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Two Months After "in sickness and in hell", RB Roe Talks All Things GET TUFF - Interview

Written by Jennifer Moglia

"Album of the Year" lists typically start to show up around November or December, when most of the year's music has come out already, but the minute GET TUFF's "in sickness and in hell" was released in January, we immediately knew it had a spot as one of our favorite records of 2021. Now, two months removed from dropping the album, we got the chance to chat with the genius behind GET TUFF, RB Roe, about the project, the creative process and vision behind it, and all of the ways music has impacted their life, from using songwriting to process emotions to having a blast performing live with bands.

Jennifer Moglia: Thanks so much for doing this! To start, could you just introduce yourself and the project?

RB Roe: I'm RB Roe, my pronouns are they/them, and I am the songwriter, engineer, producer, and performer of everything in GET TUFF, save for some amazing features by friends on a few of the tracks! This project started as a way for me to easily work on music while in the van on tour, and has grown to be an emotional outlet and respite in the face of my trauma and mental illness.

JM: It's so impressive that you can essentially do all of this by yourself, and I love that music has been that outlet for you! I know that you consider GET TUFF to be "drama-pop", but I've honestly never heard that used as a genre before.

Is that something you came up with or had you heard it before? How would you define "drama-pop?" What other bands/artists would you consider to fit under that genre?

RR: It was just something that popped into my head one day as I was trying to figure out what the project sounded like. Vocally, I realized I was pretty unintentionally taking a ton of inspiration from my experience in and love of musical theater.

Lyrically, I love to very cheekily play up the internal melodrama that I far too often experience, the way that a minor inconvenience can turn to utter despair when you’re already going through something. I thought the confluence of these two things gave the project a bit of “main character syndrome”, hence the drama-pop moniker!

Some favorite bands/artists of mine that I draw inspiration from for this concept are Sylvan Esso, Kilo Kish, and Caroline Polachek!

JM: I'll have to check them out! I think it's so cool that you've been able to find that niche and almost make up your own subgenre for what you do.

Your name is RB Roe, so where did GET TUFF come from? Is there a reason why you didn't want to just use your name for this project?

RR: The name GET TUFF, at its core, is a nod towards recovery and personal growth. It also stands as a reminder in the face of inner turmoil and a generally tumultuous existence.

I chose to go with a “band name” versus just my own name because the voice of [this project], though drawn from deeply personal emotion and experience, is almost a character. It is the dramatized internal version of the self, who I become when I am overwhelmed by the emotion of a moment. I’ll be the first to admit I am not my best self when I am in the throes of depression or coping, and often, do not feel like myself at all.

JM: I'll always back the choice of using a cool artist name rather than just your first name and last name! The story and message behind it really connects to the music you make perfectly.

I first discovered you through Save Face, one of my favorite bands personally and one we've worked closely with at Legends of Tomorrow, and I know you also play with Jetty Bones and The Weak Days. What made you want to start a solo project outside of playing for other bands? Do you prefer one or the other? What makes it different?

RR: My start in music was solo (there is a lot of embarrassing old music of mine on the internet if you dig deep enough), so I’ve always been writing my own stuff on the side, but I never really thought I would put anything out with this project. I thought I was just passing the time on the road by making little electronic songs.

I absolutely fell in love with the process of it all, and with [it came] the opportunity to create sounds outside of the traditional atmosphere of guitar music that I was so used to. That’s the main, obvious difference between playing in those bands and doing this project....[as well as] being the main writer and having to learn to trust myself and my process along the way.

I could never choose to really prefer one. Anyone who has seen me shredding the bass in a set can probably tell there’s no place I’d rather be. Conversely, singing was my first love in music, and being able to dance around and belt my silly little heart out is such a treat.

JM: For sure! Your live presence is absolutely insane in the best way so I can't imagine what a GET TUFF show would eventually look like.

Also, because I have to ask, what's your favorite Save Face song, either to listen to or to play? Mine is "Yours", but I also really love "Pour"...probably the two saddest songs on "Merci." (laughs)

RR: Oh boy. Okay, so before I was in the band, I was the absolute #1 Save Face fan.

My old band Everyone Leaves toured with them back in 2016 and I fell in hard and fast love, so I have long-formed and strong opinions on the discography. If I had to choose my absolute favorite Save Face songs [in general], they would be "Folly", "Jonesin’", and "Yours", but my favorite to play is "Weak" because I get to jump around, dance, and harmonize with my best friend Tyler [Povanda, frontman of Save Face] and there’s nothing more fun in the whole world.

JM: Solid choices, and happy to have found another absolute #1 Save Face fan. Now, back to your music, congrats on the release of the album!

The title "in sickness and in hell" is such a fun little play on words, how did that come to be? What do you think the title tells people about the record before they even listen to it?

