An Interview with Andrew Conroy of Rain City Rockers

Words by Nick Hodgins

If you asked Andrew Conroy about his band Rain City Rockers, he might mention how Tom Thacker of Sum 41/Gob shreds on their debut record, Mayday, or how Darrin Pfeiffer of Goldfinger is one of the best and most consistent drummers around. He’d talk about Anthony Bleed of Die Mannequin, his talent as a bass player and what a pleasure it was to work alongside such prominent musicians.

While all that is true, Conroy—being the modest person he is—might leave out what a huge role he played in not only composing essentially the entire album by himself, but also assembling this supergroup of punk rockers. So just how did this self-proclaimed “nobody” find himself recording his own written work alongside Tom Thacker, Darrin Pfeiffer and Anthony Bleed?

It was 2008 when Conroy first reached out to Thacker on MySpace. “I was a huge Gob fan as a kid and I just wanted him to hear my stuff,” Conroy said as we sat at a bar on a rainy New York City night. “When you send stuff out like that into the abyss you never think anyone’s going to read it.”

But to Conroy’s surprise, the fellow Vancouver rocker not only read it and listened to his demos, but he had liked what he heard so much that he expressed interest in writing together. Conroy said, “So when later I decided to put this project together I knew I wanted to ask Tom, I thought that’d be really cool and he was really excited to be a part of it.”

Conroy was browsing vinyl at a record store in San Francisco when the idea for Mayday first came to him. “The way music was recorded back in the 60s and 70s I think was super cool,” he said. “Live right off the floor, minimal overdubs, lots of mistakes in place—just a bunch of musicians making music, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

His quest for those musicians continued when he reached out to an old friend of his from Toronto, Darrin Pfeiffer of Goldfinger.

“I actually hadn’t spoken to him in years. I just kind of called him out of the blue and he was totally down to it,” he said. “I loved Goldfinger as a kid and I know that Darrin is a super good drummer, one of the few who can really really drum well, and consistently well. So I wanted to ask him.”

With only the role of bassist left to fill, the team that would become Rain City Rockers was nearly complete. “Anthony I had met by emailing Die Mannequin. I never expected a response,” Conroy said. “But hey, sometimes you just got to try. He and I clicked right away.”

Because they all lived in different cities and had busy schedules of their own, getting together to practice wasn’t much of an option, so Conroy decided to go with the next best option. “When I did the demos for the record, I did all the instruments,” he explained. “I did all the drums, all the guitars and then I sent it out to them and said if you want to change anything, go for it.”

The foursome eventually settled on a date to get together and managed to record the whole album in one day at Blue Wave studio in Vancouver. Heading into the session, Conroy admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect, and referred to the whole thing as a shot in the dark.

He said, “It was crazy because we’d never played as a band before. Are we going to suck? Are we going to pull it off? And even though I had known all these guys for years, I had never played music with them, so I was a little star struck at this point.

“I just kept telling myself be cool, be cool. And then we played, and Tom was singing on the record as well, and I could hear his vocals in my ears and I’m like, I grew up to that, which at that point I was just trying to keep it together. It was the most incredible experience of my life.”

Mayday was recorded entirely live off the floor—just as Conroy envisioned inside that San Francisco record store. Despite the band never playing together before that point, you wouldn’t be able to tell by listening to this album. The foursome put together a classic pop-punk record reminiscent of the early 2000 era, complete with bright guitars, vocal harmonies and tales of chasing girls.

Conroy is pulling for a West Coast Rain City Rockers tour following the new year and hoping to get to the East Coast in the summer, though he’s aware it might be a challenge with everyone’s  responsibilities. “It’s kind of tough, because everyone plays in their other bands,” he said, “We’ll see how it works out. Hopefully it does.” | Mayday