Making memories, not money

If you haven’t checked out Broke City by now, you are behind on the local music scene, my friend. The Salt Lake rock trio has been in the scene for a while now, and has played with big acts such as The Used and 30 Seconds to Mars.

They have also toured all over America and Canada playing songs from their three-CD omnibus, the newest one being The Answer, which was released in June of 2007. The College Times corresponded with Broke City’s Joel Pack and “The Rob” via e-mail to find out about the dangers of playing in Canada, what music breaks them out of a bad mood, and why you should check out their ‘goosebumpy’ shows:

CT: What type of band do you consider yourself to be (genre-wise)?

JP: We just play rock music. People get pretty caught up in what specific scene they lend themselves to, but we just try to write good songs and play them with our guitars turned up loud, and, last time I checked, that’s what they call rock music.

CT: Tell us the brief history of your band.

JP: The Rob and I played in a funk band together a while back called "Boogieman." After rehearsal, I showed him some songs I had written that were a little more pop-oriented, and he dug it, so we started playing them out. It was just the 2 of us, and so I gutted out the innards of my old Ibanez guitar and made a kind of Frankenstein guitar that could play acoustic, electric, bass, piano, and strings all at once. I got sick of all the wires and technical difficulties that came from having such an extensive musical machine, so we decided to get a bass player and call the band "Broke" — a name I came up with while being separated from my ex-wife, trying to figure out how I was going to pay all these bills by myself. Fast-forward a couple years, and we got signed to Madonna’s old label, Maverick Records.

We made a record and toured with some bigger bands and got to see the country. Our label quit returning our calls about a month before our record was supposed to release, and we eventually heard they were going out of business, and everyone we were working with was being laid off. We put out the record ourselves anyway, and changed our name to "Broke City." Now we’re back to doing things DIY.

CT: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

JP: I’ve always felt heavily influenced by The Cure, whether or not it comes out in our music. They were the first band I ever really got into back when I was about five. I remember jumping up and down on my bed, cranking up my tape deck, and singing along with "Boys Don’t Cry" at the top of my teeny-tiny little lungs. I also listen to Nirvana a lot — and The Beatles.

The Rob’s always been into the Dave Matthews Band, although I hear him listening to stuff that’s a little more out there now… I hear a lot of The Mars Volta when I’m a passenger in his car, and every time he’s driving the van on the road, he pops in Dredg, a really cool band from San Francisco we were fortunate enough to tour Canada with on the Taste of Chaos tour.

Dave has always been into ‘80s butt-rock — I think Nikki Sixx is pretty much his hero. Dave also listens to a lot of pop, like Jellyfish, Butch Walker, and The Beatles.

Non-musically, I guess we’re pretty much influenced by our own life experiences — triumphs, failures, falling in love, having your heart broken. I think that’s why a lot of our tunes feel very different from each other. They all come from different places.

CT: Who writes the songs? What are they about? Do they have a tendency to follow a theme?

JP: I usually write the songs. They fit a theme depending on when they were written. When I was going through the divorce, there were a lot of songs that dealt with that whole feeling of frustration — and eventually loss — and then later I would write songs about finding new love. As far as the newer stuff, I can’t really comment on a theme. I guess it’s easier to see that stuff in hindsight.

CT: What’s your opinion of George Bush (just for fun)?

JP: He should quit scrunching up his forehead so much when he gives speeches — it’s adding years to his face!

CT: How do you promote your band and shows?

JP: Word of mouth, MySpace dot com, radio and good old-fashioned flyering. People are finding their music differently now than they used to. Most people used to watch MTV and see a video of a band they liked, or hear it on the radio, but now, with technology the way it is, people can be choosey about what they’re listening to. I think people use their friends as "good music filters" now instead of letting MTV or the radio do it for them, so we like fans to tell their friends about us and invite them to a show.

CT: Describe your show, visually and musically.

JP: It really depends on the show. A couple weeks ago we played at In the Venue, and the place was packed with over 1,000 people through the door. We had a huge sound system, and we flew out our friend Michael Lee (Lighting designer for Thrice, My Chemical Romance, Saosin, The Used, etc.) to do our lights. I would use words like EPIC, HUGE, GOOSEBUMPY to describe our show that night. The week prior, we played in Las Vegas on this kid’s back porch. I believe the speakers I sang through were from the ‘70s and had the words "Radio Shack" printed on them. His backyard had no grass, probably from throwing many backyard mini-Warped Tours. I would use words more like COLD, DUSTY, DRUNK and GOOSEBUMPY to describe that show — but I guess the common thread here is GOOSEBUMPY– yeah, GOOSEBUMPY.

