Out of this world: The definitive Rozwell Kid feature

Photo: Pang Tubhirun

Through the looking glass here, people: Rozwell Kid (clockwise from 1 o’ clock: Jordan Hudkins, Andrew LaCara, Sean Hallock, Devin Donnelly, Adam Meisterhans) has morphed from Demon Beat drummer Jordan Hudkins’ solo power-pop/grunge project into a full band with a second record, “Unmacho,” due out soon. The band plays the Huntington Music and Arts Festival Saturday.

Sometimes, a band comes along that strengthens and/or reaffirms what sometimes can seem like a burnt out love affair with rock and roll. Evoking the best of Weezer and The Rentals in particular, and 90’s power-pop and grunge in general, for some, Rozwell Kid is that band.

You may know him as the drummer for The Demon Beat, but if you haven’t yet, you’ll soon know how Jordan Hudkins has turned admitted dreams of rock operas and Jude Universers into a whole ‘nother badass band.

Chatting at length over email, Hudkins talked about everything from his formative college years, to Simpsons re-runs, and of course, the evolution of Rozwell Kid (himself, Adam Meisterhans: lead guitar; Andrew LaCara: guitar/vox; Devin Donnelly: bass; Sean Hallock: drums) into a full band.

Before asking him about the important stuff, the music, Hudkins was asked about another passion of his: Sheetz.

“I am obsessed with Sheetz,” Hudkins admitted. “They have it all. Gas (at a discount with a My Sheetz Card), great food (made-to-order), the best gas-station coffee, a well-maintained and unique brand identity, the works!”

Hudkins delved deep into his romance with Sheetz.

“Until 2004 when I moved away to college, I’d never been to a Sheetz. But there was one right next to campus, and when you are working for pennies at the student newspaper, two hot dogs for 99¢ is a supreme deal. I ate so many hot dogs in those four years, my diploma was actually rolled up and handed to me in a bun, topped with mustard and onions.

“After school, I moved into a house that was right next to another Sheetz,” Hudkins continued. “Four years later, I’m living in a new house by a new Sheetz. In the last eight years, I have always lived within a mile from a Sheetz. It’s the closest thing I have to Star Trek technology: when I see a Sheetz in another state, I’m instantly transported home, in a sense.”

Rozwell Kid is all about time travel, well, at least that one song, “Ace Ventura Pt. 3,” on The Rozwell Kid LP mentioned it, so he was transported back in time by being asked the tough questions, like: ‘Most people know you as the drummer for The Demon Beat, but when did you pick up a guitar and try to write your own songs?’

“I started playing guitar in 2001, started writing songs in 2004. Initially, I had big ambitions to write some kind of rock-opera. That was dumb. I don’t know what I was thinking. It involved dragons and bounty hunters and time travel.

“Anyway, that’s how I started writing songs. They were all part of this big story arc I had created. I guess it was pretty helpful considering I didn’t have any life experience to really draw from for material. I was young, in college, and scared to write about anything I was really going through. So dragons and time travel gave me something to construct a song around.

“Eventually, I began to heed the advice my mom (and Stephen King, I think? Dean Koontz?) always gave me, which was “write what you know.” So I literally started writing about crazy things I’d seen or felt touring around with The Demon Beat. The first Rozwell Kid record is pretty much a diary of those early touring experiences. I was meeting so many new people, seeing so many new places and learning a lot.

“Oh, and there’s also a song on that record about my Saturn SC1 blowing up. That sucked. That car was awesome. It had a very distinct smell. In fact, I was in another mid-90’s Saturn not too long ago, and it smelled exactly the same. I was having wild flashbacks to my old car. It was so small, but I used to fit my whole drum kit in it and drive to Demon Beat shows. If I would have crashed my car on the way to one of those gigs, it would have sounded like a Keith Moon solo.”

With advice from his mom (or famous writers) and real world experience of touring with The Demon Beat, Hudkins, first as Jude Universer, later just renamed Rozwell Kid, channeled the music he and his bandmates love: 90’s power-pop and grunge.

“We are all big Weezer fans,” Hudkins said of what is maybe the more prominent nod listed when describing Rozwell Kid. “I’m pretty sure we would all consider the Blue Album one of our favorite records of all time. That album and Pinkerton are like crack for the sensitive teenage rocker. So we grew up with that and never really grew out of it.

