We know you’re broke. We also know being broke doesn’t exactly get you to many concerts. But what if you could go for free? For the past two years, Boost Mobile RockCorps, a music-based volunteer organization, has brought you some of the biggest names in music for free–and for only four hours of your time. Get this: Each year BMRC hosts a slew of community service activities in major cities across the United States. Those who give four hours of their time to one of these events receive a complimentary ticket to the Boost Mobile RockCorps Tour show in their city. This year, Taking Back Sunday are headlining four of these dates: Portland, Oregon, Houston, Philadelphia and Chicago. AP had the chance to chat with TBS bassist Matt Rubano about what drew the group to the BMRC cause, volunteering in general and a tentative new record in 2008. Being broke sucks. Our advice: Kill two birds with one stone and get your volunteering on–there’s a TBS ticket with your name on it.
Interview: Chris French
How did you guys get involved with Boost Mobile RockCorps last year?
Last year was tremendous, and it was really cool for us-for me and Mark [O’Connell] and Eddie [Reyes]; well, for everyone. I mean, everyone [are] New York satellite guys-because it was centered around the New York metro area at the five burros, and all culminated to a show at Radio City Music Hall, which is one of the more interesting bills that we have ever been on. It was like T.I. and Nelly and all these, like, rappers and R&B artists and reggaeton artists, and I think the closest thing to us were the Panic! guys. It was us and Panic! At The Disco backstage kind of, like, quivering in a corner being like, “I wonder if these people are going to like us.” Because, obviously, most of the audience was there to see artists like that. But the cool thing was that the spirit of the event, you know, prevailed over that entirely, which is nearly 5,000 kids from five different burros that had volunteered their time in order to benefit their communities-and in order to gain entrance to the show. So the performances were all great; everyone was embraced and had a good time and everything. It’s the kind of thing that Taking Back Sunday like to be able to do whenever we have the opportunity to do so. We got involved with Boost a while ago: It was the kind of thing that whenever there was some room in the schedule, or an opportunity to take part in one of their events, it was always a no-brainer for us. It’s the sort of thing that gives us the chance to be a little bit more than a band and actually use some of that influence or inspiration to affect a positive change outside of just playing music, and inspiring people that way.
So does the band get involved with any of the activities that RockCorps puts on?
We certainly would. The nature of these shows that we’re going to be doing in the middle of Projekt Revolution are such that the volunteer events happen, obviously, on different dates than-well, I’d assume they do-on different dates than the performance that we’re doing. But in the past, [there have been] other sorts of volunteer things we’ve hopped on pretty readily. When we first started recording Louder Now when we were in Los Angeles, was right at the beginning of when Hurricane Katrina was, obviously, in the news and happening. And it was really the first couple of days that we started tracking, and we had the TV on all the time like everyone else in the world did, and we were paying attention with what was going on. And then we had an opportunity to join up with Habitat For Humanity, and we went to a site in the middle of Hollywood and joined with a bunch of other, you know, much more famous entertainment business people and with a bunch of skilled craftsmen and carpenters, and hands-on helped build the framework for two entire houses that we then disassembled and loaded on to a truck and sent down to Louisiana. That experience was amazing for us, and, besides being a lot of fun, was really a full-circle kind of thing where you could see something was happening on television, or in the world, where it’s a horrible tragedy, and instead of just sort of tsk-tsking and acknowledging that it’s horrible, you acknowledge it and then you affect some sort of change with your own initiative. That sort of thing made experiencing that a little bit more real. Not something that happened on television thousands of miles away, but something that happened to fellow human beings that we then lent our actual hands and bodies to to try and help, even if it was, you know, a handful of people. And the experience itself is priceless, and that’s the thing that I hope people get out of this Boost Mobile situation is that, even though coming to the show is the incentive to some people, I think that they’ll find the actual volunteering is the real fun part. And that might sound clichï¿½, but it really actually is.
Do you think that RockCorps is doing a good thing by giving the incentive of a concert ticket to get people to start volunteering with the hope that they will continue to volunteer once this project is done?
