I first came across the hard rock/metal trio Xero Gravity when I discovered their page on ReverbNation. I immediately became a fan and introduced myself. One thing led to another and I eventually started to work with them on an individual project that helps promote local and upcoming acts across the country. Composed of 14-year-old drummer Steven Rago, 15-year-old bassist/vocalist Jack Rose and 16-year-old guitarist Alex Peragine, these three play like veterans. Heavily influenced by classic heavy metal artists like AC/DC, Metallica and Iron Maiden, their knowledge and passion for music is well beyond their years. The band has exploded onto the local music scene in just a short time, playing venues like The Stone Pony and others.
Although they are a young local act, they show big promise with the classic sound that they produce. I had the chance to talk with Rago about Xero Gravity’s birth and their upcoming performance at the Jersey Shore Music Fest. Steven also tells us how the group is growing up in the digital age and how it relates to their success. The transcription is below:
Tell us a bit about the band. Where did you meet? How long have you been playing together?
We all met at a music program in Red Bank, NJ, called Rockit For Kids. It is a program where kids would audition for a chance to perform songs from different genres at the Count Basie Theatre. We did that for a few years and the three of us eventually became close friends.
We decided to start our own band and had a gig within the first week. It was a Battle of the Bands competition at The Stone Pony. We nailed it with some awesome covers of Megadeth, Iron Maiden, etc. There was only one issue: the judges were looking for “original” songs. We eventually began writing original songs in June of 2011 so we could play more of those competitions and shows, and we haven’t stopped since.
What’s the story behind the name Xero Gravity?
I came up with the band name “Zero Gravity” after a few days of looking through the dictionary for something different, trying to put various words together. I passed it along to my dad, Angelo, who happens to be our manager. He liked it, so I told the rest of the band, and Jack made a suggestion. He said we should change the “Z” to “X” in honor of Peter Steele of the band Carnivore and Type O Negative. We all loved the idea and settled on Xero Gravity.
What sparked your interest in this style of music?
It was pretty much the same for all of us: our dads. They all grew up listening to metal music in the ‘80s. I first fell in love with the genre when my dad turned me on to AC/DC. I later went to see Rush in concert and that was when I really started to admire the drums. Then I got a drum kit of my own and continued to expand to it.
There are an unlimited amount of tools kids can use today to learn their selected instruments. Things like Rocksmith and YouTube are a great way for young players to learn their craft. How did you guys learn to play?
Jack and Alex’s dads are both musicians, so they learned from them the old-fashioned way. I started with Guitar Hero; that’s where I heard the music that I listen to today. From there, I started taking guitar and drum lessons, and eventually just focused on the drums.
We all watch YouTube to see how our heroes do it. In the end, we try to be ourselves. We don’t worry about what we look like or how playing the music itself should look like. Music is about the talent. When people first hear a band, they are exposed to the music, the musicianship—not what they look like. That’s what YouTube is for, to see the bands play, get to know them. From my personal experiences, the best way to learn your craft is to dedicate the time to practice. That’s what is most important.
Any upcoming releases or downloadable music?
We are always working on new songs. There is a unique process to how we come up with new material as well. Alex will start by writing the guitar parts and then he will pass it along to me for drums. After that, Jack creates his basslines and hands it back to Alex so he could write the lyrics. The final step is to hand it back to Jack for vocals. A few times around, the songs begin to come together and have a life of their own.
Our music is always available on our Facebook and ReverbNation pages. We don’t currently sell our songs, but we want to allow our fans to stream them whenever they want. We are in the process of writing a new song now about zombies! We are looking forward to finishing that up and making a video for it (laughs).
You guys are playing the Jersey Shore Music Fest on July. 20. Will this be the biggest crowd you’ll be playing to?
We did play the Bamboozle Festival last May. It just so happened, it was the same day that the Foo Fighters played. I was told that 60,000 people showed up that day. I am not saying that all of the Foo Fighters fans stopped by to see us play, but they did walk by our stage at some point. We like to consider that the largest crowd we’ve played to (laughs).
How did you get added to the bill?
We know Matt Burns, the guy who put the whole [festival] together, through our experiences at The Stone Pony. He’s the one who sets up the shows for the local bands. He was impressed by our band and he contacted us to play on July 20.
Some say the most important thing for a local band is to play shows and grow a fanbase organically. Do you guys have a favorite moment playing live so far?
We don’t have a particular favorite. Every show for us is special. It doesn’t matter if 10 fans show up or 1,000 fans. We love to be on the stage and give our best performance. We love what we do and we want nothing more than to do it right and to give our fans a good time. There is no reason why we should ever give a mediocre performance, especially when fans have to spend their hard-earned money on a ticket.
As a local band, what tools do you use to connect with your fans?
We use all of the social networks, but Facebook is by far the most popular. We also use Twitter, YouTube and ReverbNation. My dad, our manager, is also constantly posting something about Xero Gravity. Sometimes he likes to tell the fans about some of our shows before he tells us. There have been occasions where we wouldn’t even know about some of the shows until we log on to our pages. He’s the BRAINS!
What’s next for Xero Gravity?
Besides the new material we are working on, we are looking to play any show that we can get. That’s what matters to us.
Xero Gravity will be playing at the Jersey Shore Music Fest at FirstEnergy Park on July 20. For more information, find them on Facebook or go to reverbnation.com/xerogravity.