March 7th, 2012, 6:06 pm · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
For a second year in a row, Placentia rock act We Are the Arsenal was pushed through to the final round of the OC Music Awards‘ best live band showcase series, and by means that signifies the most: the fan vote.
Though WATA lost out again, this year to 2011 best new artist Railroad to Alaska, the quartet is still proud and grateful for the local support. I caught up with the quartet a couple weeks ago at their rehearsal space in Fullerton the night before the finals at Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa. Vocalist and guitarist Ryan Terrigno, drummer Kris Dufour, bassist Alan Bauer and new lead guitarist Caleb Blacksher were busy prepping for the competition, but they weren’t nervous, Terrigno said – just “very excited.”
“It’s pretty cool for us,” he added about being nominated. “Being an Orange County band, we take a lot of pride in that, especially being an Orange County rock band. A lot of great rock bands have come out of Orange County – Social Distortion, No Doubt, Offspring, tons of others – so we take a lot of pride in kind of following in their footsteps and hope to one day leave Orange County.
“But we’re very proud to be here and the OC Music Awards is a really cool event for (local) bands. It’s a lot of exposure and it’s really cool that KROQ gets involved.”
WATA just dropped a new album, January’s Surveillance, at a pivotal point in the group’s career. But with Blacksher on board – he moved here from Missouri to join the band last August – Terrigno says it feels like their musical puzzle is finally complete.
“I think all four of us now are contributing equally to the band,” he says. “It really comes through on this new CD. The songs and the lyrics are exactly what we want to be saying right now. It’s very politically charged, very socially conscious … it’s right where we want to be. It’s representing the new wave of the band as we continue to write the next album.”
Since forming in 2006, the Arsenal’s chief focus has been on live performance, which is why being part of the OC Music Awards showcases has been so important for the group. “We love all of our recordings (but) we take a lot of pride in our live show and our stage presence and what we deliver with a live performance,” Dufour says. “I’d rather have more people see that than hear our CD, almost because I think we’re 10 times better on stage.”
Not that the recordings are bad, of course, but since Day 1, the ban has been serious about achieving stellar shows. For virtually the entire first year of its existence, they did nothing but practice; by the time they took the stage for the first time, at Corona’s Showcase Theater in August 2007, they had already written enough material for their first album. From the start, Bauer points out, their plan was about do-it-yourself promotion and playing any shows thrown their way, whether for five people or 500. Just slowly make their way into the scene.
Terrigno says life hasn’t slowed down since then, and after a busy first few months, it doesn’t look like 2012 will be much different. The band is venturing into Los Angeles with a show at House of Blues Sunset Strip on March 29. They’ve been recording fresh demos to get even more new music out this year, and their aim is to get onto the Southern California dates of the annual Warped Tour again this summer.
Being in a local, unsigned band can be a struggle, Terrigno admits. Yet over We Are the Arsenal’s six-year existence, WATA has continuously hit milestones and landmarks that make the effort worthwhile.
“We want everything to be organic,” he adds. “We admire rock bands that are four or five dudes, whatever it might be, that get up there with their instruments, that write their own songs, that just spill their guts on stage. Like Green Day: they’ve always just been themselves and they’re one of the biggest rock bands in the world. Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters: they’re just nothing but rock ‘n’ roll, and people love them for it.
“That’s what we want: we just want to be a rock band. We’re not going to stop this. Six years of being in a band is a lot of sacrifice, a lot of money, and you don’t get a lot of return sometimes. But just playing live is what we love to do – we are music fans through and through.”
Video by David Forniss, for OrangeCounty.com.
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