Photo by Ally Newbold.
Funeral Sounds Investigative spoke to Jordan Hudkins of your favorite band Rozwell Kid, hours after their new EP “Good Graphics” dropped and changed rock and roll. We talked all about “Good Graphics”, songwriting, touring, gear, fast food and Jordan Hudkins’s roots as a time traveler meant to save the world with rock and roll. Read it all, now, in real time.
Hey Jordan, so how are you doing tonight?
I was watching Jeopardy and got a bunch of questions wrong. I got Final Jeopardy right though, and that’s the one that matters.
What was Final Jeopardy?
Do you remember when they built that particle accelerator in Europe last year and they were trying to find the God particle? They were asking for his name, Higgs. It was a small victory today.
How does it feel for Good Graphics to be out today? How has the response been so far?
You know what? We’ve been so busy touring and stuff lately that it would always slip my mind that we had this EP coming out. Not that it wasn’t important, it’s just we were on the road, playing shows, so when someone brought up the EP it’d be like “Oh wow we’ve got this thing coming out in March!”. So I was a little preoccupied and we recorded it so long ago, a year ago almost. It’s been done for a while, it was just scheduling and getting everything set up. The fact that it came out today was actually awesome. I didn’t know what to expect, but the reception has been overwhelmingly positive so far. It’s only a few hours fresh but everyone’s been really supportive and digging it. At least, as far as anyone that has expressed any opinion at all about it. I haven’t heard anything bad about it so far which is nice, but I don’t really pay attention to that stuff anyway.
Where does the title Good Graphics come from?
I thought it was really funny. I mean, well, how old are you?
Right so I’m 29 now and when I was a kid the main video game system I remember being into was the Sega Genesis and the Nintendo 64. Were you ever into video games?
Well I grew up on the Sega Genesis too and on the Playstation 1.
Oh cool! So you remember how when we were kids and video game systems and would come out and people would talk about how good the graphics were? It just seems like such an antiquated kind of phrase today because with computer animation in movies and CGI, everything just seems annoyingly good. So it just seems funny for someone to be bragging about how good the graphics are. No one’s ever like “Those graphics are so good!” anymore. I mean I haven’t read IGN or Game Informer in 10 years so I don’t know. I just thought it was funny. And I have a Graphic Design degree so I thought that was a funny double entendre that I do graphic design and the antiquated statement people used to throw around about video games.
Where was your head while writing Good Graphics?
I wrote those songs at the same time that I wrote Too Shabby. I got it all done at the same time.
So is there any reason that those were included on Good Graphics and the others were included on Too Shabby?
Yeah it was definitely intentional. We knew we were going to do another record with Broken World and then Casey from Infinity Cat offered to do this cassette as part of their cassette series. So I was like “Well, let’s figure out how these songs fit best together.” And I’m really happy with how the album turned out and really happy with how the EP turned out. I feel like we were able to bunch them up in a way that made sense. It showed the most powerful display of the songs.
What is your favorite song off of Good Graphics? That could be one you like playing or one that if it wasn’t written by you guys you would still enjoy it.
I really like the last track “Dipped” just because the structure is pretty out there. It’s got a lot of movement which I think is cool. “Baby’s First Sideburns” is probably one of the weirdest songs we’ve ever done but it’s not that crazy, like some avant-garde experimental track. But it’s weird in terms of stuff that we’ve put out, which is cool. I put those two on different sides of the EP just because they’re kind of different. But they all have their strong points. I like “Stunt Kite”. I’m really happy with how the structure of “Stunt Kite” goes and one part really flows into another. I’m really stoked on this EP, I’m really glad that it finally came out.
Are there any songs of these six that you see moving in the rotation of your live set?
Yeah on the You Blew It! tour we just did we were playing “Baby’s First Sideburns” pretty much every night. We played “Magic Eye” a while ago, probably a year ago after it was written. When we were getting ready to record we were playing “Magic Eye” live. We played “Stunt Kite” live once in Pittsburgh. I think we played “Hummus Vacuum” once a long time ago… We’ve played them live at some regional shows before we recorded but now we’re practicing “Hummus Vacuum” and “Magic Eye” to integrate into the set. But we’re still trying to promote Too Shabby at the same time because we’re in the middle of that album cycle. We want to still play as much of that as we can. Playing support tours you’re usually given 30 minutes so it’s kind of hard to pick your material if you’ve got a lot of stuff to choose from. We’re just going to focus a lot on Too Shabby but still bring in the new EP songs, especially at SXSW because we’re playing the Infinity Cat party.
