Underneath This has been looking forward to an interview with Jeremy David Miller, bassist and one of the talented vocalists of Rambos, a 5 piece band from Chicago. Jeremy describes Rambos as, “We are fast. We are heavy. We are Rambos. All who’ve seen the band live are Rambos too. Anyone who has ever heard the music is, you guessed it, a Rambos.” In addition to Jeremy, the band consists of JJ Evans (guitar and vocals), Ryan Anderson (guitar and vocals), Ian Tsan (drums and vocals), and Julie Meckler (lead vocals). Please read below for the interview.
Describe your path to becoming a musician.
I grew up in a musical family. My parents sang together as a folk duo and they often took me and my brother and sister with them to their gigs.
When I was very young I remember looking at my dad’s musical gear as holy and off limits but once when my mom caught me pretending with one of my dad’s guitars, she gave me a chord book and I realized that I too could be using this gear and not just looking at it.
Fast forward to when I was 13, some friends of mine asked if I wanted to join their band as the bass player. I didn’t know how to play the bass nor did I own one. I took the idea and prospect to my dad and within the hour we had been to the pawn shop and back and I was getting my first lesson on the bass guitar.
The rest of my learning came from playing along with my cd collection for hours in my bedroom.
It did not take long for me start writing my own songs and while in high school, along with my brother on the drums, I put together the first band that I alone was writing and singing for.
How did Rambos form?
Rambos started at a house party. Some friends of mine were playing guitars in a very heavy way and one of our pals, Nik Bratz, who was hosting and showing off his newly made teepee, started chanting “Hiyawhtha,” to go along with the music. I thought it all funny and clever.
I left the party with the chant in my head and shortly after wrote the Rambos song called Hiyawatha, which appears on our album Rock and Roll Monsters.
After that I wrote the song Terrorize, also on the album.
With these two songs and a funny name I contacted my favorite musician friends and we formed the band.
What does the name mean?
The name was a joke. There was a Rambo movie poster that hung in the room were the band first rehearsed.
We just figured that if that one “Sly” guy is a Rambo then I can be a Rambo too and why not include everybody in on the gang and there you have it, we’re all Rambos. Minus the tough guy stuff.
In what ways does being in the Midwest influence your music?
I write a lot of songs. Love songs in the spring and summer and “kill em all” jams during the brutal winter.
I grew up in the Midwest. Everyone I play music with is from the Midwest. There is a laid back vibe that goes along with living in a place like Chicago. There’s no room for attitude in the Midwestern cities; it’s just too small of a space.
The Midwest is a very hardworking region. We don’t stop. And we don’t want to.
Your song “Human Monster includes the lyrics, “I only hang with monster girls who hang with monster boys.” Is there a significance to these?
The significance lies in the fact that if you are one “thing” then you tend to surround yourself with like-minded creatures, be it athletes, musicians or monsters.
The album overall contains references to vampires and monsters. Is this theme intentional?
Like I said, I write a lot of songs. Most of the songs I write are for another project, a folk duo that my wife Bekah and I do called “The Millers.” When Rambos started I was pushed in a new and exciting way of writing. The band was not going to be playing love songs, we are called Rambos, we had to playing fast and loud. The monster theme came on its own and I liked it and so I tried to stick with it the best I could.
One of my favorite songs on your album is “Radio.” What was it like making this song?
I remember writing this song at home on the piano. We had just got a dog, a white lab and we named him Radio.
The song was not written for or about him but if you think about it, there are so many great songs that sing about the Radio and I wanted one too. I actually have at least 3.
The lyric about “burn down the disco” is real. It’s about the event that took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 12, 1979. It was deemed Disco Demolition Night and most of the fans had showed up to see crates filled with disco records be blown up on the field and not for the game between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers.
Which is your favorite song on the album?
Terrorize. It’s catchy, it’s fun. It’s also the second song, after Hiyawatha, that I wrote for the band. After writing Terrorize my mind went crazy with ideas for different songs. I was a very exciting moment.
Who is “Poet Murder” about?
Me. Or just poets in general.
With a pen you are given the liberty to kill off whomever you please and in any way you can conceive.
I am not a violent person but I do have a very busy imagination.
What are some of the differences between performing live and recording?
Recording can be a very time consuming process. You want to create a mirror image of what you believe your songs and ideas should sound like.
On stage, all bets are off. You still play the songs the same and you want the audience to get what you’re putting out but it’s a different beast. Recording can be exhausting. Playing live is exhilarating.
David Byrne, among others, has said that rock is dead. What do you think of this statement?
I never think of rock being alive or dead.
If you’re doing it then it must be alive, right?
David Byrne is a genius but I think what he meant to say was, “I’m dead tired of rock and I need a nap.”
I hear a garage and rockabilly sound to your music. How do you characterize your style?
I tend to tell people that Rambos is a rock band. It’s a very general thing to say but it fits.
We rock, you rock, they rock.
When I listen to your album, I feel the influence of the band X. Is that accurate? Who have been creative influences?
Honestly, I’ve never listened to the band X. I saw Jon Doe solo once and thought it was good but I never went down that road.
As a young songwriter I was influenced by the lyrics and delivery of Matt Skiba from the band Alkaline Trio. Here was a band writing about dark stuff such as murder and blood and I just loved how he’d leap into a scream for the dramatic ending a song.
I really loved the band’s first 2 albums.
Beyond that it’s all about the lyrics: that’s my game. Elliot Smith, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Gillian Welch. I love these people and their gifts for melody and imagery.
Which other art forms are influential on your music?
Books. I read a lot. Right now I’m reading the Lonesome Dove series by Larry McMurtry, real cowboy and indian stuff.
My wife’s art is also a big influence on me. She’s always drawing or painting or decorating; our entire apartment is her canvas. She makes art under the name RadioBirdDog and can be followed at:
When you live with someone who is always creating art you want to keep up and I do that with my music.
In what ways has your music been feminist?
Rambos is a very masculine name, I know this but in stating that “everyone is a Rambos,” we proved that by enlisting one of the most powerful women I know to help front the band: Julie Meckler.
Julie is a songwriter and performer on her own and her music is beautiful. She’s the kind of person you want to be around, the kind of person that attracts people to her and the kind of person that you don’t want to cross.
I was just listening to Billy Bragg’s Mermaid Avenue #1 album today and he has that song called “She Came Along to Me,” in it he says “woman are equal and they made me a hell of a man.” These lyrics are old, older than Billy Bragg, they were written by Woody Gutherie back in the 40’s when people had a much different view of the sexes and specifically, roles in the workforce and household and then here is this guy saying that nothing good comes about without the added aid of woman and not just the aid but by letting them and everyone just play their part.
This I agree with whole heartedly.
What insights do you have for aspiring musicians?
Never stop creating your art.
Write, write, write. Practice, practice, practice.
You don’t deserve anything you didn’t work for.
What is next for Rambos?
Rambos is releasing a 7″ to go along with our Friday February 27 show at Chicago’s Hideout.
After that we’ll be writing and playing just as before with the hopes of having as much fun as we can while turning as many heads as we can in process.
Full album available for download at https://rambos.bandcamp.com/releases
Follow Rambos on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rambosmusic
and see our most recent music video at http://vimeo.com/105571164