Few people have had their fingers in as many musical pies in the Valley as Rob Ives, aka Robo and/or Robert American, a multi-instrumentalist who’s proven a highly energetic, hardworking journeyman. He’s also gained a reputation as a creative force in both songwriting and stage costume whose imagination is second only to his capacity for fun and adventure. The Advocate cornered Robo at the Silver Spoon in Easthampton over lunch; longtime bandmate Joe Magrone joined in, but, in Elwood Blues fashion, only ordered a water.
Valley Advocate: What bands have you been in since coming back to the Valley?
Robert American: I moved back [from California] in 2003. I was in The Justice League, then I got into The Probates, then The Bunnies, then I started Problem with Dragons, and then, a couple years ago, Speak.
Joe Magrone: Jesse and The Rippers.
Robo: Oh, yeah! The cover band, Jesse and The Rippers, which is me, Dan Egan, John Hicks, and my bro [Josh Boyle]—guys I grew up with, who were always like “we should be in a band” for like 30 years, so we finally formed one, mostly so Dan Egan could play more at Eganstock, since Hot Black doesn’t always play, and we needed more Egan in our Eganstock.
When is Eganstock? And where is it?
Robo: September 14. It’s in Montgomery—nobody remembers the name of the town. Your mind is erased every time you go there. Also, Problem with Dragons is playing the Keene Music Festival [Aug. 31]. I think they’re having a “metal” stage, for the first time. This guy Antoine, from Wicked Music in New Hampshire, set it up.
You guys have done some touring, haven’t you?
Robo: Speak did one mini-tour. Problem with Dragons went out to California three times, two of which we went all the way up to Seattle and back down to San Diego. We also did a couple 10-day tours of the Northeast, and we do tons of little road gigs—we always have a pretty packed schedule.
What’s the name of your live sound production company?
Robo: Robo Sound. That’s at robosound.com. I do live sound. I can set up indoors or outdoors. I’ll do weddings.
Much of your visual Internet presence is indicative of a Star Wars obsession. Can you explain?
Robo: Yeah. Sorry.
Magrone: Rob loves space and he’s a nerd.
Robo: Yup. I’m a nerd. Problem with Dragons is a band about imperialism, so I totally rip off the Japanese rising sun, the stormtrooper thing, the Death Star thing, all the time. They were shows of overwhelming military force, the Japanese and the… well, the “Empire.” They’re even called “The Empire,” and they have a planet-sized battleship that can blow up an entire planet in one shot. Talk about completely unnecessary. And it was a trade war thing! So they’re blowing up all their own gold deposits and supplies and slave labor…
You’d think they’d need the mineral resources to finish framing out their 12 decks of Death Star bathrooms or something.
Robo: Maybe it’s easier to mine the nickel and the iron out of the core of the planet after they’ve blown it up.
Sure, just collect the asteroids.
Robo: Mmmm. Pick out the bones.•
Check out Problem with Dragons at www.problemwithdragons.bandcamp.com and Robo Sound at www.robosound.com.