"Whoever said rock and roll is dead must have just given up."
COLD ROSES (pictured left to right)
Dan Finn - keyboards, piano
Rick Rein - trumpet, tambourine
Rob Clancy - guitars, lead vocals, harmonica
R.M "Robby" Webb - drums
Tom Petraccaro - saxophone
"I don't see any contradiction between playing a loud rock 'n' roll song or a quiet acoustic ballad, if it's all coming from a place that's real and honest," says Cold Roses' singer-guitarist-songwriter Rob Clancy.
Indeed, Cold Roses' new album Escape to Anywhere makes it clear that this is a band that's too busy making dynamic, personally charged music to recognize musical limitations or genre restrictions. The Philadelphia-bred sextet deftly merges forceful sonic punch, crafty melodic hooks and emotionally forthright lyrical content, while taking advantage of the varied sonic and textural palette provided by the band's expanded instrumental lineup.
Those qualities are apparent throughout the album's 12 original songs, from the surging, anthemic drive of "Staying Alive Ain't Easy" to the soulful drama of "Divine Lorraine" to the haunting orchestral balladry of "Words Without Speaking" to the inventive acoustic textures of "Next to You" to the soaring epic rock of "No Silence in the City."
The level of commitment that drives Escape to Anywhere has been deeply ingrained in Cold Roses since the band's scrappy beginnings on Philadelphia's highly competitive live music scene. Clancy was still in his early teens when he began playing drums and guitar in other people's bands, but it wasn't long before he embraced the urge to write his own songs and play his own music.
Towards that end, Clancy assembled Cold Roses, borrowing the name from a favorite Ryan Adams song, and evolving through a series of personnel changes into a singular creative force. Almost immediately, the new outfit established itself as a presence on the local club scene. Although the band briefly gigged as an acoustic trio before adopting a standard two-guitars-bass-and-drums format, Clancy's restless creative spirit eventually drove him to add keyboards, saxophone and trumpet to the band's lineup.
"I love '60s R&B and soul, so I looked to that stuff and thought, what would happen if we bring in a horn section?" Clancy recalls. "We brought them in to rehearsal, just to see how it would sound, and they just kind of stuck. Once we got them in the band, the whole vibe just changed. Having those additional elements to draw on gave us the ability to stretch out and make unpredictable choices.
"The band developed through trial and error," Clancy explains. "We'd try different things and keep the ones that worked. And as we played more and more, our chemistry got stronger and more intuitive."
Along the way, Cold Roses earned a fervent local fan base and a reputation as a powerful live act. Despite the band's lack of a mainstream record deal, Philadelphia's legendary album-rock station WMMR jumped on board, naming Cold Roses Artist of the Month and giving airplay to songs from the band's independently released indie album No Silence in the City. Eventually, stations across the country were playing Cold Roses tracks as well.
While Escape to Anywhere demonstrates Cold Roses' credentials as a world-class outfit, Clancy is quick to note the role that the band's hometown has played in developing Cold Roses' music and character. "This band has definitely been shaped by where we're from," he states, adding, "Philly made us a working band. In Philly, if you're a band playing original material, you really have to bust your ass, and that was a big lesson for us. All of the people in this band come from very different musical backgrounds, but we're all from this area, and that common ground is a big part of the band's foundation.
"Philly has an underdog quality, and it also has such a rich R&B and jazz heritage," Clancy asserts. "It's a town with a lot of heart that doesn't put up with bullshit, and it's a working-class town with a strong work ethic. It also has some of the toughest crowds in the country to win over. We’ve played to such a wide variety of people and found a way to connect with each one of them.”
The lessons learned on the band's home turf proved invaluable during the making of Escape to Anywhere. The band recorded the album – which marks the first release for indie label Recorded Records -- at Los Angeles' Cactus studio with veteran producers David J. Holman (who also engineered) and Roger Paglia.
"Doing this record was a very different experience for us," says Clancy. "The other records we've made were done at a very different time in my life and in the band's life. This is also the first time we've recorded with a bigger lineup, so it was a challenge to figure out how to make that work in the studio.
"We approached the whole thing very organically," he continues. "We recorded everything analog, and we recorded all of the rhythm tracks live, because it was important to us to capture the feel and keep the human quality. The whole thing was really exciting, experimenting with different sounds and different ways of performing the songs. It was also the first time we'd worked with producers, and it was good having someone who had a different perspective and could offer an unbiased opinion of what we were doing."
Escape to Anywhere also finds Clancy and company revisiting key songs from their sparsely distributed indie releases.
"'No Silence in the City,' 'Leave You Alone' and 'Words Without Speaking' are songs that we first recorded on our previous album, and 'Tired of Losing You' was a song that we originally released on an old single," Clancy notes. "But re-recording them, they were like new songs to me, because I was a different person when I wrote them, and because the band was a different band when we first recorded them. I think that the song 'Escape to Anywhere' really encompasses the album. It's about that feeling of always wanting to be somewhere else, but maybe not really being sure of exactly where you want to go."
That restless sense of adventure runs through Escape to Anywhere, and marks Cold Roses as a band to watch.
"It's been a long process getting this record out, but I feel like it's been worth it." Clancy concludes. "I feel like this band now is a well-oiled machine that's firing on all cylinders, so we're looking to getting out there and seeing what it can do."