“I really connect with everything about that early-to-mid 90’s alternative/post-grunge/powerpop/whatever scene. The sounds, the melodies, the aesthetic; I think it’s all really cool.”

Not only does Hudkins and co. (LaCara has the Pinkerton art as his cover pic on Facebook, hear Meisterhans’ first Black Fag CD for Blue Album love maybe) love those old Weezer records, Hudkins also lists Matt Sharp’s grungy Moog-soaked spin-off project The Rentals as a big influence.

“I remember I was listening to some Rentals when I worked at the student newspaper, and I got so pumped up, that kind of pumped up where you feel like you’re gonna jump out of your skin, and I thought to myself, ‘Jordan, dude, this RULES! Just write songs like this.’ So I just try to write whatever makes me feel pumped up like The Rentals did that day.”

Hudkins said the sophomore Rozwell Kid CD, Unmacho, is in the can, with studio help from Dave Klug in Pittsburgh, and help from his friends this time around.

“It was really different from what I’m used to, but it was also really incredible,” Hudkins said of writing and recording as a full band as opposed to The Rozwell Kid LP. “They are great musicians and just downright fun dudes to be around. I am usually a control freak about my stuff, so this was a great exercise in letting go and watching the project take on a shape of its own.

“Everyone brought a little bit of their own style into the recording and that makes for a record that is truly unique. Something I could never have accomplished by myself, and I’m grateful they wanted to be a part of it!”

With help from bassist Devin Donnelly and drummer Sean Hallock, Hudkins said longtime bros (Demon Beat singer-guitarist) Adam Meisterhans and Andrew LaCara (The Resonators) were both instrumental in getting him started rocking out roughly a decade ago.

“He’s one of my best friends in the world, and probably the biggest reason I even play music,” Hudkins said of Meisterhans. “I mean, I learned drums so I could start a band with him. Without his influence, I would probably be crouched in the khaki rack at JCPenny, listening to Punk-O-Rama 6 for the billionth time.

“Adam helped me branch out a little. He’s been really supportive of my songwriting efforts from the very beginning, so to have him shredding like a maniac on my latest jams is truly a blessing. He didn’t stop talking to me the moment I said ‘rock-opera!’”

And LaCara was supportive from the start as well, Hudkins said.

“I met Andrew the same summer I met Adam, nearly ten years ago. We’ve all been inseparable ever since…We all started a band when we got to college, and Andrew was the main songwriter. Then I started bringing a few of my “rock-opera” tunes to the table, and nobody punched me in the stomach, so they are true friends.”

Dreams of rock operas aside, or maybe, continuing to pursue them, Hudkins said having his friends help him realize his dream of fronting a rock band is pretty killer.

“It’s been really fun. It’s weird to write and record a song all by yourself, then hear it for the first time as a full band. Up until that point, I’d only heard one recording, one interpretation of the song. Now all of a sudden, four other people are helping me bring it to life. That’s a great feeling. A feeling that makes me want to punch through walls with joy and swing through the treetops, bathed in the soft, milky moonlight. That’s similar to how I feel when someone tells me they like the songs.”

Asked about the talent and the cool bands and side projects birthed in and around Shepherdstown, Hudkins said there are good bands all over West Virginia.

“There’s a healthy crop of great musicians who just like to play and write and record. It’s like that all over the state. Pockets of cool music, everyone playing in everyone else’s bands.

“I guess it’s like any scene really, except that I almost feel like West Virginia as a state is one unified scene. If someone asks me about great bands from my area, I always end up naming bands in Morgantown and Huntington, too. I live closer to New York than Huntington. If someone wants to know about “my scene” I always tell them about the entire state.”

In advance of playing The Huntington Music and Arts Festival Saturday, and with a new RK album finished, asked if he was “Born 2 Drum” in The Demon Beat or write rock operas in Rozwell Kid, Hudkins said irregardless nonetheless, he’s living the rock and roll dream as it is.

“I’m pretty sure I was born to eat hummus and watch Simpsons re-runs, but until I can pay rent with Simpsons quotes and hummus-breath, I am gonna sing and drum until nobody wants me around anymore. And it’s always cool when music and friendship merge as one!”

--- Rozwell Kid performs at the Huntington Music and Arts Festival Saturday with a bunch of other cool bands. If you just got out of jail or have been living in a cave in Eastern Afghanistan and don’t know who’s playing, set times, costs, and other cool shit like merch and fabulous prizes (fabulous prizes not confirmed) swing by the HMAF site

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