Crossing Rubicon

Crossing Rubicon held the release party for the In Pains Of Sleep EP on March 30th at the Webster Underground in Hartford, CT at a sold out show. People from all over the area, including musicians from various local bands, came out to support a band that has made a dent in the Connecticut live music scene.  Band members include front man Scott Wawrzyniak on lead vocals, Zach Lambert on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Matt Douglas on lead guitar and harmony vocals, Jeff Miles on bass and backing vocals, and Brandi Hood on drums and backing vocals. Away from the festivities, in a somewhat quieter atmosphere, I had the opportunity with them to dig deeper into their backgrounds to find out who Crossing Rubicon are.


Agrippa:  Why are we here tonight?

Scotty:  We are here for the Crossing Rubicon EP release party: No Pants Required.

Matt:  That actually means it’s not optional.  It’s ‘no pants’ is required.

Agrippa:  Explain the history of the band.

Scotty:  About three years ago, after struggling with a problem with addiction that I had, a doctor told me that if I didn’t clean my life up I wasn’t going to make it much longer.  That was the time, being a songwriter all my life, I had to finally record an album before I ended up drinking myself to oblivion and God knows what else I was doing at the time.  I contacted Jeff and Brandi and Pete and I knew we had to get this album done.  I knew Jeff and Brandi would keep me going…

Jeff:  I actually joined much later…

Scotty:  I was going to give him special introduction.  So anyway, shortly afterward Zach Lambert joined the band and showed me that I wasn’t going to be the only songwriter in the band.  After that I ended up cleaning my life up and Crossing Rubicon has been successful ever since.  It’s going too well to go fucking everything up and messing my life up with shit again.  I’ve been sober 2 ½ years.

Agrippa:  How about the name Crossing Rubicon?

Jeff:  Actually, Scott came up with the name.  I always joke that it’s one of those names that’s cool when you’re twelve but when you know the meaning it’s actually still cool.  It’s a point of no return.  Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river way back in the day, when people actually fought with toothpicks.  Rome told him that if you cross the Rubicon river it’s an open act of war and he crossed it anyway: the point of no return.  It kind of fit with Scott’s whole recovering-from-an-addiction mentality which worked out pretty well.

Scotty:  A lot of times we write stuff in this band that we wouldn’t want our best friends or wives or anybody else to know…but we just put it out there.  We write and record songs and just put it out there anyway.

Agrippa:  It’s tough for a band to come up with a genre to box themselves into, but I’m going to ask the question anyway: what genre do you fit into?  What’s your sound?

Zach:  We’re melodic metal.

Brandi:  We always say riffing-wise, Alice In Chains.  Chorus- and hooks-wise, Iron Maiden and Judas PriestQueensryche.

Zach:  The biggest thing about us is that we all come from different genres.  Brandi’s more rock-oriented…Aerosmith.  Jeff, who is the furthest extreme, which is death metal…

Jeff:  …Dismember and Obituary.  At The Gates.

Zach:  …then we got in between, Scott, who goes from Motley Crue to Queensryche to All That Remains.  Then you got me and Matt who are…I’m more thrash and Matt is Iron Maiden, so we have this whole collective.  What we come up with is…it’s pleasant to the ears.  That’s the most important thing.  At least we hope so.

Jeff:  A big thing with songwriting in our genre is we don’t want to box ourselves in but we pretty much aligned with anything that has big hooks.  Like I always joke around: more hooks than a pirate orgy.  Our goal with songwriting, no matter what genre you think we fall into, is when you walk away from a show we want you to hum the vocal melody of a song or we want you to beat the drum beat out on your legs.  Be able to do that type of thing.  You gotta have a hook.  That’s the big deal.

Scotty:  We’re kind of like the entry-level drug for Metal.  The rock fans that might hear us and be like, “You know, I kind of like them.”  They’re going to get into other bands that are heavier than us because we’re that link.

Agrippa:  How about short term plans?

