Last September, in one of the most honest and real interviews you could ever read, Adelitas Way frontman Rick DeJesus vented his frustration with how record labels treat rock bands in today’s music business. So the recent announcement that the band had seized control of its career and launched a PledgeMusic drive to fund its forthcoming album (due this summer) made perfect sense. Rewards for pledging range from signed CDs and T-shirts to a night out with the band in Las Vegas and an acoustic house concert (with plenty in between). When this year’s SnoCore Tour (also featuring Flyleaf, Framing Hanley and Fit for Rivals) came to Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Maryland, Live Metal’s Greg Maki sat down with Rick to discuss his band’s bold career move and more.
LIVE METAL: I saw the announcement of the PledgeMusic drive, and I thought, especially after what we talked about last time, it was a good time for a follow-up. I was happy to see you guys taking control.
RICK DEJESUS: So are we, so are we.
How excited are you about that?
I’m very excited. I think, if we’re being honest, the last record was not fun for me at all—at all. I wrote all those songs, and I was very happy with some of them, but the process and the vibe on “Stuck,” I really couldn’t wait to move past it. It was the worst album cycle of my career. It was the first time we ever had a president dipping his hands in our music. On the first two records, no one at Virgin Records cared enough about us to really dabble and meddle with our music. And because we had so much success on “Home School Valedictorian,” I think they felt like they were close to having a rock band that was about to break on a bigger level.
What they don’t realize is, it’s not up to the rock bands anymore. There’s no opportunity right now for a band of my sort to cross over into the world they wanted us to cross over in. It just won’t even be allowed. You will not see Stone Sour or Halestorm—Halestorm might because she’s got the country angle—but you won’t see any bands that are in the position on active rock or the charts we’re on cross over to Top 40 anytime soon. And they were really pushing for us to do that.
So it feels fantastic. I’m running the show right now. I’m making the decisions, and as a band, we’re getting to do what we’ve always done, and I get to put music out whenever I want. Another thing about having so many people involved in releasing your albums is no one ever wants to release the album. There’s always a reason to push it back another six months or a reason to push the record back a year. When records aren’t selling—which they’re not—no one just understands that the records aren’t selling. They try to put reasons behind it and prolong the record coming out. They’re like a roadblock for the fans to hear music from bands. We’ve removed that roadblock, and now we’re gonna put music out.
And as far as the music itself, it can be exactly what you want it to be now.
Yeah. “Stuck” almost was, man. I don’t like to complain too much about it, because when I sit with the band and talk about it, there was eight or nine songs on that record that were the way we wanted them. And then there was “Drive,” which I loved—I would’ve put that on—and then there was two or three songs that were nice, heavy songs that the record label was like, “Oh, this is too heavy. We’re not gonna put this on the record.” And I really think that that small fraction of a change that they made, it affected the audience’s view on the kind of record we made. It went from we were gonna make this extremely rock ‘n’ roll record to “this leans a little more pop.” And that wasn’t our call to do that. Our call was to have one song on the record that had that kind of vibe to it and then 11 songs that were in your face. But it’s OK. We learned.
What is the status of the songs for the new album?
We’re putting a five-song EP out March 17—five brand-new songs. They’re written, they’re done, they’re recorded. We recorded them in Chicago in the studio we recorded our first record. We gotta go back in the summer and just finish the record. We have songs, and we just have to touch them up and maybe write three or four more, and we’ll have a new record out in the summer.
There are all kinds of options for people who want to pledge—different amounts and different things they can get. They can play golf with you, hang out in Vegas. Are you excited to do those kinds of things?
Two reasons: First of all, we wanted to make it special for them, for the people who are pledging, because they’re giving us the creative freedom to not have to answer to 10 fuckin’ suits every day. I’d rather go and go-kart with a fan, have a couple hours with them than have to be on the phone every hour hearing what kind of artist I should be or what I should be doing. We’re thankful to have a new model. I think that the industry is changing dramatically, and I think that we’re just—I don’t want to say a step ahead of where every rock band is gonna end up, but everyone is gonna be pledging. Everyone’s gonna be on their own. It’s a matter of time until the next chapter of successful artists is where I am.
Flyleaf, who you’re out with right now, they just did it.
Yeah, exactly. There’s gonna be a wave behind us. If you’re a pop artist, if you’re Sam Smith, you need Capitol Records, you need Atlantic Records. You need a record label to make Letterman put you on and Kimmel put you on, and you need it for big Vidal Sassoon commercials and movies and Grammy Awards and all that. But rock ‘n’ roll, we never got invited into any of that. We never were a part of any of those things. We never needed a major label. We did maybe in 2009, because they still had a strong hold on the market. But right now, dude, it’s the Wild West out there. You can do whatever you want.
Another big thing to talk about with this is taking your music global, which you haven’t been able to do before. How important is that to you?
It’s very important. It was important to us on the last record. We didn’t understand how we were on the biggest record label in the world and our music wasn’t being heard by the whole world. We didn’t understand how the only people who could hear our music were in the United States. We just couldn’t figure that out, because once we got on our own, we realized that we could put it out to the world on our own. What was holding them back for 10 years from putting us out to every country? It’s kind of a bummer.
And it seems like rock, especially hard rock, is bigger other places than it is here.
It is, and unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to be a part of that until right now. We’re really looking forward to hitting our worldwide fan base and growing that way as a band, because there’s a whole planet out there. If we could, I’d have my music in space. I want it everywhere. Why does someone in Germany not get to know who Adelitas Way is? They should know us. I’m happy that from here on out, they will.
