ABSTRACT KEYBOARD TEXTURES COLLIDING with blissful pop vocals. Raucous guitars duking it out with complex acoustic-electronic beats. That’s the creative yet catchy sound of The Rocket Summer’s recently released sixth studio album, Zoetic.
By any reckoning, The Rocket Summer is an impressive band. But they're even more impressive once you realize "they" are a "he." The Rocket Summer is a one-man project by Bryce Avary, a Texas-bred keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, drummer, singer, songwriter, producer, and engineer. He tours with a full band, but in the studio, Bryce is strictly a solo act.

Avary picked up his first instrument—guitar—at age 12. "At 13," he recalls, "I locked myself away and started learning a handful of instruments. When I was 14, I started playing acoustic shows. When I was 17, I made an EP where I played everything, and then made another record that way. By that point I realized that this is just what I do. I surround myself with a bunch of instruments and see how far I can push myself."

Even by that ambitious standard, Zoetic is a showstopper, Avary's most energetic and sonically adventurous release to date. "It's the most aggressive and experimental record I've ever made," he says. "I just kept building and building, trying to make something unique unto itself with its own vibe and sound."


BryceAvary portraitAvary doesn't have a set songwriting method. "They're all different adventures," he says. "But most often it starts with me at a piano or a guitar. I just come up with ideas—chord structures, riffs, little hooks—and sing melodies overthem. Sometimes when I write, a phrase and a melody just appear, the music and the lyrics at the same time. When that happens, I build a song around it, because it was meant to be. I view the song-making process as a mystical, spiritual thing."

But that doesn't mean Bryce just sits around waiting for inspiration to strike. "You have to have a work ethic," he insists. "You have to get up and write, even when it seems like you can't. Yes, the best ideas happen unexpectedly, so when they do, I try to be prepared for them. I'm never too far from an instrument. I have an unbelievably large collection of voice memos I've made to capture melodic ideas. I'm always on call for the songs."

Avary is a longtime Yamaha user—both keyboards and drums. "I've never used anything but Yamaha keyboards, and I've been doing this for 13 years," he says. "I've gravitated toward them from an early age. They're bright yet lush and rich sounding. On a record, they cut through a mix really well, but they can be mellow when you need them to be. I just love the sound of Yamaha pianos. And if your instrument inspires you, better songs happen. I can't tell you how many times I've been inspired by the piano itself. I think I'll always play Yamaha pianos."

Avary's Yamaha C5 grand appears on all his records, though it's too big to take on the road. "But that's the beauty of Yamaha keyboards," he says. "They sound so incredibly good, and they work just fine for live settings. I used to use a P90 stage piano, and then I used the S90 ES a lot and delved pretty deeply into its sounds. I've used the CP300 too."

"This isn't lip service," Bryce adds. "Yamaha has truly tapped into something that's inspired me over the years. All I really have are hope and inspiration—that's where the songs come from. I'm always looking for inspiration, always looking for that spark. And it comes easily with the instruments that Yamaha makes."

Currently on tour supporting Zoetic, Avary isn't yet certain what his next venture will be. "I don't really know what the future holds," he says, "but Lord knows I'm thinking about it all the time. I'm always trying to create ideas."

One possibility is a more acoustic record. "There's something really beautiful about just one vocal and one piano," Bryce says. "Sometimes you can mess up a song by putting it through the wringer and adding too many things. At the same time, I like to take advantage of technology, and I'm kind of ADD. So sometimes just playing one instrument gets a little boring."

Whatever direction his inspiration takes him, Bryce plans to enjoy the trip. "It's a weird journey, the whole songwriting process," he says. "I still haven't figured out the rules. Actually, I don't believe there are any rules. I've written songs so many different ways. But it's most fun when it's a little off the cuff. I like when it feels like you're going on some sort of Alice in Wonderland journey."