So Too Shabby is on its second press right now, Unmacho got announced on vinyl a few weeks ago and word is that the self-titled is going to get pressed soon as well. So what’s it feel like having all your albums be on vinyl at once after a few years of putting them out?
It’s pretty cool. I mean I never I expected this. When I put the first record on Bandcamp in 2011 I didn’t even expect to have a live band or to do more records. I just thought it was a fun thing to put out and people seem to dig it. Every step of the way it’s been really awesome, and to have a physical representation of the music and the hardwork is really cool. Derrick from Broken World, they’re awesome in putting out stuff and putting it out in front of a brand new audience. It’s really cool to see the music find an audience after so long. I think we’re doing the first record on vinyl. I’m not sure when because it’s all up in the air, but at some point. Derrick seems pretty intent on doing it so I’m pretty sure it’ll happen soon. And yeah Too Shabby is on third press right now. It’s at the plant right now. Excited to get those soon. Also Unmacho is available for people to grab on the internet and we’ll have some at shows.
In that same vein, what do you think took so long in getting these albums available on a physical format?
I mean, when we first started playing shows I burned CDs. I did homemade CD’s of the first record. I did a small run of like 175 CD’s of Unmacho. There wasn’t really a demand for it. When Derrick put out the first record on cassette it really introduced a lot of people to our band. Especially when Too Shabby came out it introduced even more people to the band. Now that we have some people who like us and appreciate what we’re doing, it’s cool because a lot of them have been fans from the beginning or found us on their own but then there’s also a lot of them who just heard Too Shabby and don’t know that we have two records that have already been out for a few years. So having the opportunity to reintroduce that to those people has been really cool. You know like “Hey you liked Too Shabby? Well this came out in 2011, or 2013. Check it out.” I don’t know. [Laughs] It’s cool.
One more “what’s it feel like” question. So right now on Discogs your collab record with Sleeping Bag is being sold for 50 dollars. How’s that feel?
Really? Is that the split color vinyl?
Wow. That sucks. [Laughs] I guess it’s flattering that someone thinks it’s worth that much. I guess someone has to think it’s worth that much to try and sell it for that much. But I mean unless somebody buys it, it’s not really worth that much. It’s a weird market out there with the vinyl. Like, I’ve got Weird Al in 3D on vinyl but I don’t know how many of those were pressed, but it can’t be that rare because I see them all the time. I could put that on Discogs and try to sell it for 3000 dollars, it doesn’t mean it’s worth that much. But if someone buys it, then it becomes worth 3000 dollars, right? Is that how that works? I don’t know anything about baseball cards. I mean I guess it’s cool someone’s trying to sell it for that much, it just bums me out that if someone wanted it I’d want them to get it for the sensible price that it should cost. It’s just vinyl, it’s melted plastic literally stuffed into a dead tree. That’s so weird, I didn’t know that was a thing that was going on right now.
So Rozwell Kid in all its success right now has gone on some big tours with bands like The World Is, The Hotelier, You Blew It!, and Tiny Moving Parts. So you guys have been all over recently, what are some memories that stick out?
One of my favorite memories from these tours we’ve been doing, well, are you familiar with the band Babymetal?
Okay, Babymetal are these three teenage Japanese girls who sing over the top of these crazy metal tracks and they’re all decked in black robes and I think there’s some mythology where they worship the spirit of the fox or something like that. Anyway, the group is called Baby Metal and I was talking about it with Derrick from The World Is and one of my favorite memories from tour was having to explain to Derrick that Baby Metal wasn’t a genre, it was a band. They’re just like “I thought it was metal with babies screaming or crying over it.” It’s hard to pick specific moments because these tours have been so long and by the end you feel like you’ve made so many close friends, like really close friends just because you spent so much time with them. You really get to know them. I always heard people talk about how Warped Tour is like punk rock summer camp or whatever and like I’ve been there two or three times but I’ve never BEEN on it and tour is kind of like that because you’ll show up the first day and not really know anybody other than your bandmates. But by the end of the tour everyone is so buddy buddy and it’s so fun. That’s the best part, just meeting like-minded individuals who want to play their music and travel.
