In his 1999 book “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” author Ray Kurzweil pointed out that things tend to change faster and faster as time passes. Based on this pattern, he predicted that “we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”
A decade and a half into the 21st century, we do indeed find ourselves in a time of unprecedentedly rapid growth and change. So it’s not too surprising to see this spirit of accelerated progress expressed in the name of an indie trip-hop band called Gen Rocket.
“Things seem to be happening faster as communication travels globally in real time,” notes Gen Rocket’s namesake, Ben Lomond’s Genevieve Primavera. “So I think we see this generation moving and changing things at a much faster pace—and with determination, like a rocket.”
Primavera herself is contributing to the acceleration of communication travel: when she’s not making music, painting or dancing (she is formally trained in ballet, modern and jazz dance), she earns a living by creating websites, apps and interactive media, including animation.
The name Gen Rocket has a personal meaning as well as a universal one. “Gen,” of course, refers to Primavera’s first name, which means “white wave.” “You can think of a white wave as a flash, a fresh start, something that’s strong,” the vocalist/multi-instrumentalist offers. “And ‘rocket’ was because [when I named the band,] I was at a turning point in my life where I was ready to launch. I was ready to shoot for the stars, go after my stuff, give no fucks and just do it.”
At the time of our interview, Primavera is winding down after singing with a rock/funk/blues band called Rebelskamp for four hours straight. “They’re an amazing band,” she enthuses. “We had some very Mars Volta moments in there.”
This is one of a few times that Primavera has collaborated with the members of Rebelskamp: she appeared on a song called “Miracles” from their last album, and they played the villains in the music video for Gen Rocket’s song “Fatality.” “We did this 1940s film noir kind of thing where I get kidnapped, and then there’s a surprise ending,” Primavera explains with a chuckle.
Inspiration for the end of the “Fatality” video came from an art installation by sculptor E.V. Day, who took her own inspiration from a character in the opera La Traviata. As Primavera explains, that opera also heavily influenced the storyline of the film Moulin Rouge. “If you think about the story of Moulin Rouge, the character is a dancer, but she’s also a prostitute, and she’s kind of got to be what everybody wants her to be,” she offers. “She’s in love with somebody, but she can’t do that—she can’t be who she wants; she’s entrapped by what society wants of her.”
The parallels between Moulin Rouge and the “Fatality” video were not accidental. “’Fatality’ is about bending to what everybody wants you to be, and you end up burying your own self inside you and suffocating yourself,” Primavera explains.
In depicting the kidnapping of a Marilyn Monroe-like blonde bombshell, the “Fatality” video expresses Primavera’s feelings of being stifled by the expectations of others. “Sometimes when you are attracted to somebody, you have a fantasy in your head of what the ideal person is, and sometimes we [project] those fantasies onto a person,” she observes. “When the person doesn’t act like that, we’re disappointed. And many times, you get into a relationship, you’re having sex right away, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m in love!’ A few years later, it’s: ‘We disagree about everything; we don’t have the same life goals…’ I think it’s because in our moments of lust, we plant these fantasies of people. I’ve been in plenty of relationships where someone expects me to be a certain way, and when they find out I’m not, they’re greatly disappointed. It can be suffocating.”
Romantic relationships are not the only arena in which Primavera feels pressure to meet other people’s expectations. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘You should sing that like Christina Aguilera,’ or ‘You should sing like Gwen Stefani,’” she says. “It’s like, ‘OK, well, you’re listing all these blonde people because I have blonde hair. Now you’re expecting me to take on that persona and be something I’m not.’ So the song [“Fatality”] was kind of like a coming out for me.”
Gen Rocket’s sound has taken on some changes since the release of “Fatality.” This is partly due to the departure of multi-instrumentalist/sound engineer Trance Kelley, with whom Primavera amicably parted ways earlier this year. “I’m not really getting away from trip-hop so much, but I’m doing a little more infusion of some indie blues in there,” notes Primavera, who plays violin, guitar, piano and drums in addition to being a singer.
Primavera aims to release some new Gen Rocket music by March 2016. Though she doesn’t divulge specifics, she makes mention of “remaking a classic ‘80s song, but turning it into something completely different.”
Along with writing material for the next album, the vocalist is in the process of revamping Gen Rocket’s website. She has recently begun adding blog entries to the site and created some new merchandise to help support the project. As a former fashion designer, she created the images that appear on the Gen Rocket shorts, tops, T-shirts and bikinis sold through the website.
Primavera will perform with the aforementioned Rebelskamp at JJ’s Blues Bar in San Jose on December 4th. After that, she’ll return to making Gen Rocket music for a rapidly changing world.
Gen Rocket’s music is available on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Jango Radio.