Yeah, I mean, exactly. I think some people will do it because of the spirit of volunteering, and other people may be Taking Back Sunday fans that want to come to a show and see this task or this requirement as something that they’re up for, and that they see the benefit of. I think ultimately what they’ll realize is that the real reward, or the real fun part, is the whole experience of doing it. You know, to cite that Habitat For Humanity thing that we did, it was really one of the most fun times I’ve ever had, even while banging nails through my hand and getting splinters on my face and wearing a hard hat and being bossed around by carpenters. I mean, I laughed and smiled the whole way through the day while we were really making a difference. Some of those phrases, man, sound real clichï¿½, real, like, how you’re supposed to answer it, but those phrases, those clichï¿½s or those statements exist for a reason, because not doing anything is really not doing anything. The magnitude of a couple hundred people, or a hundred peoples’ actions, really can be felt and really can make a tremendous difference. So, just like you said, I really hope the end result is that people, obviously, have a good time and come to the show, but that they realize that being involved in things like this gives you a really tremendous sense of empowerment and participation in your community. All these events for the Boost Mobile RockCorps shows that we’re doing on this tour are specific community events for each particular city. I think one of them is like an ivy removal. When you get to cruise by the site afterwards, or whatever the [volunteer] event is that people take part in, and see that, like, you know, ‘I remember doing that. I remember that day getting dirty and getting down on my hands and knees cleaning up this stuff.’ I think that’s something people are missing a lot these days. People, like I said, are so surrounded by their general daily stimulus that the idea of going out and doing something selfless, and giving and being generous is not very in vogue.
No, not at all. And I think that’s one of the reasons RockCorps has grown exponentially over the years. I mean, they boost their numbers by thousands every year.
Yeah, I mean, you know, living in the age of irony and sarcasm and sardonic behavior and approaches toward things, it’s great to see that something like that actually takes off.
Were you surprised at how big the movement was when you first played it last year?
Oh, man, I was astounded! Especially in New York, and especially, like, when they’re calling out the five burros, and each one is as loud in Radio City, and they’re showing all the footage of each of the events that took place, you can see people in the audience on the screen doing stuff, and them flipping out even if it’s just because they’re seeing their faces on the JumboTron, or whatever. You know, the show ends up being a celebration; the show doesn’t end up being the reward so much as it is, kind of like the after party for the volunteer event. Which is really cool because it’s really-and honestly, man, having played, like, a bunch of these things-it really makes the show feel secondary to what people have already done. It’s at the show that people still have in mind what they’ve done to get there. It’s not, like, ‘Okay, we’ve done the work, now let’s party.’ It’s like, ‘We’ve done the work, now let’s go to the party to celebrate what we’ve done.’
Since this concert is comprised of all volunteers-they don’t even sell tickets to these shows-do you find that there’s a different energy than other shows you play at?
Yeah, it’s interesting because you’re not exactly facing what would be a typical TBS audience, which is cool because you’re being exposed to new people, and then there’s obviously a core of people that are there to come see us that have volunteered with, I guess, coming to the show in mind. Which is great, because that also reflects to me, to all of us, of the type of people that are attracted to us, simply by the music or by the inspiration that they get from listening to the band. I’ve noticed over the years, after meeting lots of different people at our shows and at events like this, where, like, I think people respond to these initiatives that we take, and would like to be part of it, too. So, yeah, I think the energy at these shows is great, and especially juxtaposing them against doing these Projekt Revolution shows will be super fun for us to be on that tour with old friends and new friends, and playing these big summer rock monster shows, you know, to scale it down every couple of days and go into a smaller venue and see people’s faces a lot closer and, like I said, sort of celebrate the work that they’ve done together. Yeah, it’s an entirely different energy than a summer rock show, but they’re both great. It will be an awesome couple of weeks for us, the whole tour, because going back and forth between those two distinctly different environments is something that TBS have always liked to do. While the venues that we’ve played and the types of shows have changed and varied over the years, the fact that we still do all of them-from big stages when we have the opportunity to small clubs, you know-[it] really keeps you kind of grounded. I think once you get to the arena, a lot of guys never want to go back, but going back for us is really cool because it has a lot to do with the energy of our band on a base level.