Could you go through your gear that you use live? If you’re a gear nerd feel free to go really into it, if you don’t really know much feel free to say guitar goes into pedals goes into amp.
I’m not like a HUGE gear nerd. I mean I appreciate it for what it is and I know what I have, I just don’t know too much about amps, but I know the basics. For a long time I’ve been using the Sunn Beta Lead Head through a 6×12 cab, but the 6×12 cab is too heavy. I used it on both of our last tours and it’s just so much to lug around. I’m going to downsize to this 4×12 cab I have. I use a Fender Jazzmaster. The one I use is called the Blacktop Jazzmaster, the reissue. I swapped out the bridge and pickguard for it and they’re really affordable and durable. It plays really well and it was sensibly priced which is a cool thing about it. I use a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 and I use a Pickup Booster, I used to use a Rat but that broke so I’ve got to get it fixed. I use a Phaser, Phasers are important. Not really, I mean they’re cool. I like to use it. There’s a lot of phaser on that first Rozwell Kid record. I bought a phaser because I’ve got to use it but I grew out of the, phase, I guess. [Laughs] Now I just keep it on my pedalboard and use it for dumb stuff like weird noise. I was sincerely trying to make it part of my sound from the beginning but I kind of got tired of it after a while.
Alright, so a couple of questions on songwriting. Rozwell Kid uses a lot of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge structure and that definitely works for you guys but there are definitely moments that add a Rozwell Kid “signature”, for example the slow down in “Kangaroo Pocket” or the comeback in “Baby’s First Sideburns”. So do you feel those small changes are organic or forced?
I think it’s probably a little bit of both, some on column A, some on B. I mean, like how you laid out the structure, that’s a classic pop song structure and I like pop songs. But if something feels a little boring or predictable, we’ll throw in something weird. Sometimes they happen organically, like in “Sick Jackets” when the chorus slows down a little bit. The chorus just lays back a little more than the verses and that happened organically just working on the riffs. I accidentally played a little slower so we figured it should be a little slower. But then like in “Baby’s First Sideburns” that one was like “Hey, let’s do something weird here!” I think Sean, our drummer, came up with that outro riff. Sean’s really good at that weird, twisted time stuff. Sean’s amazing. But yeah, so it’s a little bit of both but keeping in mind I don’t want it to feel disjointed and forced because at the end of the day you want it to flow really well.
On Too Shabby there were a couple slower tracks, specifically “Droner” and “Bangs”. What kind of headspace do those songs come from? How is it different to write a slow song versus a fast song? Are there any plans to incorporate them into a live setting?
As far as playing them live goes, it kind of goes back to what I was saying before about playing support tours and only having 30 minute sets. Like someone asked about it on Tumblr the other day, and it’s like, hopefully one day we have the chance to but right now that song would take up a quarter of our set. So maybe one day, but with a 30 minute set you want to keep it up and play a high energy set. As far as the headspace thing, they were ideas I had. It wasn’t I needed to write a slow song, it was just I thought it would be cool for the album listening experience to throw in a couple laid-back jams just because the other songs are pretty high energy. It’s cool to break it up a bit on each side of the record and we’d never really done anything like that before. Unmacho has that one slower, weirder song called “Guts” towards the end of the record and there’s not really any slow songs on the first record. But also like Too Shabby was after I wrote Dreamboats with Dave and that was a little more chill. You know, a slightly different vibe than what I’d been doing. I never really thought about it, but maybe I brought some of that into the writing process and it opened me up to writing a little more laidback stuff which is cool, I like that. It can be exhausting listening to 35 minutes of the same thing over and over again.
So there’s a lot of shredding in Rozwell Kid, on the albums and live. How important is shredding to Rozwell Kid? Who are some of your influences? Are you at all a theory nerd or is it something you just picked up?