CT: What do you think about downloading music online?

JP: I think it should get back in the kitchen where it belongs. Seriously though, most young people download their music online, and even though music sales are down, more people are listening to more music than ever before. Isn’t that amazing?

CT: What’s your outlook on the record industry today?

JP: It’s looking real bad for major labels. All the things that gave them power to do what they do are being taken away from them, and they have too much to lose by taking the necessary risks associated with changing with the technology instead of trying to change it. Bands have the ability to record for much less money than they used to, and with the Internet, you can reach lots of people if you have someone in your band who’s pretty savvy marketing-wise.

CT: Tell us a story about a day in your life.

JP: Ha. Once upon a time we had all sorts of s— thrown at us in Canada one night as we were playing just before the band As I Lay Dying. Their fans absolutely hated us. This was a little comforting to me, one, because we sold more CDs and shirts that night than any other night, and second, because my girlfriend at the time was a big fan of As I Lay Dying, and didn’t really like my band — I was all like, "What the hell? You’re my girlfriend. It’s your duty to like my friggin’ band!" but since that show, I don’t take things like people not liking our band or bad reviews from Slug Magazine so personally.

The Rob: I remember that day cause a bunch of people had middle fingers in the air and Joel would point at them and sing harder to them. It was quite funny. Then it ended up being a great show after all.

CT: What inspires you to do what you do?

JP: It’s really the only thing I’m any good at, so I’ll take inspiration anywhere I can get it — from a good conversation with a friend, a sunny day when there’s still snow on the mountains, going to see a really good band live, and then being jealous that my band isn’t as cool as their band — all that stuff.

The Rob: With me, it’s just what I do. I get way too much anxiety if I don’t play music. Either I get way depressed or start fre
aking out. Ha ha. Sounds weird, but it’s true. Playing music is what makes sense to me. It’s the way I deal with my life.

CT: What advice would you give to fellow bands in Utah?

JP: Give up on trying so hard to get signed. Have fun with what you do, and just concentrate on making good music that you like to make. If you’re feeling what you’re doing, and it’s honest, people will catch on to that and want a piece of it for themselves.

CT: What are some of your pet peeves (especially within the realm of your experiences in touring, recording etc. but otherwise as well)?

JP: I don’t think we have too many pet peeves on the road. Generally, we like to keep a positive attitude as much as possible so that we don’t drive each other nuts. If a band or a promoter is being stupid, we try to just do what we need to and make the situation better, and then we just try to brush it off and forget about it.

CT: How does music affect you and the world around you?

JP: It gives us a soundtrack to live to. Ever watch a movie without music? I know they’re out there, but I don’t want to live my life like that.

CT: What’s new in the recording of your music? Is there a new album planned soon?

JP: We have a lot of new material, but I’m not sure if putting out a full-length album is in the near future. We’ve been recording songs, one at a time, and then making them available on iTunes. It seems to be working out pretty well, but we may put some kind of collection or bundle of songs out soon, like an EP or something.

CT: What are/have been the biggest obstacles for your band

JP: Putting out our Maverick full length CD. There was so much legal BS tied to it, and there are people who didn’t want us to put it out for various reasons. I’m glad we did it, but holy crap: what a pain in the butt.

CT: What is your favorite venue to play at in Utah?

JP: We love playing at In the Venue because we have some fans that like to drink, and some that are younger and can’t get into bars. They also have a great stage and sound, so that’s cool too. We also love to play at Velour in Provo. I’ve been playing on that block in various venues for the last 14 years, and I’ve maintained a good relationship with Cory Fox, the owner. He’s had a lot of history with the live music scene in downtown Provo, so that place just kind of feels like home.

CT: What music do you listen to, to break out of a bad mood?

JP: Disco. Like KC and the Sunshine Band, or this song by Rez — forgot what it’s called, but it’s older and pretty rad.

CT: Tell us about your next shows and why fans and potential fans should check it out.

JP: Come to our next show because you spend too much time on MySpace and Facebook.

Broke City’s next show in Salt Lake will be April 26 at Music vs. Drunk Driving Benefit, an event featuring various local bands.

You can learn more about them and listen to some of their music at

Leave a Reply