Set Phasor on Stun
Who is Ross Phasor?
To be more to the point, the question should be "What is Ross Phasor?," for this hot Rock & Roll quartet is named not for a person, but for a 1970's effect pedal (now discontinued) of questionable value.
"It's good!" says drummer Jonathan (Philip) Scerenci.
"No it's not!" counters guitarist (stress the word "guitarist") Charles (Waldron) Hansen.
"But that's just the point!" concludes wiry frontman John (Theodore) LaCroix. "The joke is that we rise above something that sucks."
An unavoidably confident group, the men of Ross Phasor (which also includes bass player Jay Matrona, whose middle name is unknown) are familiar in many ways and to strong degrees, yet still manage to distinguish themselves, both in their own minds and in those of their growing legions of fans.
At first listen, the primary distinction which sets Ross Phasor apart is Lacroix's voice. Though it has been compared to such original Rock & Roll leaders as Geddy Lee, John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten), Marianne Faithfull and Eartha Kitt (though John admittedly "does not have the butt for Catwoman"), Lacroix's chords are a different set, if not a different breed, than most any others on the scene today.
Though apparent influences may be evident (or so listeners might claim), where the band got their sound and their professional attitude from may actually not be so easily discerned.
Biographically, the band began uncomplicatedly enough.
"I met Charles working at an Italian place on Beacon Hill," LaCroix remembers.
"I met Jonathan in High School," Hansen adds. "And we've been in many projects since."
As for the absent (and purportedly pugilistic) Matrona, he was an old friend of the band's who came on board in the Spring of 1997.Early gigs had
"The Phasor" (a name lovingly adhered by our own man on the town, Mikey Dee) opening for such local heavy hitters as The Gravel Pit and Orbit.
In the Spring of 1998, the band entered famed Fort Apache Studios to lay down what was originally intended to be an EP. The resulting 7" garnered rave reviews and spurned the band on to record more tracks in their own rehearsal space. After working with the likes of Ducky Carlisle, Pete Weiss and masterer Jeff Lipton, Ross Phasor emerged with the stunning disc Gold is Dead, Hide Your Rock & Roll, a vague and "slippery"-ly titled thirteen track album which now enjoys a high perch on College radio charts across the country.
However, the question still remains as to where (and why) the band has come to form the sound they have.
"Our sound is the natural progression of all Rock & Roll," claims LaCroix. "As Rock progressed from Blues, we progress from Rock. We understand its nuances and can therefore work toward something different."
"Rock can be mindless," Scerenci offers, even tossing his head like Dennis Miller does, "but it doesn't have to be."
Is it this mindlessness which distinguishes "Rock" from "Rock & Roll" (as the band is apparently wont to do)?
"'Rock' is not 'Rock & Roll'," LaCroix theorizes. "Limp Bizkit is not Led Zeppelin."
"We don't want to rehash," Scerenci explains. "We're a song band!"
"We're not a jellyfish amalgam," LaCroix agrees. "We're not so much bringing the 'old' back as bringing it because there isn't any of it at all! That's why we fight the good fight- It's for the kids!"
"There are elements that you can trace back to The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Zeppelin, etc.," adds the ponderously Dick Cavett-ish Hansen, "but we're not a 'rip-off' band. We are just influenced by what we like."
And what is that?
"We're Pop fans!" Hansen blurts out, as if having a breakthrough in music group therapy. "I like Neil Young!"
"Burt Bacharach," LaCroix suggests, to subtly unanimous agreement.
"Even Zeppelin!" Hansen adds. "It may be weird, but its catchy! There's enough reality. I like find myth and mystery and hearing music that I can barely understand. Therefore, I'd also like to be able to create that musically. To hear and enjoy without necessarily fully understanding. I like 'pretty'," he concludes, "but the core is 'let's kick ass!'"
So who makes Ross Phasor tick? They have been linked to the likes of Rush, Bowie, Mott, Orwell and many others. But who will they admit to following.
"Influences are subjective," Scerenci offers.
"And vague at best," adds LaCroix. "You can't say 'song x is from song y,' but you can say 'song x is similar to or has elements of song y'."
"There is a lineage," Scerenci admits, "from early Rock & Roll through Nirvana. There's no Rap or Nine Inch Nails, so our scope is somewhat limited, but we're not from any one band. Our music has everything," he continues, again demonstrating the confidence and conviction of the band. "Some people hear it, or hear elements of it and ask if we're serious or if we're just tongue-in-cheek. Well, we are tongue-in-cheek, but we're also serious. To me, those are the most interesting bands- the ones with everything going on- the one's that have got the attitude, the songs, the personality of the individual musicians adding something to it. There's also a certain humor about it."
Admitting to derivation but not willing to admit to or be limited to any particular ancestry, the band is also loathe to be labeled as fad-riders who formed in order to fit in with the current 'old is new' mentality.
"We're not trying to catch a wave," Scerenci explains. "We just do what we want."
"If you try to catch a wave," Hansen reasons, "you lose because it's tail-catching. As soon as a trend is identified, it's over!"
"For example," offers Scerenci, "There was one Nirvana and then 100 copies. It was inevitable. One Radiohead…100 copies."
"It's funny how tides can change," LaCroix ponders. "Two years ago, there was no interest in what we were doing. We were basically doing something nobody wanted us to do. Now, fans are jumping on our wave!"
So are the boys trying to rearrange the molecular structure of the music scene with their sonic ray gun?
"We're not trying to reinvent anything," LaCroix explains. "We're just trying to keep a ball which may not exist rolling!"
"Our secret," admits Scerenci, "is persistence and having something to say."
"Yeah!" LaCroix concurs. "Our constitution is good! Also," the nose-rung, KISS-buckled, painfully-platformed lead singer adds (without naming names, mind you) "we work more on the music and less on being cool."
"We keep doing it and we hope they like it," Hansen offers. "But if they don't, we don't care because we like it! I mean, sure we want fans, but we do what we want first!"
"Now people think that we were in the right place at the right time," LaCroix summarizes. "But it's not because of what we've done, it's because it's what people have come to want."
More than an intentional attempt to fit to the mold of where they saw music going, Ross Phasor has instead taken the music they love and formed it into something which is both derivative and forward-looking. And after a few years at it, their fans are beginning to realize the intelligence and inherent benefit which comes of such integrity and fortitude. In an age where bands are pigeonholed into instant fads, much of music's integrity has been lost or forgotten. When a band comes along with reminders of the 'old' ways of doing things (e.g., a cynically enigmatic name taken from an antiquated piece of equipment), the music 'fan' may not get it right away. Fortunately for Ross Phasor, real music fans are being reminded of what 'real' music is about and are showing their appreciation by showing up to the band's live gigs and by lining up to touch the totally kitschy Michael Jackson lamp and buy the CD whose cover it graces.
"We just play what we know," Scerenci concludes, "and what we want and have fun!"
"If you take yourself too seriously," LaCroix reasons, "you end up suckin'!"
So what is Ross Phasor trying to say? Follow your dreams? Be true to yourself? Goofy names sell albums? Keep your feet in the ground and keep reaching for the stars?
"We're not a 'message' band," claims Scerenci.
"I don't know about that!" LaCroix counters. "We have many messages! Our message" he offers after some consideration, "is find your own message."
When pressed for something more concrete and compelling, LaCroix smiles and says, "When life gets ugly, you got Ross Phasor!"
Well, that's something!