Jeff:  Now that we recorded and we’re releasing an EP with material to push…now I think that we’re going to continue to write songs.  Now I think we need to play some and push this out to as many people as we can.  I know we’re playing with Agrippa93 in a month, opening for Arch/Matheos.  We have a couple of other shows we can’t talk about right now, but they’re in the same genre…playing with bands that are much more popular and on a bigger scale.  Try to get our music in front of fans that might have never heard of Crossing Rubicon.  We’re trying to get in those venues to play shows and kick ass.  Make people hum.

Agrippa:  That sounds like about a year’s worth of work.  How about long-term goals?

Jeff:  401K

Scotty:  We’ve already had some label interest and pursuing that.  Eventually signing a record contract and taking on the world.

Agrippa:  That sounds admirable.  There’s a lot of bands that are just starting out.  You guys have been around for a decent amount of time.  Do you have any advice for up-and-coming band?

Brandi:  I want this band always to error on the side of professionalism.  Don’t be a flake when someone sends you an email.  Actually answer people.  Put up posters.  Push your stuff on the radio.  Push your stuff in the news.  Actually care about the scene.  Contribute to what else is going on.  Don’t think it’s just supposed to show up to you.  We work really hard.  All of us bust ass.  We sold 150 tickets tonight, just this band.  We sold half the tickets and there are five bands here.  We just don’t take no for an answer and we work really hard to get there.

Jeff:  Know what your expectations are and that goes along with what Brandi just said.  If you band is OK with playing a certain level of show or just writing music in the basement, that’s OK.  But when people ask ‘what’s your advice for a young band’ the whole idea is, “How do you make it?  How do you get yourself further in the scene?”  You have to be able to do the work to get you where you want to go.  There’s a lot of dirty, underhanded shit that happens in music.  You’re gonna have to agree to play the game.  We believe in being fair to everybody.  There are bands that work hard and bands that don’t.  Nothing is ever going to be handed to you.  You have to decide what you want and you’re gonna go get it.  If that means that you have to play the game or pay-to-play… [If] you have to buy tickets to get on a show, decide if that show is good for you and find a way to get the money to play on that show.  You’re never going to get anything back that you don’t put in.  That’s it right there.

Agrippa:  I think this generation is known as the entitlement generation.  They go out and they expect everything to fall in their laps.  That’s what I’m seeing.  I see the older bands like us that work the game.  We know what to do and know that it does take a lot of work.

Scotty:  And it’s OK to play whatever game but you have to decide if you want to be part of that game.  Just have to do it.  You can listen to all the bands that complain, “I don’t want to do that” or “I think you’re an asshole for doing that” or “I think that you’re undermining the scene.”  Well, we decided that this is what we’re going to do.  This is the best way to get there therefore this is what we’re doing.  If it doesn’t work for your band then it’s up for you to decide.  Find the best way to get your music out there for people to hear.  Work with the club owners.  Obviously there’s musical integrity and being an artist and all that goes with it but you have to remember that it’s your job to bring people into the club.  Make as much money for the club as you can.  That’s the bottom line.  If the club doesn’t make money then you’re not going to have a place to play.

Jeff:  As for local bands, I don’t know anyone who goes to local shows to hear that perfect note in somebody’s solo.  They go because they’ve heard this band puts on a good show or that band writes good songs or they keep seeing a band on Facebook.  They go because there’s a buzz.  Create your buzz.  You’re not getting shit out unless you’re putting shit in.

Agrippa:  How about influence, both musically and personally?

Brandi:  My influences as a drummer…I always wanted to play like the drummer in Joan Jett & The Blackhearts [Thommy Price].  I wanted to smack the ever-living crap out of the drums.  Play heavy riffs like in AC/DC as a kid.  I wanted to play what I thought was cool.  I was self-taught and I never really thought about who I wanted to be like other than I really wanted to play heavy and hit hard and have dynamics and drama about it.  As I grew as a player I definitely have real dynamics and really understand what that means.  That’s where I started.  In life?  My dad’s pretty inspiring.

Scotty:  I gotta follow that?  Song writing: Nikki Sixx.  Vocally: Geoff Tate.  Performance: Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford.  As far as life…I love my parents very much but I gotta say…alright, I’m gonna say my mom and dad.