RR: Thank you! I’m so excited that it’s finally out!

Funnily enough, I came up with both the band name GET TUFF and the album title "in sickness and in hell" on the same day while I was on tour filling in on guitar for my friend Brandon’s band Caving back in 2019. I just kind of offhand threw them out as we were having a classic “here are all of the cool names I’ve ever thought of” conversation, never thinking I’d use either of them myself, but they both stuck in my mind for so long that I kind of realized it was inevitable.

I hope that the record title invokes modes of introspection, as it is meant to read as a kind of vow to the self throughout recovery. At a glance, however, in conjunction with the album cover, I think it sets a dark tone for a new listener.

It creates a bit of a bait and switch when you start to get into the more upbeat and sparkly sonic moments. Intrinsically, darkness and anguish are meant to frame the landscape for this album, even in its moments of light.

JM: I definitely agree that it creates that dark mood, more intriguing than scary though. Something I really love about the record is the song titles; I think they're all super creative, fun and unique, especially "ex post facto" and "a piss poor excuse to stay in bed."

Is there a reason why you stylized them the way you did, with all lowercase letters and a few formatted differently like "worms4brainz" and "misery (makes you dance)"? Which title is your favorite, putting the songs themselves aside?

RR: So much of this album is about conflict with the self, even the stylization of the text. As I’ve mentioned leaning into the melodrama in my writing, keeping everything lowercase was kind of a me-to-me assertion of “it’s not that deep, dude”.

It’s also just something I’ve loved from bands and artists like Purity Ring, Shura, and Foxy Dads. Non-standard capitalization has been having its moment in pop music and I wanted to be a part of the fun!

To focus on one track’s title format specifically, "worms4brainz" was just the file name for the demo of that song, and because it’s the first of the three lo-fi tracks that make up Act II of the record, I thought leaving the title very nonchalant would help set the tone.

My favorite song title is “there’s nothing here yet”, another instance of keeping the name from the demo. It was just a webpage error message that I got while looking for a reference photo for some design work I was doing.

I was deep in the pang of seasonal depression and that error message was a classic example of a minor inconvenience that sent me on an emotional spiral. But hey, I got a pretty cool song out of it!

JM: I absolutely love hearing stories and reasoning behind little things like titles, so interesting. Now for a few more specific questions about the record.

What's your favorite song on the album lyrically? What's your favorite sonically? Favorite overall?

Just to provide my take, I think that "rag doll" is my favorite overall, just because of how hauntingly beautiful is. You convey those emotions and experiences in such a perfect way, and I think people who have gone through the same thing will really appreciate it.

RR: I think “rag doll” may be my favorite lyrically as well. I had been trying to write about that experience for a really long time, but I never could find the words.

I think perhaps I was subconsciously barring myself from meditating on it for too long for fear of what I might find or feel. My writing style has always been very stream-of-consciousness, and while this song was no different, it felt more like swimming upstream.

The right words fell out but not without the weighted resistance of my now clear repression of this trauma, and fear of the judgment that could come if I ever released it. My only hope is that those who can relate find the same solace in listening to it that I did while writing it.

Sonically, I think “over it” takes the cake. There are actually very few layers of instrumentation compared to other tracks on the record, but that repetitious organ line combined with super rhythmic bass chords was so much fun to write and put together, all under the veil of heavy compression and a little bit of lo-fi filtering. It was the first time I felt like I really nailed the sonic aesthetic of “bedroom pop” which was the goal for Act II of the record ("worms4brainz", "over it", "get tuff").

JM: Definitely nailed that bedroom-pop vibe! My next question is about one track in particular; what made you want a self-titled song on the record (in reference to "get tuff")?

Was that planned before or after you wrote that song? Did any artists inspire you to do this?

RR: I always love when bands name a song after the band. Some bands use those songs as a way to represent the core emotive goals of the band, but in my case, “get tuff” was the first song I wrote where I felt like I had figured out what I wanted this project to be sonically.

For me, that’s hiding anguish beneath glittering danceability. It’s a little more direct in this song with the sudden shift to the spiraling chaos of overthought, so I felt it perfectly represented both ends of what this project is and will be.

JM: Once again, thank you for chatting with me today! I like to leave the last question open for anything you'd like to say to or share with readers, so here's your place to do that.

RR: I am, as the kids say, “extremely online”, so I’m just gonna throw my Link Tree here. Come hang with me on all corners of the internet!

We couldn't be more thankful to get to talk with an artist as passionate and talented as RB Roe. If you haven't checked GET TUFF out yet, their debut album "in sickness and in hell" is available wherever you listen to music now, including on red glittery cassettes on their merch store!

You can follow Roe and GET TUFF on Twitter @GetTuffStayStuff, and check out our full review of their record here. Let us know who you want to see us interview next by tweeting us @lgndsoftmrw.


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