Multi-talented musician Jeff Rouse can clearly feel comfortable with any group of musicians, as is evident by looking at his extensive resume. He has played with Alien Crime Syndicate, Vendetta Red, Sirens Sister, Fozzy and of course Duff McKagan’s Loaded. And that’s just scratching the surface. But since the summer of 2013, when The Guessing Game formed, it seems like he is really at home in his musical skin, with his open and honest lyrics and being able to be the “captain” of the musical ship. With the recent release of their second album, The Guessing Game is ready to take on the world. And if don’t already know who they are, it’s really only a matter of time.
Now, if you are a follower of music in the Seattle, Washington area, there is no doubt that you are aware of the band, or at least one of its members. The Guessing Game is a conglomeration of some of Seattle’s best (musicians, that is, not coffee, though there is probably a healthy dose of coffee involved as well). After a few years of being a supporting band member, Rouse is now the frontman on vocals and guitar, with Kathy Moore (Brad, Satchel) handling guitar and vocal duties as well, along with keyboards. Also on guitar is Gary Westlake (Peter Frampton, Flight to Mars), with Keith Ash (Star Anna) on bass and Shawn Zellar (Redneck Girlfriend) on drums. In case you didn’t catch that, that’s three guitar players. Not one, not two, but three. According to Rouse, it wasn’t difficult to find the right players for the band: ”Well, I had known everyone except Kathy Moore. Gary, Shawn and myself were playing in a band called To The Glorious Lonely along with Davey French from Everclear. His schedule was just really busy so I decided to put together another band. I knew Keith from his previous band and after our first rehearsal, I thought it would be great to add a keyboardist who could maybe play a little guitar. Keith and Gary knew Kathy and she came in and just floored me. From day one, the chemistry was just right. It’s been so easy and inspiring.”
Last year, they put out their debut album Holy Crow. Some of those songs, Rouse had been working on in his own time, before the group actually formed, and when he had a break from other work, he took the opportunity to record them with The Guessing Game and his bandmates helped him to fill in any missing pieces, as well as put together several new tunes. Holy Crow received a great response with tunes such as Where the Stars, Selling Heartache and Dear God.
Always the busy man, following the release of that album, Chris Jericho from Fozzy needed a bassist, and Rouse filled that spot. However, all the other members of the Guessing Game also have continued with their other projects so everyone kept busy during the down time. Definitely never a dull moment, as each and every member is in high demand, especially in the Seattle music scene. You could refer to them as a super-group, for sure.
And now The Guessing Game is back in full force with their sophomore release, Destroy It All, released on August 20th along with the album’s first single, Death Valley. As Rouse has said in the recent past, “Sometimes art imitates life. The Guessing Game has been the saving grace in mine. Shawn, Kathy, Gary and Keith lifted me up and once again followed me down a path that I needed and wanted to explore… Destroy It All is a testament to what we have become as a band and what five people can do emotionally, artistically, and cinematically in once again a very short time.” According to Rouse, “We recorded Destroy It All at Litho Studio here in Seattle with Don Gunn. We produced it along with him. It was the same place and team we did with Holy Crow. It was so easy and fun we just decided to not fuck with the process.” Though the team was the same, the sound has definitely grown and developed. “Destroy It All is quite a bit different than Holy Crow. I think it’s a natural progression for us. It’s a testament to what this band can do sonically.” He also shared that the title track, Destroy It All, was “by far the funnest and most surprising song we wrote and recorded and the coolest moment for me in the studio. It kind of just came out of the blue when we were rehearsing in L.A. for some show we were doing. I thank my band so much for supporting my decision to try such a different kind of song.” The beautiful cover image for the album (which Rouse says, “I just fucking love”) was created by Jim Kazanjian. You can find more of his work here: http://www.kazanjian.net/. And Rouse adds, “Jesse Scherr created the rest. We have a good team what helps us out always!”
Rouse shared some of his thoughts on a few of the albums songs. As for the single, Death Valley: “Wrote it the night before we tracked the record. One of those songs that just writes itself.” On the very personal That Much Faith: “Hard to listen to. Maybe a bit too personal. But I love the song.” And as far as Lovesong, a cover of The Cure’s classic song, Rouse says that it has been “a favorite song of mine for years. Tracked the whole thing in 40 minutes.” But we won’t spoil the whole thing, you will have to buy the album for the full story and to check out all nine tracks.
While Rouse tends to steer the direction of the band somewhat, he is not afraid to let his bandmates shine as well. As far as the songwriting process, Rouse shared, “Songwise, I tend to get us going in a particular direction. Some songs more than others. On this record, I really wanted to show the explosiveness of Gary and Kathy’s guitar playing. With that in my head, it was really easy to come up with songs that would let them shine.” While she was the last to join, the vocal pairing of Rouse and Moore (who he has referred to as a “gospel Joan Jett”) seems like it was meant to be as their voices mesh extremely well together.
Sometimes artists will list a slew of bands past and present as their influences,but Rouse has a different outlook, as he said, “Well, having done this for so long now, my influences are who I’m playing with and what’s going on in my life. That seems to dictate my direction.” And although he has had the opportunity to play with so many musicians in his time, there are still some that he would love to share the stage with. “I would love to work with or perform with so many people,” he said. “From Prince to Iggy Pop to Keith Urban. Any chance to create with amazingly creative people is always welcome in my world.” In his free time, if there is such a thing, Rouse says, “I love teaching and I love riding my Harley. Outside of that, I would need more hours in the day for anything else!”
As Rouse continues to promote Destroy It All, he says that there is definitely no end in sight for Loaded either, and there always new projects on the horizon. According to him, “Loaded is always a band. But I’ve been working with Duff on a record this summer that will be coming out soon. It’s fucking brilliant! I can’t wait for people to hear it. A lot of great people are playing on it. Fans will be stoked!”
As the band’s bio states:”With the aggressive sound of this new album, The Guessing Game is ready to take their place in the vanguard of the international rock scene. Fueled by the ferocious vocals of Jeff Rouse, and driven by the onslaught of heavy guitar riffs, the band has been winning legions of fans with its uncompromising stage show.”
For those who were able to pre-order the album, there was a $1 discount. Now, it’s too late for that, but it’s definitely worth that extra dollar.
Rouse says not to worry that The Guessing Game website only has the album release show listed (at least at the time of this writing). “We have a lot more shows coming up,” he said. “Some local stuff here in Seattle and some west coast dates as well. Just keep an eye out for us! It’s all happening!”