Matt:  Musically, it’s really diverse.  Predominantly it’s gotta be Iron Maiden.  Guitar-wise, though, it’s anybody from Ritchie Blackmore…on the spot it’s really tough.  Maiden, Priest, pretty much 80’s Metal and what they’ve done since.  In life?  I’m gonna get a little bit deeper than the obligatory “mom and dad”.  Without getting into religion or anything, it’s pretty much treat everyone else how you would like to be treated.

Zach:  Musical influences…Overkill is my favorite band.  Annihilator and the more thrashier bands.  Iced Earth is in there.  I got that whole spiel, whether that all comes through in the music that I write, not necessarily, but those are the ones that made my love for music.  Inspirations in life?  Other than Scott, who is really phenomenal,  I think I’ll go with my father as far as instilling good values, how I carry myself.

Jeff:  Influences bass playing-wise…I started playing a lot later than most people.  The first guy that made me want to play was Cliff Burton from Metallica.  Then Geezer Butler from Sabbath.  The most left-of-center influence I’ve ever had was a guy name Peter Iwers who plays for In Flames.  He’s the first guy I ever heard play in extreme metal and play with five strings and tuned down and not sound like he was playing mushy.  In terms of just music, I grew up on hip-hop so I’m big into beats and big rhythms.  I like a lot of 90s music like Alice In Chains…my favorite band.  I like anything that grooves.  What I got into Metal I like Metallica because they’ve got groove.  Even with Death Metal, I always gravitate toward the bands that know how to lay it down in 4/4 and cram it right in your face.  In terms of life?  My family.  My dad and my mom are two of the most awesome people ever.  I’ve got three kids and a wife, friends, the band, porn.

Agrippa:  Between all of you, you have tons of music on your music library, right?  Albums, CDs, cassettes, whatever.  If you had to toss away everything except for one album, what would it be?

Jeff:  If I had to toss away everything I’ve ever owned, and anyone who knows me knows I own thousands of albums, I would say the album I would keep is Master Of Puppets by Metallica.  It’s very close with Reign In Blood.  Slayer is my all-time favorite band.  I like Slaughter Of The Soul by At The Gates but it would be Master Of Puppets.  There’s not one bad note played on that entire album and that’s exactly what Metal is supposed to sound like. There’s good rhythms, good bass playing, good guitar playing, good everything.  It’s absolutely the most flawless piece of music I’ve heard.

Brandi:  Aerosmith’s Pandora’s Box: Disc 2 would be my pick.

Scotty:  I’m gonna say the very first Sixx:A.M. album [The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack].  I have the cover of the damn thing tattooed on my back.

Matt:  This could change by the day but right now it’s Live After Death [Iron Maiden].  Beast Over Hammersmith.  Tyranny Of Souls.

Zach:  I’ll go with Overkill, Horrorscope.  I think it’s from ’91 or so but that was what pretty much got me into them. It’s hard to choose one but I’ll stick with that.

Agrippa:  Every band has their own dynamics – their own personalities.  Who’s the jokester in the band?

Brandi:  All four of them.

Matt:  Have you actually seen the picture used for the event on Facebook?

Agrippa:  No.

Matt:  Zach Photoshops Scotty’s face on Jesus Christ holding a sheep and it says “Get ready to get your ass sheared.”

Agrippa:  How’d I miss that?

Matt:  It could be any one of us at any given time, really.  It depends on who’s willing to have their buttons pushed.

Agrippa:  Knowing that, who’s the serious guy?

Jeff:  Brandi’s probably more serious more of the time but when I’m serious, I’m bad.  Brandi’s probably the serious one.

Brandi:  Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of bands and I typically have taken on the managerial, accounting, booking angle and, thankfully, we have the trifecta in this band: Jeff, Scott, and myself.  These guys [points at Zach and Matt] are hitting the southern end of the state.  Thankfully I get to share the responsibilities now.

Agrippa:  I know your pain.

Brandi:  Yeah, I’ve been that gal.  I own the sound system and the drums so I have the most shit.  It’s just how my brain works.

Matt:  This is definitely the first band I’ve been in where everybody is capable of handling something.  Like if you tell Scott we need to get this done, it’ll get done.  The entire burden isn’t placed on one person in this band which is a huge plus.