I don’t really think that I shred. I know how to play the solos that I write but I don’t know anything about theory. Our other guitar player Adam, he knows a lot about theory I think. He definitely can shred. And when Adam can’t play, our friend Derrick Brandon from Wish List fills in and he can shred. So those guys are shredders for sure. I know how to play what I write and I can fake shred I guess. Like I can move my fingers around a lot. [Laughs] I mean I think songwriting is what I’m most focused on and melody is most important to me so shredding is funny and cool and in a live setting it’s fun but it’s not like the most important thing in the world to me. It’s whatever. When it comes to like lead parts I’m more partial to melodic stuff rather than technical stuff but I like trying to blend the two. Thin Lizzy is a good example of blending the two. Do you remember the band The Darkness? “I Believe In A Little Thing Called Love”? Those guys are fucking sick. That band is great. They are shredders but they do it in the best melodic way. And I like all the weird melodic parts that Pavement comes up with.
So correct me if I’m wrong but from my understanding about the band’s history, Rozwell Kid started after The Demon Beat. But from going around the internet it seems some of Rozwell Kid’s roots stem from an older project called Jude Universer. So I was wondering if you could talk about that and how that ended up becoming Rozwell Kid.
Whoa you did your research. [Laughs] Jude Universer was like the first name I started writing music under. I did, I guess, one EP proper, not even proper, but one EP release and it’s got early versions of Rozwell Kid songs like “Rocket” and “New Mexico”. When I first started writing I had this grandiose idea that I was going to write this science fiction concept record, something about a future cop, I don’t know, it was dumb. [Laughs]
Yeah I was reading on Jude Universer and the background was wacky. It was something about being a time traveler and the only way to get back to your time was rock and roll.
Yeah! It was like some weird thing where he ends up having sex with his great great great great great grandmother or something, I don’t know. It was all really bizarre and stupid and something I came up with when I was a freshman in college. But yeah that was an early project where I started writing songs. Some of the ideas from back then have made it into Rozwell Kid songs.
So how did you land on the name Rozwell Kid?
It was kind of inspired by these fake dogtags my mom got me from a trip to DC. It was like a dumb thing a kiosk makes for you, like “Jordan Hudkins, Roswell New Mexico, Alien Boy” because I was an alien kid or whatever. [Laughs] So it was like finding those when I was on a trip home and I thought the name had a cool ring to it. It’s easy to say. You know, the idea of maintaining your youth through exuberance. I’m still playing the same music that pumped me up at 15, but I’m getting way too deep about it probably. It sounds cool.
So you’re from West Virginia, how has West Virginia influenced you and your music? What is the music scene like there?
The music scene in West Virginia is scattered, there’s like some cool cities with really cool bands and talented musicians. It’s not very centralized but every city has their own cool little scene going on. West Virginia influenced me, I mean, I grew up like really, really in the middle of nowhere and no one was really into what I was and there wasn’t really a scene I think. I mean I didn’t go to my first rock show until I was like 17/18. I didn’t grow up with a punk rock kid background, it was just kind of whatever I could get my hands on based on whatever my older friends gave me. So I don’t know, maybe being disconnected a bit from that stuff? I’m not saying like anything better or worse, just maybe that had an influence on me. You know, being from an isolated small town forces you to make your own fun a lot of the time and use your imagination a lot. Not that anybody else can’t, it’s just I had a lot of daydreaming, but I guess everybody does.
Alright, last bit of questions, some fun ones. So you really like graphic design, do you have a favorite graphic design person?
Gosh, I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it. I’m trying to think who does some of my favorite albums covers. It’s like I know what my favorite album cover is but I’m drawing a blank. I’m on the spot. This is something I’d have to research and get back to you.
Aw, I’m sorry. Next one. So you recently did the album art for that Posture & The Grizzly EP. It was very much so comic book kind of art. Do you have any favorite comic books or comic book art or artists?
