RL Brooks is what you call a multitalented guy.
In addition to handling vocals, guitar and trumpet for Kansas City-based band Maps for Travelers, he also runs a T-shirt company, Seen Merch, which specializes in merchandise and branding.
Maps for Travelers performs Saturday at the Riot Room, along with Ladyfinger, Everyday/Everynight and Back When, beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7 at theriotroom.com.
Recently, he spoke with Ink about his musical influences, promising Kansas City bands and the roots of the T-shirt business.
1. What’s the album that influences you the most and why?
There is one moment for me as a guitar player that a light bulb went off, and I remember exactly where I was and exactly the feeling of that moment. “Full Collapse” by Thursday. Sitting on my bed in my room, just listening with my guitar in hand and just the raw energy of that record, the way they put their chords together and how that shaped this amazing, heavy, dreamy, sonic story.
2. What’s an album you’ve never gotten tired of listening to?
Sunny Day Real Estate’s “The Rising Tide.” Jeremy Enigk’s voice is just so angelic and that record rocks, it soothes, it transcends. It’s just always there for me wherever I’m at, weathering a storm, in the middle or in the calm. It just hits me where I’m at, no matter what’s going on in my life.
3.What local bands are you most excited about keeping an eye on in 2013?
A few. Radkey. I think these guys are in for a wild ride this year, and the next good amount of years. It’s raw, it’s coming from a real place. I can dig it. And Cowboy Indian Bear. These guys and gal are pound-for-pound some of the most talented people I’ve ever seen. Their new record is going to be a game changer for them and for the Record Machine, I think.
And Clairaudients have been working so hard and are living what they are playing — songs from the heart — and it’s just natural coming out. It’s frightening, engaging and, best of all, authentic. Finally, the Architects. They have one hell of a year on the horizon with tons of new music coming out. These guys are the kings of rock ’n’ roll here in KC.”
4. What’s the most recent album you’ve fallen in love with?
The Casket Lottery’s “Real Fear.” It’s been a long time since these guys have put out a record, and I’ve loved everything they have done. These guys just put it all on the table — vocals, the story lines, drums and bass just as cool and tight as it gets. Just put on “Donnie Darko” on mute and put this record in and you’ll get it. And I’m so pumped that Maps for Travelers is doing a little mini tour with these guys in January to Milwaukee and Chicago.
5. I know you also run Seen Merch. How did you get into the T-shirt business?
My former band Flee the Seen was doing pretty well for ourselves touring and traveling and meeting people all over, and I just started to make connections with people around the country, and I had a buddy who owned a T-shirt company. As a traveling musician, it was really hard to find a gig that I could travel with and not get fired from. Fortunately, my buddy hired me and let me do what I needed to do. Long story short, my friends’ bands got really big and I just sold T-shirts for my buddy’s business, and that was the start of it, really.
6.What song helped you find your voice as a musician?
“Blister” by Jimmy Eat World of their album “Clarity.” For one, the song itself just resonated with me. His voice just rang out to me and it just made me go, “You know, I love this song so much and I can sing like that,” and I went for it, and it helped me to find my vocal voice as well.
Secondly, I had just been singing background stuff in Flee the Seen, as Kim our vocalist was a badass singer. She meant every word she wrote and everything had an intention. For me, that this song, which was sung by Tom instead of Jim on this record, gave me a sense that two voices could go really well together and could also stand alone on a record without there being an issue.