Elliot James is a ballsy guy, and so far it's worked out pretty well for him. James had the guts to ask the guys in Phoenix rock band Ronin Meyer to jam with him after seeing them perform, and they took him up on his request. He must have been impressive, because when the group needed a new singer, James was their man.
The group's lineup has now been going strong for over a year. With James on board, the band seems more ambitious than ever. It would seem his ambition is infectious.
"I think our goal is just to keep maturing as musicians and keep moving forward and keep plugging away at it and not let any standard get us down," James says. "We're all being ourselves, and we're setting the path."
Martini Ranch in Scottsdale
Ronin Meyer is scheduled to perform on Friday, April 2.
The group just finished recording a new full-length album, Awaken, due out in the next month or so and recorded in Houston by producer Micah Wilshire. James says the recording process was very relaxed, and the band had full creative freedom under Wilshire's watch.
"He was like, 'Expand your mind when you're here; take in the experience,'" James says. "He challenged us to tap into what we were doing." As James, bassist Mike Karpinski, and guitarist Derek Keever worked with Wilshire, drummer Steven Davis laid down drum tracks in Washington, D.C. Three of the band's previous songs, including a cover of Duran Duran's "Come Undone," are on the band's MySpace page, www.myspace.com/roninmeyer.
James, who says he's been singing seriously since he was 14, always wanted to be in a band, and Ronin Meyer is the perfect outlet for him to write about how he views the world. Tracks deal with everything from relationships to parting ways with someone or something to existential themes.
"I'm extremely intuitive about what's going on around me and my relationship with the world in general," James says. "I think I just write completely from the heart, and I try to make sure everybody can have their own connection."
Musically, the band has a collaborative songwriting process, drawing on inspirations from bands such as Incubus and Deftones, with the members' interests spanning a variety of acts.
"It's all over the map when you talk about influences and who we're inspired by, but I'd have to base it down to great rock bands," James says.
Those influences translate to the band's live stage show, where James insists the guys "throw down" whenever they play. When asked for clarification on just how the band does this, James says, "Just rocking out, sistah."
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Maybe their fans can give a better glimpse into the energetic sets Ronin Meyer puts on, as they sing along to songs, dance, and feed energy back into the band.
And just in case the music isn't enough to captivate the crowd, Ronin Meyer is one of the few local bands to expand crowd interaction by including a raffle of band merchandise and prizes between songs. For $1 a ticket, fans have the chance to win swag — and maybe a hug from someone in the band.
"We get very personable with the crowd," James says. "We'll make you believe."
That's a James specialty, it seems.