Zach:  We split it up, but I think the most important thing is that we’re having a good time.  That’s the key to how bands are successful.  As long as you’re having a good time…because when you stop having fun there’s no point in doing it any more.  We are having a good time.

Agrippa:  What’s your favorite song to perform?

Brandi:  “Enter Sandman” from Metallica.

Scotty:  “Bittersweet Day”.  Turn the crowd up.

Jeff:  Our song – “Perfection In Life”.  All-time favorite song to play is probably “46 & 2” by Tool.

Matt:  Currently in the set list right now is probably “Voice Of Resistance”.  Scott gives a really good shout out to the troops and everything in the tune.  As of right now that’s number one for me.

Zach:  For me it’s one of our new songs that we’ll be playing tonight: “Who’s Gonna Save You?”.  It gives us more of a modern fell, but it’s really fun to play.  Hopefully the crowd will enjoy it.

Brandi:  I have to give you “Perfection In Life” as my favorite Crossing Rubicon song to play.  That would be my favorite.

Jeff:  Notice the rhythm section has *our* favorite song to play?

Agrippa:  Those are your favorite songs to play.  What do you think is the definitive Crossing Rubicon song?  If you’re trying to introduce someone to the band what song would you give them to listen to?

Brandi:  I think “In Pains Of Sleep”.  As we said, our lineup was different in the last three years and Matt joined us a year ago.  “In Pains Of Sleep”, which is the name of our EP, is the first song that this group wrote together.  We wrote it with a Zach riff and a Matt riff and we wrote it in the room together.  It came together almost in one night, really. It was awesome.  It’s the way a songwriting process should be if a group is going to do it.  That’s how it happened.

Jeff:  I think the definitive song is “Act Of Contrition” just because it’s got the most variety to it, the most part.  It’s kind of like a little bit of a roller coaster.  It’s got a lot of nasty, dirty, heavy, weird, minor key stuff going on.  Then all of a sudden we’ve got an Iron Maiden chorus.

Scotty:  On “Act Of Contrition”, we like the tune because it kind of talks about God and stuff and then about some really hardcore sexual stuff.  It’s pretty awesome.

Matt:  I’d have to agree.  “Act Of Contrition” or “Sweet Surrender”.

Agrippa:  There are a lot of really awesome bands in Connecticut and you guys have gigged with a lot of them.  Who’s your favorite to gig with?

Brandi:  Actually Graven Image is the most professional that we’ve gigged with.  They’re there early.  They pack their shit up right.  They’re very considerate.  Graven Image has been the most professional band we’ve played with so far.

Scotty:  For me…we’re playing with Continuum tonight and they’re really good friends of mine.  They’re my favorite sonically and my favorite local band.  Graven Image has been the most professional band we’ve played with so far.

Brandi:  TESTER was cool.

Scotty:  The guy starts playing slide with his hair pick.

Jeff:  You ever hear of TESTER?

Agrippa:  No.

Jeff:  They’re a band from Massachusetts.  They’re kind of like old-school, classic, big rock and the guitar player has the biggest afro ever.

Agrippa:  I’ve got to look this up now.

Brandi:  He pulls the hair pick out…

Jeff:  …he pulled his hair pick out to play slide.  My introduction to that was at the Palladium in Worcester for the Horror Fest or whatever that show was.  Shock Rock.  There was, like, nobody there in the upstairs stage.  I go put all my shit in the car with Brandi and we walk back in…there’s a dude passed out on the steps, wasted.  His girlfriend is sitting on the steps next to him and the guitar player for TESTER is player the fucking guitar solo to “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol with his fucking ball bag right in this guy’s face, singing the words to his girlfriend.  “In the midnight hour, she cried more…”.  It was so surreal and the show got better from there when he got back on stage.

Agrippa:  That’s fantastic.

Scotty:  We’re trying to put together a show in July and TESTER is a band we have written down.  We need to ask them because that was some fun shit.

Agrippa:  What’s your favorite Connecticut venue to play in?

Scotty:  I’m gonna say two of them, because it’s tough.  I mean, we pretty much built our career at the Webster Theater, so we love playing here.  We opened for Queensryche here which is a dream come true.  They’re like my favorite band.  I’m gonna say Cook’s Café in Naugatuck because…I mean Mark Cook would take a bullet for any member of any band in the state.  He definitely deserves a shout out.

