The 71's: Harder, Louder, More Alive Than Ever

Rocks Off has been covering The 71s since pretty much the first day we worked here, when a slight attention-span problem ended up obligating us to attend a Christian rock concert at which we somehow had a massively fun time. Since then, we've watched the group grow, invade a Walmart, get signed, tour, play a private show for Pedobear, and unleash a stream of EPs that epitomize all that is good and holy in modern pop-rock.

So it may come as a surprise to you, excellent rock enthusiasts, that Rocks Off is eagerly awaiting the day we can turn on the band like Judas. We've been here since the beginning, and are relishing that upcoming pissy, hipster moment when the 71's release an album that is so accessible, bankable, and ultimately successful that we'll be able to point fingers and scream how they've sold out. It will be wonderful.

But see, for that to happen the album has to kind of suck. It has to be watered down to a low common denominator because if the modern music industry has taught us anything, it is that most of the populace can't take a shot of brilliance without a pinch of mediocrity to cut it. The new 71s album is undiluted, and our evil stratagem must wait. Curses.

Rock and Roll Reaction vol. 2 is (obviously) the second part of the 71's trilogy. We were supposed to see it months ago, but the release was put on hold once the band got an indie record deal and decided to up their exposure with a pretty impressive tour of the state. Well worth the wait, vol. 2 continues to shock and amaze as the band turns the amp to 11 and keeps turning until the knob breaks.

It's been amazing to see them grow from a more light-hearted college-rock sound into something more along the lines of Endeverafter. It's the sound of a party now. A good party, the kind you better be damn grateful if you're invited. We got a taste of that when we saw the video for "Get Up and Dance," which set our palate for the feast of noise that makes up the EP.

One of the things we've always liked about the 71's is the way they just flow without pretention. Their sincerity was the thing that drew us to them back when they were mostly playing church gigs. The music is dirtier now, more in tune with the tunes a band on the road plays, and the swagger of the group has become very pronounced.

"What are you saying,With One F?" you ask. "Has another group of devout young men succumbed to the sins of the music industry?' Maybe. Maybe not. We take no position on the matter. We do know this: The 71's are a group that does not fear the real world, and doth indeed walk trough the valley of the shadow of death like it's a bike path in Memorial Park.

They'll be what they'll be, and if they want to turn up the volume and scream a little they will with no apologies. Prepare to wake your neighbors, because vol. 2 should be played at maximum volume.

We sat down with singer Keeton Coffman to ask him some questions about the album.

Rocks Off: More and more your music is getting louder, more in your face, and much more party-themed. What's caused the trend?

Keeton Coffman: I'm not sure what is causing the trend. As a writer, I am focusing less and less with every song on the "outcome" of the song, and more about being completely honest with myself about my human condition as I write the song.

Looking back over the past year though, I do see some intention with every tune. With "Angel Eyes," I listened to Death From Above 1979 for a month on repeat... so there is tons of those guys in that song. For 'get Up in Dance," lyrically I wanted a song that made people want to get up and dance... that's pretty much it.

We play shows all the time now, and it's very common for people to come and "watch." We want people to participate in the music. It's about community, right? "Get Up and Dance" is our invitation to our listeners to join in on the music.

Lastly, the AC/DC vibe on "Diamon Heart" comes from The 71's desire to be AC/DC... I'm not ashamed to say it. Those guys are one of our favorite bands of all time. I wonder why so many people like that band, and yet there is so little music these days that sounds as rock and roll as they do. We gave it our best shot.

RO: "Angel Eyes" was actually inspired by C. S. Lewis' The Screwtapte Letters, wasn't it? What made you want to write a song about correspondence between demons?

KC: Its meaning moves us into my personal feelings on life... so please know this is me speaking, not the band. With that said, I feel that sex is a powerful thing. Mysteriously powerful - sometimes its power changes our lives for the good, sometimes for the bad.

I also believe that there is a God who loves us, and I believe that Satan exists and has plans for our destruction. I wrote this song from the perspective of Satan to illustrate how devious he can be, and temptation works on or minds and our will.

RO: We were wondering who the subject of 'Caroline" was.

KC: Caroline is my daughter. She's 21 days old today. When my wife and I were pregnant, I loved the name Caroline, so I wrote it using that name... long before I knew she was a girl. I think my wife was like seven weeks pregnant. I wanted Caroline to know that people loved her and believed in who she was born to be, long before she was even born.

When I read the Scriptures, I see this kind of love in the way God treats us. It has changed the way I think about myself and what I am capable of. I hope Caroline sees this kind of love in me as a dad, the way I have felt it from my heavenly father.

RO: If Rocks and Roll Reaction vol. 1. was the buildup, vol. 2 the crescendo, will vol. 3 be the crash and aftermath?

KC: Absolutely. We are planning on releasing vol. 3 as a "double EP"... formerly known as a "full length album" - hahah! I knew when we started this process that the songs themselves would illustrate the bands evolution - I loved this idea. I want fans to feel as though they know us! I hate hype... I can't stand it.

I don't see why people who write songs are any cooler than the couple who owns a restaurant and knows every customer in the place. So we are telling our story for those who want to listen. The story - life as a working rock band, and as a person in general - kicks our asses. But we are learning learned to kick back.

RO: To what do you attribute The 71's continuing rise to success?

KC: I don't see a "rise to success" - success is very arbitrary. The 71's have a very simple outlook on the music industry. it goes like this...

1. Write lots of songs 2. Record 'em cheap 3. Sell 'em cheap 4. Tour often 5. Bless people who listen

Nothing else really matters to us... mostly because so much of "musical success" isn't even real or tangible. What's real to me is a concert and a fan who smiles and dances during it. And after the show we chat about life and music and them. And then we say goodbye till next time. And trust me, I miss them a lot more than they could ever miss us.

Rock and Roll Reaction vol. 2 is out today, and is available on the band's Web site.

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