One of the more impressive musical groups populating the stages of clubs and venues throughout the Great Lakes Bay region is a collective of three musical architects known as ROCKTROPOLIS who manage to infuse the ears of their audience with an originality of sound built upon a foundation of advanced and accomplished musicianship that balances complex and dynamic rhythmic patterns with intricate song constructions into a wall of musical sound that is as equally melodic as it is epic.
Consisting of drummer & percussionist Marc Stemmler and the powerhouse team of Sam Metropoulos on keyboards & bass with his son Pete Metropoulos carving intricate sonic flourishes on the electric guitar, ROCKTROPOLIS is a breath of fresh air on the musical landscape, harboring an uncompromising and focused vision that is built upon a commitment to perform nothing but their own original music, entirely instrumental in nature, that harnesses order out of chaos.
Perhaps the most apt way to describe their style is Progressive Metal; yet embedded within the phrasing of their original compositions is a volcano of mixed influences that range from groups like Dream Theater, Rush, Yes, and Iron Maiden to Deep Purple and Yngwie Malsteen.
According to Marc, seeds for the group were first planted back in 2004, after his father passed away. “Sam and I played together in bands for years, only I had pretty much retired from the music scene,” he explains. “I was married with little kids and working three jobs and had grown tired of the cover scene, along with everything that comes with it. Basically, I sold all the equipment that I had; and then my Dad passed away in 2004 and Sam came to the funeral. We started talking about what we found exciting about music, and shortly after that I got divorced and the three of us started making music together in 2006. I had met Sam's son Pete when he was a little guy around 8-years old and couldn't believe how proficient and accomplished he had become on the guitar. So the three of us started building songs together and everything flowed from that point onward.”
The vision for the band was to build a group focused upon intricate musicianship showcasing all original material that would carry a substantial presence; and in the six years since their formation, dedication to that dream is beginning to pay off.
This year ROCKTROPOLIS was nominated in three different categories at the Detroit Music Awards, with Pete receiving nominations for Outstanding songwriter and instrumentalist; and the group receiving a nomination in the Rock category. The band is also represented by Howard Hertz and Joseph Bellanca who handle artists such as George Clinton, The Romantics, Eminem and Marilyn Manson. Additionally, the group is putting the finishing touches on their debut album, which is being produced with Chris Lewis at Fire Hyena Studios.
“When we first started playing music together, our pet peeve was that we did not want to perform any cover material,” stresses Sam. “The initial pieces we wrote might be considered as songs, but they are actually more along the lines of classical music, featuring one movement followed by another movement.”
Today the group has seventeen original compositions under their belt with even more in the works, making an effort to perform together regularly while putting the finishing touches on their debut CD release. “Our short-term goal is to get the new CD released,” explains Pete. “I just finished recording all my guitar parts and we are in the mixing and mastering phase of the recording process. The album should be ready for an end of summer or early fall release and will feature 8 songs, all instrumental.”
ROCKTROPOLIS developed their name through an equally intriguing collision of circumstance. “My name Pete in Greek translates into rock,” explains Metropoulos, “which is like the foundation. If you splice that onto part of my last name, it just seems to work. Actually, it was used as a nickname for me ever since I was 16 years old, so we decided to use it for the band.”
When asked about what they find most challenging as they move forward with their vision of breaking into new markets with their unique sound, Marc explains that because of the dynamics involved, the journey can get stressful. “There's a lot of integrity in our band and we've all been through a lot,” he notes. “For me the biggest challenge is working together with both father and son. In that sense, I'm like the mediator,” he laughs.
As for building their intricate and dynamic song constructions, the writing is a collective endeavor. “When we are all together jamming we might take 4 measures from one song that we are working on and mix it in with something from another song, so we weave them together,” explains Pete. “Each song is built and developed in its own way. Marc might bring in 90 percent of the rhythm parts; and other times the song might build upon one of my riffs. We employ a lot of different and varied writing methods. No one member has ever really pulled the band, it's pretty equal all down the line.”
“It helps that we have all generations of music represented,” adds Sam. “We all tend to like the same types of music, so its not like one member likes Slipknot and another likes Deep Purple and another prefers Abba.”
Currently ROCKTROPOLIS performs regularly the third Sunday of every month at Bemo's in Bay City, starting their Sunday shows around 5 PM so they can cater to all-age family shows and also afford other musicians the opportunity to attend their performances.
“They say that nothing easy is ever worth doing and this can be a hard road,” reflects Marc. “But I don't care if two people or 200 people are in the audience, we still pull everything we have into each of our performances. The tricky part always involves the audience because people that go to a club to listen to the music get what we are doing, whereas others are there to drink and hear Tom Petty, which is fine. The hard part is when the people that go to drink expect us to be playing Tom Petty.”
“We also need to thank all our significant others for their patience with us and send a big shout-out of thanks to David Asher and The Process,” concludes Sam. “They've given us encouragement all down the line and advised us to stick to our guns with our original music. We almost decided to start mixing cover material into the show at one point, but they convinced us not to. They said, 'Be who you're going to be' and we are much happier that way.
As for this critic, one of the key factors that I find so engaging about ROCKTROPOLIS is the fact that their music and material refocuses the fact that instruments indeed can speak as strongly as voices; and when you develop your voice, all variety of magic and miracle will in turn evolve from that and work its way into your consciousness.
ROCKTROPOLIS is a welcome breath of fresh air on the local music scene. To find out more about them visit Rocktropolismusic.com and be sure to catch them LIVE in their element, fully fueled, and with open ears.