Any sort of signing or meet-and-greet for the RockCorps shows? You know, a little extra incentive for people to volunteer…
We’ll certainly be hanging around; I don’t know if there are structured meet-and-greets. There very well may be at this point. That’s not the kind of thing I know until the day of, when someone hands me a Sharpie and goes, “Go sit over there.” But I’m down to do it, and we’ll certainly be hanging around, especially because it’s in such second-home cities to us, like Philly and Houston and Portland and Chicago. I mean, we’ve all spent a lot of time [in those places] and have friends that we know from each of those cities. Fred’s [Mascherino] kind of a Philly guy, and I’ve spent tons of time in Portland, Oregon, and Chicago is Chicago, and Houston’s been a great city for us, particularly over the last couple of years. We played, like, three or four different shows-we’ve played to something like thirty or forty thousand people in Houston throughout 2006 and 2007. We make ourselves pretty available, you know? We’re not duck-and-cover rock band guys; while we might be wearing dark sunglasses, I will take them off at times. I’m not afraid of anybody. [Laughs.]
Do you know if Taking Back Sunday are billed to play the Radio City Music Hall date this year?
As far as I know, no. I didn’t know that they were doing it there again, but if asked we would certainly hop on it. It was a mind-blowing experience to play that stage, and with all those other acts, too, it was quite a fun night for us. Yeah, if we’re asked, we’re there; it doesn’t take anything for us to do stuff like that.
What about 2008? Are you guys going to jump back on board when RockCorps comes around next year?
I think what we’re looking at right now is each of us sort of individually starting to do a bunch of writing. We’re all scattered right now: Adam [Lazzara] lives down in Texas, and I live in Manhattan; Fred’s in Jersey, Mark’s on Long Island, Eddie’s in Ohio. So we’re kind of like Voltron right now, sort of scattered out all over the planet. So as far as I know, everyone’s been doing some writing, and I think [on] this tour, we’re going to be bringing the mobile recording studio again with us and start to do some demoing and writing for another album. And then after Projekt Revolution, pending some other things that might develop between now and then, I think we’ll probably start to sit down and do some serious writing and looking toward another album that I think we’ll probably start working on before the end of the year. These are tentative plans, but this is where all [of] our heads are at for the moment.
So maybe expect a release in ’08?
I would hope so, man! Any later than that and I don’t know what the hell I’ll be doing for the next year and a half. But, yeah, I would think that we’ll be working on a record by the end of 2007, you know, be recording by the end of the year, I would hope.
Awesome. One last question about volunteering: If you could tell kids two or three things about volunteering, what would you say to them?
Well, I think the most important thing to keep in mind about volunteering is that if you have any reservations about doing it, then you should abandon them and do it. And I think within the first 10 minutes of any volunteer effort, people will already realize that the initiative that you’re taking is really helping other people, and I just think it’s a lot of fun! When you get a lot of people together that are all likeminded and there to achieve or accomplish something that’s one of the most base cannons of the human spirit. While some of the uglier ones, like tearing each other apart and war and things like that are there also, [some] of the other ones, like, compassion and togetherness that a lot of these events are meant to sort of, like, get all these people together. And I think the spirit of working on something together with a bunch of people is its own energy, and I really think it’s, like, incredibly rewarding. You know, you leave at the end of the day after doing something like that feeling like you’ve really done something, and it’s very hard to duplicate the feeling-the residual feeling-of having volunteered and having done something. There’s no other way to generate that kind of feeling. And then, you know, there’s evidence of your contribution afterward and that’s a very empowering thing. So I think it’s something that people should definitely experience, particularly younger people. ALT
For more information on the Boost Mobile RockCorps Tour, visit boostmobilerockcorps.org.