Mosaic / Music / Reviews / April 23, 2009

In Cleveland Beachland Ballroom

If you just heard the name of the band Rocco DeLuca and the Burden paired with the CD titles I Trust You to Kill Me and Mercy, you might be inclined to think that the band is a typical teenage emo band. They are, however, as far from that as possible. All the members are in their 30s and produce music filled with heart that is realistically emotional.

Their concert was hosted by the House of Blues on Saturday, April 18, and was definitely an experience. Setup took a lot longer than anticipated, but as soon as the curtains opened, the audience forgot all about the wait. The band opened with “Losing Control” from their new album, Mercy, and the audience was ready. From the beginning there was an immense amount of power with the lights blasting and dobro guitar expressing the feelings in the song.

One thing is for sure; Rocco DeLuca just loves playing the dobro. He went on several minute-long tangents after and in between most of the songs. Even so, it never became monotonous. At one point he was playing so fast his hand was literally a blur.

DeLuca walked on stage dressed in a suit, barely said anything, and went straight into the music. During the whole show, he uttered very few words, and when he did they were quiet and calm. Yet he shrieked and sang with so much energy and power that his face was contorted with feeling.

The songs on the records have plenty of emotion, but every live song was injected with a little extra soul. Most of the songs had high energy, but suddenly the band would play a slow, folky song, and the next thing you knew he was on another crazy guitar rollercoaster.

I had an opportunity to interview DeLuca:

Jenn Lloyd: What got you interested in music in the first place? What were your influences?

Rocco DeLuca: Mostly watching people be passionate about something. It seems like music was always the one thing that as a kid I saw people really passionate about. I just like the idea of creating things, like making something out of what is around you. That’s kind of a fun thing. And just being playful. That’s kind of what got me into music.

JL: When did you start playing the dobro guitar?

RD: I probably started sometime when I was young. Like, I don’t know, before 10, I started to experiment with slides and other strings.

JL: What was your attraction to it?

RD: My attraction to it was the sound of it for one. It was pretty aggressive-sounding and kind of revealing and just I thought it had the best combination of sounds for me that I liked, and the art that I’m drawn to.

JL: Do you play any other instruments?

RD: Yeah, just whatever I can get my hands on. Really I don’t know how to play anything: I just put my hands on it and have fun with it and try to be playful with it.

JL: When did you start writing songs?

RD: I think as soon as I got a tape recorder that my grandpa gave me when I was a young kid. I just started thinking of little tunes, I guess. So I guess from the very beginning I was always messing around with documenting sounds.

JL: What was the first song you remember writing?

RD: I was probably about, let’s see…when I was six years old I wrote about the existential feeling I felt. No, I’m just kidding. I really don’t remember. I just remember kind of humming around, humming little things. I can’t quite remember.

JL: What is your favorite song or favorite lyric that you’ve written so far?

RD: I’m proud of a song on the new record called “Nightingale.” I think lyrically that sums up a lot of the way I was feeling at the time. So I was happy that I had the chance for that to translate.

JL: What is your songwriting process?

RD: Sometimes the words come first and sometimes the notes come, and sometimes they come together. There’s really no set process, it’s just whatever. If I have a pen and some paper, I’m just writing words. And if I have an instrument, then in a nice sleep a melody can come to me. But other than that — that’s pretty much it.

JL: How would you describe your music style?

RD: I guess the word would be, maybe, “intense.” That‘s the best I could describe it, because we’re not quite folkies and we’re not quite hard rockers. We’re not really blues. So I guess the one thread through all of this is an element of focus and intensity.

JL: What has been your favorite act to perform with?

RD: We’ve been on tour with so many people across the board but one of our favorites was touring with Keane because they were so gracious and such great guys.

JL: What’s the best concert that you have ever seen?

RD: I’d have a hard time saying. I never got to see Bob Marley, but I’m sure that would have been the best. But I don’t know, I think if you asked me that later I’d probably know. When I was a kid and I saw John Lee Hooker that kind of touched me. So I think that was pretty cool. That was pretty intense.

JL: What do you want to achieve as a musician and a band?

RD: I think all I really want to achieve just as an artist in general is to try to achieve the maximum potential that I can with lyric and melody and hope that I can see its way through. Maybe it might be relevant, maybe it won’t, but I’d just like it to be the best that it possibly can be. I hope that I can get the opportunity to get to that point.

JL: What do you think is a musician’s responsibility?

RD: I think a musician’s only responsibility is to themselves. I feel like that’s pretty much it. I don’t think they owe anything to anybody except themselves. And when you serve your true sense, when you serve your — when you qualify what you’ve done on some level and you’re proud of something you created, I think the world at that point can examine it as well. But if you haven’t, then it’s really probably not that big of a contribution. Yeah, I mean if anything, the one thing an artist might owe his audience is to be 100 percent involved in whatever it is he’s giving, with their heart and their mind. If they’re not there, then I don’t know what you would call it.

JL: What makes a musician effective?

RD: A musician’s effective when he manages to translate what’s in his heart into physical form.

JL: If you could have any career what would you do?

RD: If I changed careers, I don’t know, I think I would, I don’t know… if I could, I think I’d like to write. It’s an extension of what I do anyways. I guess I’d like to be into the printed word.

JL: How and why did you get involved with the “Call and Response” movie and cause?

RD: I got involved with the cause having travels to Europe and being a witness to it. And also Justin Dylan, who was organizing the whole thing; I believed in his passion for it. And I thought if music could bring any attention to it and somehow help, then I was honored to have the opportunity to help. I think that to have the opportunity to help is a really nice thing.

JL: What did you do before the band was formed?

RD: I just did the same kind of thing. I just played only in living rooms to my friends. That was pretty much it.

JL: How did the band get together?

RD: The band got together…basically after I formed the record was when the boys came around.

Jennifer Lloyd

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