Jeff:  Big support for Cook’s Café.  It’s almost like we play a lot of career-pushing shows here at The Webster but when we want to play a local show, work on our stage show, work on new tunes, or just get a little dirty with the fans right in your face drinking, go to Cook’s.  I walked into Cook’s and Mark put Judas Priest on the stereo on the jukebox and I knew we were good.  Setting up to “Breaking The Law”.

Matt:  Absolutely.

Brandi:  Yup.

Agrippa:  What was your worst gig catastrophe?

Zach:  Daniel Street.  When it was still open we played that…I think it was our second show or third show…Graven Image had us on the bill.  I think we ended up headlining…or we were the last band.  Three songs in we’re going for a guitar change or something like that…my tuner kind of blew up…this was my first band that I’d ever been in so I kind of got…I wanted to quit, ya know.  I can’t get this song, so every time I’m trying to tune it the tuner wasn’t responding and I’m sitting there and we can’t stop the show.  Fortunately, I eventually got somewhat in tune, but I really wanted someone to shoot me.

Scotty:  Zach actually said to me at mid-song, “I think I’m going to quit.”  I was like, “Can you at least wait until the set’s over?”

Matt:  I’ve got two.  One is just comical and one is probably every band member’s worst nightmare.  At Bleachers, we were playing…I’m not going to mention the song.  If you happened to be there you’re going to know what song it is.  My wireless came unplugged.  I lost signal from my wireless.  I plugged it back in then it disconnected at the other end and pulled out and fell off my strap.  It was just a complete nightmare.  Another one that I had was here [The Webster], I think I pulled it off reasonably well, on the main stage opening for Queensryche I had interference.  I guess there was some weird interferences in one of the songs and my wireless completely went out.  I had to switch over to a cable.

Scotty:  Then we found out like two months later that the stage director of Queensryche had written a note about it.

Matt:  Oh, yeah.  Kelly Grey knew about that.

Brandi:  This isn’t catastrophic but today for our EP release party, one of our biggest shows ever…I played in a cover band before this show on New Year’s Eve for a wedding.  I open my drum case and I still had my Dirty Blonde drum head on my Crossing Rubicon kit so I had to have someone drive to Bristol today before the show and by Crossing Rubicon head.  I almost shit.

Jeff:  The biggest gig nightmare for me…I haven’t had any nightmares in this band, but in another band I played in…just the whole idea of forgetting how to play the songs on stage.  It was a cover band and we played a lot of material.  You mix a good dose of alcohol with a bunch of new songs in the set…I was a clusterfuck for half of the second set and I was mortified.  When you can’t remember how to play a Bon Jovi song, that’s a problem.

Agrippa:  Any last words?

Brandi:  Thank you.  We appreciate you doing this.  This is really awesome.

Agrippa:  My pleasure.

Jeff:  We’re glad we can be out playing with so many good local bands.  Bands that we think, whatever genre they play in locally, kind of define that scene and the guys and girls we’ve gotten to know work really hard.  Those are the bands that we gravitate toward and the people we like to surround ourselves with musically.  Tonight I’m very proud to be here playing with this lineup.  I would be at this show if I wasn’t playing on it.

Agrippa:  It’s nice when you can hand-pick the bands that can open up for you.

Jeff: We actually had two bands drop off the bill, one due to losing a member and one due to a double booking.  The management at The Webster replaced them with bands that are as good or better.  The quality of this show is out of sight.  It’s amazing.

Scotty:  Support local music.

Agrippa:  Thank you very much.

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About the author

Agrippa is a the general adviser, internet tech sorcerer, and a reporter for the Metal Cyndicate of Connecticut, as well as the author of his own blog about music and music production,Agrippa: Thought Manifest. He can also be found fronting his own band, Agrippa93, on vocals, synths, sequencers, samples, and piano. Agrippa also has an industrial solo project called,Agrippa’s Laboratory. Both projects are produced through his label and studio, Sickle Pation. You can follow him on twitter via @agrippa93, or email at a93@mac.com.