SnoCore Tour, last night was the first show. How did that go?
It was amazing. Honestly, last night was a testament to everything that every band on this bill has worked for. You’ve got a lot of veteran bands here. You’ve got us, you’ve got Flyleaf, you’ve got Framing Hanley, and all those bands have had ups and downs, and we’ve had our high points of our careers. I would never even say we’ve had our low, us, because business has been good as usual for us. We never had that magic button be hit for us. I never sold a million records. We never were on Kimmel or Leno or these TV shows. So for me, it all feels the same.
Last night’s show was a testament to all the hard work the bands have put in. We showed up to Charlotte, North Carolina, to start SnoCore, and it was a packed room, and the show was electric. Every band put on a veteran performance, and people were walking out of there—A, people who had already seen us and Flyleaf were blown away, and B, people who have never seen us before were talking. They were like, “Wow. That’s a night of rock ‘n’ roll, man.”
I’ll say it again, I’ll say it every interview I ever do: We are one of the best live bands in music, and we’re gonna continue to carve that out for ourselves. One day, we’re gonna go down as one of the most underrated bands of this era. At some point, I think people will realize it. I might be dead by then—I don’t know. But at some point, people will look back to everything we created.
Sure, Def Leppard and all those bands, when they were in the moment, there was all the bands they were in there with—and, like, Cream and Nirvana and all these bands—they didn’t know one day that they were gonna be classic rock. They were in the moment. You look at that whole ‘90s grunge movement—Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, STP—everyone lumped them together, and it wasn’t until 15, 20 years went by that everyone started (realizing) they were separate acts with separate sounds, and people started really appreciating what they did bring to music in the ‘90s. In the ‘90s, people were like, “STP sounds just like Soundgarden!” And those bands were battling each other.
But put a little time on it, let people go back to reflect, people will go back and reflect on everything that we’ve done in our career, and I guarantee they’ll say, “That band should’ve been more well known than they are.”
When you got the routing for this tour, were there places that jumped out at you that you’re excited to get back to?
Yeah. All of ‘em. We’re really focused on our headlining status. We’ve been dabbling doing headlining one-offs, and the shows have been packed. So like I said, business for us is better than ever. Our live show—more people come see us now than when we had three number one hits in a row. So I think that’s a lot from people talking. When we come into a city, people tell other people, “Did you see that band? You should go check them out.”
When I look at SnoCore, I think it’s a lot of great markets that we get to go back and hit and touch up on. And then in the summertime, we’re gonna do a full headlining run of the United States and Canada. We’re gonna play an hour and a half, and we’re gonna play everything everyone wants to hear, and we’re gonna put on a magical night every night, a magical performance.
Obviously, you have a lot on your plate right now. Is it more work for you?
Of course, it’s more work, but it’s exciting. It’s invigorating. It almost put a little bit of drive back into me for the whole thing. On “Stuck,” I was really—I don’t want to say the word down ‘cause I’m a strong man—but I was really kind of like, “Man, is this it for me? Do I want to put up with this or deal with this?” It’s gonna be tough to leave a legacy on music today because of how unappreciated all artists and all musicians are in this era. Back in ’80s, ‘90s, ‘70s—you go in any other era besides the one we’re in right now—musicians were wildly respected, and people looked up to them. For some reason, the era that we just happen to do it in, not only do people take our stuff for free but they don’t even give us the props for it.
But I just didn’t want to leave whatever legacy or whatever I was gonna leave with music, I didn’t want to end off on “Stuck.” I wanted to do something greater, and I think that’s what we’re doing right now. Hopefully, we can continue to do that for years to come. “Stuck” really drained me physically and mentally, but now that I’m doing everything and I’m controlling everything, it’s almost doing the opposite. It’s invigorating me, and I’m passionate.
I’m gonna be real with you—I always am when I do interviews with you. We just came off a 75-day, 50-show run with The Pretty Reckless, and while they’re a great band, I feel like we weren’t respected after everything we’ve accomplished in this business. That tour, also, made me realize that my band fell off a little bit. Maybe I wasn’t doing something right, maybe we weren’t doing something that was great enough, because we’re opening up for bands that we shouldn’t be opening up for. And that tour, for me, really was a kick in the ass to either do something better or walk away. You’re not gonna find me opening up for young bands that don’t respect us ever again. And I do respect them, by the way. I just don’t think they really gave a shit about what we’ve accomplished and who we were, what audience we were bringing. It’s a proven fact we bring people every night that we play shows. We headline ourselves. We just weren’t respected like that.
I’m on a mission to make something great to where I only open up for who I want to open up for, or I headline. I never want to put myself in a position again where I’m being treated not up to my value.
Well, I’m excited about what’s in store for your band. Is there anything you’d like to add?
I just want to always, always thank the fans. They’re the reason that we get to make music. We’re always looking to make our best work. Every record we make, we’re trying to make it better than the last, trying to do something new, trying to do something fresh and trying to separate ourselves from every other band that’s in music.
Everyone, check out all our stuff. If you want updates, adelitaswaymusic.com. Donate to our Pledge, man, to the cause. It’s not really a donation because you get something immediately. We’re giving out a new, never-before-heard song right away. You get autographed records, you get to do all kinds of cool stuff. So check the Pledge out, and help change everything for musicians. A pledge is one step towards changing things for us.