You know honestly I was never really into comic books as a kid. I don’t remember ever reading one, I would just look at the pictures. I had like a huge stack of comic books. I think at one point my mom bought me a subscription to like Marvel or something like that where you get a new issue every few weeks and there’s all these comic books I just have no memory of reading. I just remember I would look at all the pictures and draw all the pictures in the comic, or at least try. I just remember looking at the artwork and never actually giving a shit what the story was. I feel kind of weird because I know a lot of people are really into comic books. I’m familiar with the characters and the universes and ideas, but I don’t know anything about the plot or the story, like I know the backstory of Spiderman and Superman but I don’t know any specific timelines or anything. Yeah, I don’t ever remember reading a comic book, I ‘d just look at the pictures.
Do you have a favorite fast food?
Does Sheetz count? Have you ever been to Sheetz?
No. But I’ve been to Wawa, which is similar. I think?
Yeah…I guess so. That’s what people say, but if you go to Sheetz you’ll see how different they truly are. Wawa doesn’t say how much your food costs on the computer screen. Sheetz will tell you immediately on the screen in real time calculate how much your food costs as you’re selecting from many more options than Wawa offers. But that’s aside the point. Like Sheetz is the standard, but as far as other fast foods, Taco Bell is great. I was really into Arby’s for a while. I don’t know, they’re all so unhealthy but I can’t help it they’re so good. I went through a Wendy’s phase. The spicy chicken nuggets are so good, the fries and their honey mustard are all so great.
Was Arby’s the inspiration for the lyrics in “Hummus Vacuum” about the burger that made you sick?
No that was actually a Wendy’s Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. I ate it in a Walmart parking lot and it tasted like dry dog food. [Laughs] It was so weird. I don’t know why. It happened once since then, maybe I was sick and my taste buds were off. I don’t know. You know how dry dog food smells? That’s how it tasted when I ate it. I mean it was just a weird night.
Coffee or tea?
Black coffee. A lot of it.
How many cups a day?
Well I was good on this last tour I didn’t drink too much, but probably like 4-6 cups.
Wow that’s a lot of coffee.
Yeah I drink a lot of coffee. Maybe 3-6? Yeah, sometimes 3.
So, my boss at Funeral Sounds, Mark, is still in high school. Do you have any advice for high school fans? Did you enjoy high school?
Yeah I mean my high school experience wasn’t too bad. I didn’t get bullied a whole lot, or much at all. I went to a really small high school, like 130 kids. I did marching band and theater in high school, I kind of just did my own thing and chilled. As for my advice for getting through high school, it would be it is way cooler when you’re out of high school, like college is way cooler. I do remember being really stressed out my senior year and trying to pick a college. I wrote this essay my senior year and it was around that time college recruiters are coming around and handing out pamphlets and I wondered if I would ever be that smiling college student on the front of the brochure because I was so convinced I’d never find the right college for me, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter. [Laughs] Just go do your own thing. I don’t know, I feel like I’m not giving good advice. Like, what I remember about high school is I don’t think about high school very much. I remember it was like the biggest thing in the world when I was a senior and now that I’m 29 it’s like high school happened and it was whatever, but the last 10 years that I wasn’t in high school were cool because I was able to do a lot of other things I couldn’t do while I was in high school. My advice is just like, stick it out, graduate, go to college if that’s what you’re going to do or if you have something else planned do that. Just hang in there. It’s only 4 years of your life. If you’re not having a good time in high school, you’ll probably have a really good time when you get out and are able to move somewhere and do some cool stuff afterwards. Is that good advice? I don’t know.
Yeah it’s good! Last question, what are any future plans you have for Rozwell Kid?
I really want to get started writing the new record, I’m really excited for that. Before I do that though, we’re leaving Monday for SXSW. We’re going to do a bunch of shows down there. In April we’re doing MACRoCk in Virginia and Broken World Fest in Connecticut. So that’s going to be a cool month. After that, we’ve got another release for some point this year that hasn’t been announced yet. It’s nothing huge, just a little guy, but I think that should be announced pretty soon. Then we’re going to be doing some more touring this year and that should be coming up soon.
Stream and download Rozwell Kid’s new EP “Good Graphics” for free here. Get in contact with Rozwell Kid on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Any questions/comments/concerns regarding the interview should be sent to Jorge@funeralsounds.com because he finally has an email signature and wants to start using it more often.