Zoiks! Online is headquartered in Moline, Illinois. About 90 minutes down I-74 is Peoria, Illinois home of the up and coming band Mindset Evolution. I’ve known about these guys when they were just a local band with a dream. Over the last few years’ momentum has come their way and they’ve really brought it to the next level. They’ve been on the Warped Tour, The Uproar Tour, they just played Rock on the Range and Rocklahoma and now they’ve got a new album coming out called “The Brave Bold and Broken.”
Recently I got that chance to chat with front man Rob Ulrich who is an incredibly hard working individual who is grateful for what he’s achieved and very much interested in where he came from. At the end of the interview he talks about other bands he came up with and how they deserve to be seen and that without a scene they can’t be seen. Rob’s a good dude with a good head on his shoulders.
Bob Zerull (BZ): Hey how you doing?
Rob Ulrich (RU): Great to talk with you brother.
BZ: I’m glad to see you guys are doing so well.
RU: Dude I can’t…it’s pretty unbelievable. After eight years of beating your head against the wall trying to get your band to the next level and then all of the sudden you’re getting gigs in Wisconsin, Chicago and Colorado and you’re like holy shit, what’s going on. It’s pretty cool.
BZ: Once you get to that next level do you feel like you’re almost beating your head against the wall more often just to sustain what you’ve gotten?
RU: Definitely. Challenges change drastically. It’s not so much that it’s more difficult; it’s just that it’s a whole different breed of struggle.
BZ: You guys are releasing your first full-length album, "The Brave Bold and Broken" in June. Are the songs a collection of songs you’ve been sitting on over the years or did you find yourselves writing new songs for the record?
RU: This was pretty much all fresh. It’s kind of strange the way the album came together. We wrote the whole album cumulatively in six months. We wanted to write fresh when we won the Uproar Battle of the Bands thing. They took us out to record with Jay Baumgardner in LA. We wanted to give him fresh material. Only one song from our past actually made it because it was everybody’s favorite and they wanted to hear it be recorded. The other four songs we recorded were brand new. We only had so much time to write because we had won the battle and had a bunch of things to do, so there was only so much time to write. We wrote those songs, went in and recorded them. Went on from there to the tour, got off the tour and wrote the next eight songs for the full length CD and then jumped right into the studio with Johnny K to start recording those. Everything was very fast, but I love it I think it is definitely the best stuff we’ve ever written.
BZ: Do you feel that the lack of time in writing and recording allowed you to not second guess yourselves and allow you to go with your instincts?
RU: I think yes, that’s a very fair statement, but I don’t know that I like that per se. I do kind of wish that we had a little more time, because sometimes it’s nice to second guess yourself. Was that the right part? Was that right line? Were these the right words? Is this really how good this song can be? With the situation the way it was the answer was, ‘yes, I think it is.’ There was a lot of, ‘yes this is perfect for this.’ Those situations were you are second guessing yourself it’d be nice to have the extra time, but I think it was cool to face that challenge and come out of it on the other end with a record we’re very proud of and that we think is awesome.
BZ: You guys have had some touring success, you were on the Warped Tour, and you won the Uproar Battle of the Bands and went out on that tour. How exciting was it to get into the studio and finally put an album out?
RU: I’d say that’s the pinnacle of excitement, but I’d be lying, because the pinnacle of excitement is when you find out you’re being added to radio stations play list. It was extremely exciting to be able to go in and know that you’re not just recording for yourself and your fans, but you’re recording a piece of music that is going to be representative of you for however long to potentially millions of people God willing. It’s just a whole other level of excitement and stress (laughs), great stress. You can have way worse problems than writing and recording a national studio release.
BZ: I was going to ask you about the studio experience was it relaxing, was it more stressful?
RU: Johnny is a great producer, he knows what he’s doing and he knows how to work with bands. It was a strange world right between super stressful and super fun. It was just this place you lived in, you didn’t know which end of the spectrum you were going to be in, but it was awesome. It was exciting and equally difficult.
BZ: I asking this question, I haven’t heard the new album yet, I’ve seen you guy’s play before. What were you trying to accomplish with the record and was there a theme or message you were trying to get across?
RU: I think for us the message is pretty uniform. It’s all about strength, struggle and perseverance. It’s not the guy next you that’s the problem, it’s not the world that’s the problem it just that all of us are trying to figure this out. Nobody has it figured out, nobody has all the answers, some of us think we do, but nobody does. We are all struggling, we’re all fighting and I think this record is a reminder to ourselves and the people who listen that we’re all in it together, we’re all going through it together. That’s the place we always tend to write from I think.
BZ: You guys are getting ready for Rock on the Range and then Rocklahoma. Have you ever done a festival like these two before?
RU: Not exactly, Uproar was similar in styling only it was a traveling festival instead of a stationary show. No we haven’t had the chance to do one of these super recognizable dates like Rock on the Range or Carolina Rebellion or Rocklahoma where everybody knows the name and everybody wants to go to these things. This is our first chance to be displayed on those stages so it’s extremely exciting and it’s an awesome honor.
BZ: Do you get the chance to interact with the other bands?
RU: On Uproar it was kind of like a big family out there. Everybody was very cool. Everybody from the stagehands all the way up to the directors of the tour all the way out to the band members and tour managers. Everybody treated us like their little brothers. It was really a sense of family. We had people feeding us and giving us hotel rooms in their name and keeping us alive. We were out there with a van going date to date like everybody else only we didn’t have a driver (laughs). It was very cool, you usually get a very good sense of community out of these things.
BZ: You’re playing with Korn and Buckcherry, you’ve played with several big name bands that I’m sure you looked up to at some point. When did you start to feel like these guys are your peers, or do you feel that way yet?
RU: I don’t know that I consider them my peers. That’s a great question.
BZ: From where I’m sitting you are their peers. When you’re names on that list for Rock on the Range or Rocklahoma, you’re peers.
RU: I’ve heard that from a few friends, but I really look up to Buckcherry and I really look up to Korn and all the bands that we’ve been playing with. It’s kind of weird to I guess be in that community and be contemporaries of all these bands. It’s really a different thing. I don’t know that I’ve put much thought into what it is. I know I respect them, you’ve got to give made respect to anyone who can stick around as long as Buckcherry and Korn and are still doing it and are still relevant. It’s amazing and I have a lot to learn from those guys.
BZ: I’m from Moline IL, you guys are from Peoria, we talked last year at Uproar. I’m incredibly excited for your success and I can’t wait to hear the record, is there anything else you wanted me to include before I let you go?
RU: Just a big shout out to the whole family in the mighty mighty mid west. There are a ton of bands here that are grinding; there are a ton of bands here that deserve to be seen. No band can be seen unless we can create a scene to be seen in and that’s what we all work to do and it’s all part of the same thing. I just want to say thank you to everybody here in the family that’s supporting us and has held us up on this bulky dream that we’ve been pursuing. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings to all of us.
BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.