizable portion of the audience that just wants to dance. The Discount Heroes gets it. They’re fun and groovy enough to spin while you crack open a Corona and fire up the grill. But they’re still musically clever enough to keep the elites paying attention, especially if you’re a music lover who has a dust covered y100 FEZtival fez in your attic and your teen memory boxes are littered with taped-off-the-radio mixtapes labeled “WDRE, summer 1996.”
Philly Venues: The Discount Heroes have been rocking Philly for years and recently released a new E.P. How has the band changed over time and how does that show on this new collection?
Discount Heroes: The new E.P. really shows how diverse we have become from a songwriting standpoint. Finally finding the right mix of musicians to work with has a great deal to do with that, as well as our collaboration with sine studios. The DH have done a lot over the past four years. A lot of it has been great; sometimes things sucked. In the end, we are very emotional, heart-felt guys and that comes through in the music.
PV: Between snarling guitar riffs, Weezer chord progressions and Dave-Grohl-esque howls, you guys seem to owe a lot to the 90’s, do you have a special love for that era? Can you believe we’re rounding the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind?’
DH: Being teenagers in the 90’s probably has more to do with that than anything, but our musical influences are all over the place. I’ve been listening to classical music every morning for the last six months. Rob Ogus (rhythm guitar; vocals) listens to anything from old Motown to Brian Jonestown Massacre. Angelo Tartaglia, our bassist is a metal-head at heart. Joe Blakely (drums and percussion) knows everything and really loves the funky stuff. We are huge Weezer fans, as well as Foo Fighters; especially me [Ron] and Frank (Lead Vocals). I really admire what Rivers Coumo and Dave Grohl have been able to accomplish and their ability to stay relevant.
Nirvana set the table, along with bands like Pearl Jam. Nevermind was epic. I see Foo Fighters as an extension of what Nirvana could have become, had Kurt Cobain not died. It seems like yesterday. It’s amazing how time flies anymore.
PV: Is songwriting a collaborative effort for Discount Heroes or is there a songwriter who brings in a mostly formed idea?
DH: It’s mostly collaborative, but usually starts with an idea, or something just happens in band when we’re jamming around, be it a chord progression, or riff or simply something that Frankie just starts singing. Our newest song, “Rough” was born of a songwriting activity that Frankie thought of, where we split up the band into two different rooms and gave ourselves 30 minutes to write a brand new song and then present to the other half of the band. We ended up with two great songs, but “Rough” just came naturally to everyone and by the next formal rehearsal we had a completely finished song. We’ll be debuting it at the Playlist Android + Music Festival at The Blockley.
PV: “Imaginary Girlfriend” sounds like a hit to me. Has it gotten any radio play yet, perhaps on the Princeton or Drexel stations? Are you even interested in getting radio play?
DH: Thank you, that seems to be most people’s thought as well. We haven’t made the push to get it on the radio just yet, but we’re about to. Although we did more of a “soft” release of the E.P., we did that because everything was just about done and we were heading to Los Angeles for a few shows and wanted Cd’s to go out there with. We didn’t send any to the radio stations because we just did a quick mastering job. When we got back, we layed down banjo on one track, tweaked some mixes and went in for final mastering. We’re working with Sine Entertainment Group (the management extension of Sine Studios) to do a bigger release where we roll out to the radio stations and “Imaginary Girlfriend” will be the lead track. We’ll also be including our previous 5 studio tracks (from the first E.P. done at Sine, “Who Are The Discount Heroes” as a full-length release. We may hold two tracks back as a bonus for digital download, that hasn’t been officially decided. Either way we’re very excited about it.
PV: Some local bands aspire to be the best band in their city when others aspire to break into a national scene. What are The Discount Heroes’ aspirations?
DH: We wanted to be the best on the 1100 block of South 9th Street, and we’ve accomplished that. Whether we’re the best in South Philly is debatable but we may just be. So we’ll conquer Philly and by extension everything within city limits. Breaking into the national scene would be the tits, but our main priority is making great music that people enjoy. If we keep doing that, everything that’s supposed to happen will happen.
PV: Am I right to think you’ve been able to get a lot of attention through the internet? Are you guys pros at working those social networks? Have you been able to book a lot of shows that way?
DH: The DH have always had a relatively strong online presence, going alllll the way back to Myspace days of 2007. Facebook has been a great tool to get exposure, and now Reverbnation is my new favorite. We’ll see what happens with Google+ but i think that all the advertising and promotion is what’s going to make people leave FB for Google+, just like Myspace. It’s really a double-edged sword. I work in marketing communications so I’m all over that stuff. It’s definitely helped with booking as well as we frequently get requests through these sites.
PV: What’s your connection to the Upright Citizen Brigade?
DH: Frankie used to work at the UCB theatre in NYC back in the day and was able to get co-founder Matt Besser to do his one man show at Connie’s Ric Rac (Frankie is part owner). We were hanging out with him afterward and he asked what the story of the place was, and the DH are part of that history. Frank ended up giving him a CD, very innocuously. Surprising we got an e-mail through our Website that said he been listening to it a lot and loved it and wanted us to be the musical guest at the UCB-Los Angeles theatre for their weekly improv show asssscat. We went out beginning of April and turned that town upside down!
PV: What’s next for the Heroes? Are you touring? Recording?
DH: The Blockley tonight, The Fire on Tuesday. Dave and Busters Dockside in August. We’re also looking to do a Weezer ‘Blue Album’ tribute show. But most importantly the real E.P. release. Need to decide on the right venue. Do we go traditional and do it at The Northstar or something, or go hipster route and have it in a bookstore? Probably won’t do any recording anytime soon, as it feels like we’ve been in a constant state of recording for two years. But we’ll do a fall tour in the Northeast, through NYC, Boston and other stops in New England. Then go down South in the winter. We’ll jam, write, drink and do all the other things we do. Hang out at the Ric Rac….
- Billy Kekevian (Philly Venues Contributor)