HERO JR.  "Givin’ Us The Business" 

By The Gil-Man

 Great classic rock music does not necessarily have to come from well-known classic rock bands.  There is plenty of great music out there, just waiting to be heard, if you are willing to spend some time looking for it.  There are dozens of bands, playing in small clubs all over the country that continuously put out some awesome music, but not many people know about them…yet.

Back in April of 2017, I was fortunate to hear a band called Hero Jr. for the first time, when they opened up for legendary rock guitarist, John 5, in Chicago.  What I heard during that abbreviated set instantly made me a Hero Jr. fan.  Monster blues riffs poured out of every song and with a hint of influence from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, they have created their own unique sound that is finally getting some national attention. 
 This talented foursome, based out of Indianapolis, IN, is Evan Haughey (vocals/rhythm guitar), Ken Rose (lead guitar), David DuBrava (bass) and Ryan Keys (drums).  Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Ken Rose about the band and their music, including their 2017 release, “Sometimes You Just Gotta Give It The Business” (4s A Crowd). 

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  How long has Hero Jr. been out there making music and how long has the current line-up been together?

KEN ROSE:  The first incarnation of Hero Jr. was in 2010 with Evan, Dave and Evan’s brother, Matthew, on drums.  I joined up after co-writing and producing an album with them in 2012, when I was living in London, and Ryan joined the band in the summer of 2017, but it already feels like we have been together for a long time.

WC:  Where did the name Hero Jr. come from?

KR:  Hero Jr. is a build-it-yourself robot that was sold by the Heathkit Co. in the 1980’s.  Evan’s father worked for the company and was one of the robot operators for demonstrations and even on TV game shows.  Evan learned how to walk by holding on to the robot when he was a baby.

WC:  Who were some of the band’s earliest musical influences?

KR:  The band has always had a wide range of musical influences, as we all have different tastes on the outskirts of our similarities.  When all of those influences come together, through the Hero Jr. song development process, you get a lovechild of 60’s and 70’s British rock (Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin) and 90’s grunge (Nirvana and Soundgarden) and open jams (Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers).  The band might be influenced by classic rock, but I think because we can actually craft songs, we are not limited to an era.  This being said, Hero Jr. fans range between 15-70 years old and consist of people that were there in the 1960’s and experienced the beginning of rock n’ roll, as well as their kids and grandkids.  Classic rock is a tradition passed down through generations and it’s really awesome to see them all at our shows.

WC:  In 2017, you guys released an album I had on my Wormwood Chronicles Top-10 of 2017 list, “Sometimes You Just Gotta Give It The Business”.  Tell me about how that album came together.

KR:  The songwriting process is usually the same for all of our recordings.  Evan and I have a stockpile of ideas that we hash out on acoustic guitars in the living room.  We write totally “old school” and construct a song before we decide how it is going to end up sonically.  Once the song is written, it usually has a certain vibe and we bring it into rehearsals to play it as a band.  After everybody puts themselves into the song, via their instruments and ideas, we put the song into the live set and see how it works.  After a few months on the road, we know if it’s a song we want to record, or not.  Once we have road tested an album’s worth of material, we make a record.  On “Sometimes You Just Gotta Give It The Business”, we recorded it live, including vocals, and knocked the whole thing out in two days.  We recorded the songs in the order of the album sequence a few times and then took the best takes of each set.  I am pretty sure they are all first or second takes.  We are very happy with this record, as it has a very dynamic and natural feel that really sounds great on vinyl.  It is warm, open, and not squashed and crunchy like many modern recordings, which, in my opinion, lets you get to know the album and its idiosyncrasies.  We have been told that it is fun to listen to really loud because it is so warm and that the more you listen, the more the quirky sounds and anomalies show themselves.  I think it is our best recording to date and the closest to being at our live performances.  It’s honest.

WC:  One of my favorite songs from that album is “30 Foot Wave”.  What was the inspiration for that song?

KR:  “30 Foot Wave” is about learning and growing while watching the things that haunt us and trying to keep an even keel when they appear.  To try to love and respect yourself when it feels like you are never going to get out of the proverbial “shit”.  We definitely write from our hearts and our life experiences, but the songs mean different things to different people.  I like that.

WC:  The current line-up all seem to get along and complement each other very well.  Was it tough to find the right players to get that heavy blues-rock sound that is so unique and I think separates Hero Jr. from other bands?

KR:  I think we are lucky and the right people have just fallen into place with us.  It happened at the beginning with Evan and Dave at an open mic night.  It happened when Evan and I met in 2002, way before I joined the band, and then again, when I finally moved back from Europe in 2012.  It happened with Evan’s brother, Matthew, who moved back to Indianapolis after college to play the drums in 2010.  It happened with our last drummer, Devon.  It totally happened with Ryan, who we saw playing with another band on tour a few years ago.  Ryan heard we were looking for a drummer and immediately packed up his life and came to Indianapolis.  We all think Ryan is the dude we have been waiting for.  Hero Jr. has its own beast now.  Maybe the rock gods are on our side.  

When we are together, our music is all about feel.  It has dynamics, but it has to swagger, like a giant.  It’s not technical, it’s emotional.  We don’t really talk about it so much, we just play, and I think that is because we are fans of each other’s styles.  It organically evolves in rehearsals and at shows.  I don’t think you can “fake out” real rock fans.  We are all huge fans of classic rock and of any band that pays their dues and puts their blood and sweat into their music.  I think if we like something, our fans generally like it as well.  We have a high bullshit meter here!  This line-up looks like it is finally a keeper.

WC:  Hero Jr. has been around since the band’s first incarnation in 2010 and has shared the stage with some major headlining acts (Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, John 5, The Offspring…).  I know that the band is starting to get some national attention, so I am guessing that you guys are ready to take that next step professionally.  Can you tell us what is next for Hero Jr.?

KR:  I think we have paid some dues over the last 7 years.  I think one of the criteria for a career rock band is to really prove your love for the music and your band by doing whatever it takes to improve your craft and “live” the music.  None of our musical heroes, the ones that started all of this in the 60’s and 70’s and still sell out arenas, made it overnight.  It’s that struggle and love for rock that breeds great bands.  We play with the same heart and soul for 10 people in a local bar as we do in front of 20,000 people at a festival and we bring our individual lives together when we are on stage.  You get the whole pie.  We want to be able to take advantage of every opportunity and I think we have proven that we can take any stage and melt it.

We have managed, booked and promoted ourselves since 2010 and it is really time to team up with like-minded business partners in order to reach as many potential fans as possible.  We just got off a 3-day run with John 5 and it’s clear, like with all of our higher profile shows, that when we play in front of “real” rock fans, we can be one of their favorite “real” rock bands.  Like I said, you can’t bullshit true rock fans, as there is emotion exchanged between band and listener that cannot be faked.  When put in front of those special rock fans, we can offer a money back guarantee that they will like us and our music.  Those fans are out there, hungry for something new to experience and feel and we are reaching out to them.  It’s going to be a long-lasting marriage!  John 5 has that relationship with his fans and it is awesome to watch.  We are looking forward to going back out with John 5 & The Creatures at the end of March, for 3 weeks.

I think we are doing what we need to do, which is playing in front of as many people as possible and letting them discover Hero Jr. for themselves.  That organic discovery of a new band is awesome and it’s awesome to meet people who come out to a show and leave as a fan of the band.  Check out our web site for tour dates and free downloads and see what happens.  We are not going away anytime soon! 

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