Romans Guitarist Talks With TUNK Editor

Interview by Mary Cate Connors Justin Gonyea, of Burlington, has been playing guitar for 16 years. Currently, he is the guitarist for the VT-based metal band, Romans. In 2007, Romans demoed and recorded their first studio album, “All Those Wrists” in Gonyea’s home studio in Lincoln, VT. Gonyea took some time before his radio show on The Radiator to answer a few questions for me. Check out what he said:  

TUNK: Tell me a little bit about your band, Romans.

JG: It’s a heavier project that started about 2 years ago. We were all friends and we’d never been in a band together. A few of us were in heavy bands, a few in indie-rock bands. I was writing material, I got a new house in Lincoln, VT so that was inspiring me to spend more time to write music because it was way up in the mountains and whatnot. I started a demo and posted online to see if anyone was into it, a few of my friends were interested in doing it so we started getting together. As soon as we all came together, we wrote and recorded our first album “All Those Wrists” that we eventually got signed and is out with Black Market Activities. It just happened really fast. It only took two or three months of us being together and we did the whole album. I tracked it and mixed it all. It was a whirlwind. Even looking back on it, it’s kind of hard to believe that it happened so fast. It just worked.

TUNK: What about your musical preferences?

JG: I’m into everything, from old stuff like Neil Young and Pink Floyd and to now things like Joanna Newsom, Broken Social Scene and Mogwai—I love Mogwai-- they kind of bridge the gap between heavy music and indie music. And I love heavy music still in the form of Isis, which is like the “thinking man’s metal.” And really heavy stuff, like Mastodon. But I love everything. Hopefully that comes into play with writing and has something to do with why our album came out so eclectic. The album is heavy and as a whole it’s metalcore. But when I listen to it I can hear elements of other things I like, like trip hop and ambient stuff.

TUNK: Do you write all the music yourself? Tell me about the music writing process?

JG: I write all the music. And I usually write most of it with Kevin Savage, our drummer. I’ll have one or two riff ideas for a song and then Kevin and I will jam it out and the whole song will get formulated. Then we get together with Sean Martin and Tom Kelly, who live in New York City, and we’ll play them what we have and get feedback on it and it’ll evolve from there. So in the end, it’s 100% a cooperative, evolving, writing process but it pretty much all starts with a guitarist. I can’t imagine that any bands write any other way, no matter what they say.

TUNK: So is Romans evolving at all from the first album?

JG: Definitely. We’re moving away from Metalcore—as fast as possible. It’s turning out that we’re moving in the direction of atmospheric metal. We’re dealing more with layers, textures and not so much speed. On the album we were so focused on the unrelenting, blistering speed. Now we want to take more time, keep the heavy sound but keep the focus. And gain more of a contemporary rock song-writing process.

TUNK: What’s your connection with the local, VT music scene?

JG:  I’ve been a part of the underground hardcore music scene, the bar playing indie-rock music scene, I own and operate a recording studio in Fort Ethan Allen. I recorded albums for In Memory of Pluto, Maneuvers, Husbands AKA—and all those bands have played at Wasted City, the venue that I own.  I grew up working at 242 Main; I was the sound guy there for a few years. I’ve been playing in bands since 8th grade, in Burlington. I try to stay pretty tapped into the scene.

TUNK: What’s your favorite venue to play in VT?

JG: It’s kind of fun to play a venue when you own it [Wasted City]. But easy answer though, 242 Main. I’ve been playing there since I was in 8th grade. It fills up fast and has a new crew of young faces every time. It’s super intimate. I also love playing house shows. Anytime we can play in a basement in Burlington, I love that.

Romans will be playing a show on Sunday November 17, 2008 at the Annex with AA Life Once Lost, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Arsonists Get All the Girls, Wreck, Galen and The New Tony Bennett. It’s $12 day of show and doors open at 5pm. Be there.