When the Iron Roses formed a couple of years ago, they were a pretty basic angry punk band that stemmed from performing with vocalist Nathan Gray for his solo career. They played as a unit more than some established bands, yet it took a moment before it dawned on Gray or anyone else that the group could grow bigger and better as a singular creative entity. And as the sextet took shape in the post-pandemic years, they morphed into just that.
Now ready to release their self-titled debut album (out on Oct. 20 through Iodine Recordings), the Iron Roses’ expansive sound goes well beyond power chords and singalong choruses. Instead, they bring in sounds and styles from all over the board to accurately convey the complex emotions that come with existing in the modern day.
“We’re all punk kids — and I use the term ‘kids’ very loosely — but we found what motivated and influenced each of the diverse members in this band, and a lot of what came out were hip hop, reggae and ska,” Gray tells SPIN over the phone. “It gave us something different than the obvious ‘angry punk.’ It’s something more joyful and more purposeful than what was already being done.”
“We’re still speaking to heavy, important themes, but we’re doing it in a manner that’s more celebratory,” co-vocalist Becky Fontaine adds. “We have that middle finger up, but it’s almost mocking, like ‘You can piss me off, but you can’t take my joy away from me.’”
Throughout the album’s 11 tracks, the band dives into politics, personal lives and more. The Iron Roses are somewhat shaped by Gray’s journey from vocalist for post-hardcore band BoySetsFire to discovering their true self as a nonbinary solo artist to the new endeavor with the band. Yet each song contains a variety of styles and elements that will ring true to the much larger audience of anyone dissatisfied with the way that the power structure of modern society works.
The Iron Roses’ self-titled album is more ambitious both musically and thematically than most artists choose (or even would be allowed) to go on a debut. They incorporate elements from a wide range of genres from ska to rap to reggae within tightly crafted and well-written punk songs, which makes perfect sense for a band whose first album comes nearly three decades in to some of their members’ careers. It’s not an album of naive youth in revolt. It’s a collection of songs from people who have been around long enough to know how the world works, what they like about it and what they won’t tolerate any longer.
Their members are also a reminder to the LGBTQ kids of today that even if they don’t feel they fit in today, there’s a future for them where they’re loved and appreciated.
“As somebody who’s queer and nonbinary, there weren’t even words for that when I was younger,” Gray says. “People like me didn’t grow up. You died. You either killed yourself or you were taken out by someone else. There was not a lot of hope that there could be older versions of me, and that’s something I think kids need to see. They’ll see other kids like them, obviously, but you also need to see people who are well past your age still being who they are, so that you know that you can still be like that when you grow up. A lot of kids don’t get to see that onstage in this older generation, so it’s nice to be able to be the elder weirdos.”
“I have two kids in their teens, and one of them is trans, so I’m speaking songs into the universe that are meant for those ears,” Fontaine adds. “It helps them feel seen and helps them have reasons to get up every day and stay alive so that they can save us from ourselves when they get to that voting box or into Congress. There’s something powerful in providing that for the younger generation who might not have role models in our age group.”