When Atlanta rock trio Kick the Robot takes the stage tonight at the Hard Rock Café downtown, they’ll no doubt be adhering to that old show biz adage “You never know who’s out there in the dark listening.”
Take Kick the Robot’s May gig at Midtown Tavern, for example. It started off as that gig every band dreads — ten loyal fans show up, your set is pushed back to midnight in favor of Trivia Night and you forget your high-hat stand so you create a make shift cymbal stand on the fly out of your floor tom. But when you finally get on stage, you play with the raw energy befitting a packed house.
Included in the tiny crowd that night? A talent scout for Elton John’s Rocket Music, the pop star’s new global music management company.
Within days, Kick the Robot guitarist and singer Jesse Scarpone, bassist and singer Daniel Remel and drummer Dylan Hansen — the local winners of the 2012 Hard Rock Rising battle of the bands competition — were on their way to a series of meetings with the part-time Atlantan at the rock icon’s Peachtree Road address.
“We thought it was a joke, it was so completely surreal,” Dylan Hansen, 20, reflected this week over lunch with Atlanta magazine. “His housekeepers were making us lunch, he was in the other room Skype-ing his kids and we were just sitting there in the living room, surrounded by all this amazing pottery, asking each other, ‘Is this real?’”
Turns out, Sir Elton had already heard Kick the Robot’s brand-new full-length studio debut, Music to Fight the Future but in the age of AutoTuned Taylor Swifts all over the charts, he wanted to make sure the band could bring it live.
“He was just incredibly nice and I think that he appreciates that we love using vocal harmonies and that we have such a strong appreciation for melody and that we’re a trio since his next album [The Diving Board] is pared back to a piano, drums and bass setting.”
Days later, Sir Elton invited the Kick the Robot lads back to the house for an interview for a documentary to possibly be included on some of the extras slated for The Diving Board when it comes out Sept 24. “Elton played reporter and asked us questions about our influences and how the band came about,” says Hansen. “He seems really committed to celebrating and giving exposure to new bands. He just has stage presence. It’s impossible not to listen to him. That kind of presence doesn’t evaporate when you’re off stage. You have to listen to every word he says. He was also really inquisitive about how we achieved different sounds and what instruments we used. It was really a musician-to-musician vibe.”
Whether or not a deal between Kick the Robot and Rocket Music materializes from the meetings is really beside the point for Dylan Hansen. “For someone like Elton John to show us such respect and to set aside time for us like that, it meant a lot.”
Plus, it didn’t hurt that Sir Elton praised the band’s tongue-in-cheek, up-tempo ode to “friends with benefits,” Not Your Friend off of Music to Fight the Future. “He kept telling us it was ‘brilliant!’ which really floored all of us!” Hansen says sheepishly. “It was just a huge compliment coming from Elton John.”
Kick the Robot and 2013 Hard Rock Rising Atlanta battle of the bands winner The Roycrofters play tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe downtown. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.