By Chyrisse Tabone and Vlad T – Rock At Night Tampa & Detroit
INTERVIEW: Ronnie Winter of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus-February 19, 2022 at Kraken Fest 2022
Rock At Night caught up with lead singer Ronnie Winter of The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (TRJA) at Kraken Music Fest 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Before the band’s set, we chatted with him briefly about growing up in Middleburg, Florida, a suburb of Jacksonville, the band’s early days playing in Gainesville and Orlando, and even his favorite venues. Check out this interview as we delve into the band’s roots!
You can listen to the audio interview via your favorite podcast format or read a transcription below:
ROCK AT NIGHT: We are at the Kraken Fest in Orlando. It is February 19th. And there’s a lot of loud music going on. There’s a couple things I wanted to ask you. Your band originally is from Middleburg, Florida. Is that correct? That’s close to here in Orlando.
Ronnie Winter: Very close. Orlando is like a second home to us. It is one of the very first places we used to play on weekend runs when we all still had real jobs. So, it’s always going to be a good time when we play Orlando.
ROCK AT NIGHT: Middleburg. I used to live in Gainesville and would pass through Middleburg going to Jacksonville. What was it like growing up there?
Ronnie Winter: It funny you should mention Gainesville because I used to go over there on the weekends to hang out with my friends who did the smart thing and went to college. A lot of people who went to Middleburg High School got into [school in] Gainesville, so I got to go hang out there and see what it was like. I decided to take a more rock and roll path. But, it was cool growing up in Middleburg, in my opinion, because it was a small town. Everybody did know everybody and there was not a lot of distractions. There was not really much going on, which gave me time to just jam with the band.
You know, my living room didn’t have any furniture. It was all musical gear, PA drums, and guitar cabs. So I was just a 24/7 musician—and that’s just it. Music came before everything else. And I don’t know if I’d have been able to accomplish that in a town other than one like Middleburg.
ROCK AT NIGHT: So really, you had no distractions. You did it to keep busy and you met other like-minded people there.
Ronnie Winter: Right? I mean, if you came to my house (even if you weren’t in my band) chances are you were a band member of some sort or with some other band that I was friends with. I mean, we were always jamming with everybody. All the time . It was a very kind of open or karaoke bar almost—when I moved out and got my own place. So it was cool. It was like a meeting ground for all kinds of local musicians and a lot of people still remember it.
ROCK AT NIGHT: Right now you’re at Kraken Fest. What’s going on in 2022 for the band?
Ronnie Winter: Well, you know, we’re just celebrating the return of live music like everybody else. The fans seem to be really pumped and excited. We’ve just been selling out shows which is a huge, huge blessing and just a kind of a surprise honestly, because right before we went out some bands weren’t doing so well. There is an underground band grapevine and so we went out there and we were just having really, really great results.
We have been a band for 18 years and we’ve never taken a hiatus and we’ve never stopped touring ever. So for us that year break from our fans, really just ignited and reignited a more passionate fan base somehow. I mean, I can’t really put my finger on it. But we’re seeing it.
ROCK AT NIGHT: Coming back to Orlando is kind of like coming home. But how are you treated here as versus, let’s say, if you’re in the L.A. or New York? I presume you go overseas?
Ronnie Winter: Yep, we tour the world. We are overseas all the time (pre-COVID, of course).
I mean, a lot of our actual personal family and friends come to the Orlando shows. So, typically in the crowd, it’s a lot of our friends out there. So it does feel like a second hometown show. I’m not going to say it’s as good as when we play Jacksonville because that would be a lie. It’s just absolutely mental every time we play jacks, but we’ve never had a bad show in Orlando in 18 years. But all of our favorite punk rock clubs are closed now so we haven’t really done an Orlando headline show in a couple years because we’ve been playing Kraken Fest. This is our third Kraken Fest in a row. We’re happy to be back. So, you know, it’s either House of Blues or nothing and we’re used to that in the underground Orlando punk rock scene. It’s just kind of unfortunately gone. So we’re just waiting for that next cool CBGB’s type [of club] and then we’ll go hit that.
ROCK AT NIGHT: Do you have a favorite venue or place to visit when you guys tour?
Ronnie Winter: I do. I mean, I actually live in California. I’ve been there for seven years now, but my favorite venue to play is actually still currently in Jacksonville, Florida called the Murray Hill Theater. And, my other favorite venue is also in Jacksonville called Jack Rabbit’s. So I mean, that was the first club we ever really blew up in and every band you’ve ever heard of played there. It’s still awesome. And then the Murray Hill is where we play now, which is kind of the same thing. But bigger scale.
ROCK AT NIGHT: There’s a tradition of bands that have emerged from the northeast part of Florida like nu metal and so on. You guys are really the most current proponent of that, or the growth of that. What really drives you? What really catalyzed that kind of signature sound from Northeast Florida because you really don’t see that all sort of the state?
Ronnie Winter: Yeah, you’re right. That’s very observant. And I think we just tried to learn from bands that came before us. We were fans of bands like Limp Bizkit, who are from Jacksonville. We thought it was the coolest thing in the world when they made it. And you know, a lot of people might have, you know, talk crap about it, but they were Hometown Heroes.
Any kid who is a musician who knew, “Wow, these people actually lived here.” They shopped at this Walmart, you know, like you break it down in your mind to that level. So it’s a huge victory for somebody like us. And then, Shinedown has members from Jacksonville as well. So that’s a kind of heavy band as well and we’re just surrounded by it. Jacksonville loves heavy music.
So really we’re a pop punk band who learned to evolve so we became what is now known as “post-hardcore” and that was when our first album was already out there. There’s a lot of screaming and breakdowns and like cool intricate guitar. But underneath all of that is a very, very fundamental pop-punk background. So that’s why they call it “post-hardcore”. I think that’s where we really most comfortably fit.
Rock At Night’s theme song is “Get On Down If You Feel Up To It” by Billy “Bass” Alford
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