INTERVIEW | Conversing with Paul and GE of The Vice Rags

Blue collar rock from the Garden State


Three chords and a lethal hook pretty much sums up The Vice Rags.

Two dudes from North Brunswick hooked up with two dudes from Hillsborough to make the kind of rock peculiar to New Jersey, music so brash it's bordering on insolent. Music rippling with muscle and surging with testosterone.

Based in Asbury Park, The Vice Rags are Paul Rosevear (vocals, guitar), Joe Chyb (drums), Jack Roberts (guitar), and GE "Gay Elvis" (bass, vocals). They recently released their music video "Jersey Boy."

Popdust sat down with Paul and GE to find out more about the band and, mostly, to clear up what a vice rag is.

How would you describe yourself?

Paul: We make simple, soulful, three-chord rock n' roll that's down to earth and real.

GE: I'd say I'm pasty white, with liberal amount of flab in the mid-section, I've got less hair on the top of my head and more hair growing in places where I'd rather it not. When I shave my face I also have to shave my ears. (I'm like an elf).

What is the most trouble you've ever gotten into?

GE: Well, the amount of trouble that I'd be willing to discuss. When I was 17, I was caught trying to dine and dash from the Hillsborough diner. I was with a group of friends and we tore out of there in my car, hollering and yelling like we just committed a bank heist. Unfortunately, I was also swerving, got promptly pulled over by a cop who noticed the ketchup all over my shirt and said to me. Hey wait a minute, did you guys just dine and dash from the Hillsborough diner. My response..."Uh...No...Officer." Naturally he didn't buy it.

What's your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?

Paul: Lately it's "Blessings" by Chance the Rapper.

GE: "Wait" by White Lion.

Who is your favorite music artist?

Paul: Dylan

GE: Jellyfish

How did you get started in music? What's the backstory there?

Paul: I took piano lessons when I was a kid and found I had a knack for it. Then at 13 I saw the pastor in my church playing guitar and leading everybody in song and I wanted to do that. Next came Skynyrd covers with my metalhead friends and I never looked back.

What musicians influenced you the most?

GE: On bass, when I get stuck on a bass line I ask myself, What would McCartney do? Mix in a littler Karl Alvarez (Descendents) and you can't go wrong.

How, if at all, do your musical influences shape and impact your music?

Paul: If I'm wondering how to sing something I will usually think of Ray Charles because he puts so much feeling into every note.

What kind of guitar do you play? And why?

GE: A Fender P Bass. It was my first bass. It was $500 and I had $500 to spend. Through the years I've owned many others, but I always return to the P. It's just my bass. It sounds and feels like me.

Paul: I've played Epiphone Casinos for years. It's the perfect rock guitar for a songwriter because it gets good and dirty, but it's also percussive like an acoustic.

What's the story behind the band's name – The Vice Rags?

Paul: Every band dreads this task. We tried to get it out of the way early. At our first jam session a cockroach crawled into our circle as we stood out in the parking lot. So we called ourselves COCKROACH. Pretty bad. A couple months later for our first show we changed it to The Roaches. Not as bad, but there was already a well-known NJ folk band called The Roches and local promoters wouldn't book us. We tried The Roaches Of Red Bank for one show but nobody could take that seriously. Eventually we went back to the drawing board and settled on The Vice Rags, based on a song we liked.

Your music is described as "blue collar rock." How would you describe your sound?

Paul: I'd agree with that. The fun is in taking a style of music you know and love, and seeing how you can make it your own.

What inspired your new single "Jersey Boy?" Did one of you lose your girl to some stockbroker on Wall Street, or what?

Paul: Not exactly, but when I first moved to NYC I was stunned at how freely everybody would hate on Jersey, like they were so much better. All from people who weren't even from New York! That really chapped my ass, to quote an old friend. So that's part of what the guy in the song is feeling. On the one hand, he's insecure, but on the other hand he knows they're all a bunch of phonies.

Prior to The Vice Rags, all of you played with other bands of vastly different styles. When The Vice Rags got together, how did you choose the band's musical direction? Did it just happen? Or did you sit down and discuss it?

GE: As for the musical direction, it's like Paul is the driver and we're on our way to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's. We each take turns at being the nagging wife (not that any of our wives are nagging) and annoying children (not that any of our children are annoying) and we essentially bombard him with direction, questions and insults until he quietly gets out of the car, beaten down and doesn't say a single thing at dinner.

What's next for you musically? An EP, an album?

Paul: We're writing songs now for our next EP on Mint 400 Records, out next year.

Will you be doing any touring?

Sure we tour all the time. We tour all the way from Asbury Park up to Jersey City and back down again. I'd imagine we'll be doing more of that.

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Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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