Sunburn and heat stroke.
That’s what Middle Class Rut vocalist/guitarist Zack Lopez says fans can expect when the band joins Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction on Aug. 11 for the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival.
As someone who has survived the unholy marathon of sweat, screaming, and sloshed supporters on more than one occasion, I found Lopez’s diagnosis to be an accurate, if slightly flippant capturing of the outdoor music vibe.
Metal fans converge on Darien Lake Performing Arts Center for 12 hours of live performance featuring a few titans sandwiched between a pile of mid-level bands hoping to become the next Metallica.
If one can navigate around the ocean of overpriced imbibing and cantankerous security guards, it’s actually a beautiful thing.
For Lopez and partner-in-crime Sean Stockham, it will be just another stop on the journey to promote the band’s forthcoming release, “Pick Up Your Head,” due to drop on June 25.
Drawing inspiration from the 90s alternative scene, Middle Class Rut’s sinewy sound evokes the West Coast spine-crushing of Jane’s and Rage Against the Machine while also incorporating various tinges of punk along the way.
Their 2010 hit, “New Low,” found Lopez wailing in Perry Farrell fashion, but, when I spoke to him via telephone recently, he insisted that the similarities end right there. He wanted fans to know that, while Jane’s does its thing with video screens and scantily-clad female trapeze artists, Middle Class Rut is all about staking its claim in the most intense, economical way possible.
Question: How does the new album build upon the success of No Name No Color?
Lopez: I think it just carries on what we’ve been doing as artists. It would’ve been easy to do the same thing record after record, but we weren’t locked in to any particular style. We had the freedom to make the type of music we wanted to make. Naturally, it’s going to sound similar to our earlier work, but we’re really excited for people to hear what we’ve done with these new songs.
Question: Were you surprised at all by how quickly “New Low” took off?
Lopez: For us, it felt like a lifetime, because we had been working at it for so long. We had a lot of songs in our back pocket by the time that first record came out, so it wasn’t like we hit it big overnight. We were just eager to get our music out there on a mass level and see what opportunities came our way.
Question: How supportive were your parents when you and Sean began recording at their house in Sacramento?
Lopez: It was really a casual experience. They weren’t home a lot, so I was able to work without much interference from anyone. A buddy of mine gave me a basic rig and I already had a computer set up to record on, which set us off quickly. I think they were surprised to find out what we did once they heard the record, but, before that, they didn’t really know too much about what we were doing.
Question: What was the main thing you guys wanted to accomplish as a band with that first record?
Lopez: We just wanted to release it, because we hadn’t really had success in any of our previous bands. There were always problems getting things together, so to have everything work out well was a nice feeling for us.
Question: Who were some of your influences growing up?
Lopez: Guns N’ Roses and Rage Against the Machine were two big ones for me. Also, just being a part of the 90s scene with local shows and seeing bands that were big around the city. I experienced the best of both worlds.
Question: How much of a role did growing up in Sacramento play in your musical direction?
Lopez: Well, the being around the local scene felt like we were a part of our own musical movement. We knew we wanted to make it our life. When we were 13, our parents were dropping us off to see the shows and, by 14, we were playing at the same venues as the bands we went to see. It was a very hands-on experience with no age limit. Our parents would help us lug our gear around and the energy of that scene was a huge reason for keeping us going.
Question: What’s the one song on the new record that you consider a standout?
Lopez: I think it changes day-to-day. When you’re in the studio recording, there’s usually a song you latch onto, but, when you start playing live every night, the material becomes much more important to you and you grow attached to certain songs more than others. There have been a lot of things I’ve wanted to achieve personally with this new record. I gravitate toward the title track, because the hip hop style was something I’d wanted to get into for a while.
Question: Where do you think you guys fit into today’s rock scene?
Lopez: I’m not sure if we really do. Not according to the mainstream, at least. We’re played on alternative stations, but we’re just interested in getting our music to the people in the most creative way possible. I get the comparisons between us and Jane’s Addiction, because Perry and I both have high voices. We’ve played shows with them before and they’re great guys, but their whole spectacle thing isn’t what we’re about. We couldn’t be further apart, in that sense.
Question: Where do you envision the band being five years from now?
Lopez: Moving forward, hopefully. I feel like we’re constantly moving toward the next big thing creatively, so it’s always a climb. We’ve been through a lot and we’re fortunate to be in a position where our music is being appreciated on a large scale.