(Soundbite of song, “Are You Nervous?”)
Mr. JEFF TUCKER (Lead Singer, Rock Kills Kid): (Singing) Now you know that it's all your fault, how are you doing with it? Hey, are you nervous?
CHADWICK: Music fans, that's not an obscure, old U2 track you're hearing. It's the band Rock Kills Kid, based in Los Angeles. Their new debut album is Are You Nervous. NPR's Rob Sachs went to visit the band at their former Culver City practice studio.
Mr. TUCKER: (Singing) And the sky will fall down on you…
ROB SACHS reporting:
Both Lead Singer Jeff Tucker and Bassist Shawn Dailey admit their music has overtones of the 1980s, but Jeff takes offense when his songs are called one-dimensional.
Mr. TUCKER: I think every song has its own influence. You know what I mean? I don't think we sound like one band through the whole record.
SACHS: And rock critics agree. Music magazines Rolling Stone, Spin, and Blender have all praised the versatility of the band's first full-length album. Jeff credits that to his unique creative process, perfected in a cramped, rented-out practice studio.
(Soundbite of traffic sounds)
SACHS: Standing outside of this space, he and Shawn reminisced about the album's beginnings two and a half years ago.
Mr. TUCKER: First of all, I'd wake up in the morning. Or no, actually not in the morning.
Mr. SHAWN DAILEY (Bassist, Rock Kills Kid): Dude, he didn't wake up in the morning.
Mr. TUCKER: I'd wake up at like maybe 5:00 or 6:00 at night, because my schedule was all messed up, because there's no windows on the studio. And then I'd get up and be tired, and there's a 7-11 down the street, and I'd get 64 ounces of Diet Coke, and that would keep me up until about 8:00 in the morning or something. So in between that time, I would just write, and then go outside and smoke.
(Soundbite of song, “Paralyzed”)
Mr. TUCKER: (Singing) Arms and legs in between…
Mr. TUCKER: I had like a hot plate, a TV, a DVD player. I wasn't even supposed to be in there, like living there. I'd have to clean myself once in a while. So there's no shower here, so I'd use baby wipes, and they work.
Mr. TUCKER: (Singing) I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed, stuck in the middle and I'm paralyzed. I'm paralyzed, I'm paralyzed, the only way to cope is to realize…
SACHS: Jeff's ability to live this near-homeless lifestyle probably came from his upbringing. Growing up in Southern California, his family moved around a lot. He didn't make many friends. He and his father drifted apart after Jeff gave up a star high-school basketball career for his music.
Later, he struggled through a series of low-wage jobs and gave up on college. This past may explain why his songwriting is consumed with the theme of isolation.
(Soundbite of song, “Hideaway”)
Mr. TUCKER: (Singing) Because you say, don't mean you mean it. Run away to find a home. Happy now, but you don't see it. Run away because you're all alone.
Mr. TUCKER: If I try to write like a story, the song is bad. It's just the way it is with me. So what I do is I piece together lyrics, or just, like, pieces of poetry that I like, and I find kind of a common theme for each line. So there's no real specific message in anything. It's just people hear what they want to hear and take what they want to take from it.
SACHS: Jeff Tucker has moved on from those marathon nights in Culver City. He and his band, Rock Kills Kid, now has the backing of a major label, with proper studios and all. The band is on a heavy touring schedule with lots of national exposure. That's a challenge for Jeff, who got quite comfortable living as a hermit. He's finding his way into a new role.
Mr. TUCKER: I don't think I've come around full circle, but I'm definitely heading around the circle, you know? Like I'm growing into maybe, possibly, a leader.
(Soundbite of music)
SACHS: Rob Sachs, NPR News.
(Soundbite of song, “Hideaway”)
Mr. TUCKER: (Singing): And you'll never know what could have been, and you'll never see what might have been. And you'll never know what could have been…
CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand.