Finding your voice is one of the most essential objectives of being an artist. Peter Argyropoulos has had that on lock for yearsbut in conjunction with a new handle, Pete RG, it's only fitting that he's refined that voice into a deep register that's more powerful than ever. It's on potent display in the Last December frontman's solo output, a collection of largely acoustic, entirely gorgeous ballads. And starting this May, he'll be treating fans to a new single each month, all under the Rocket Science banner.
As the voice of L.A.-based indie-pop/Americana heroes Last Decemberwho rose to prominence in the late '90sRG collected numerous accolades for his songwriting and producing. Their music was (and still is) regularly featured on network TV shows and films. After teaming up with veteran producer-engineer Brian Malouf to co-produce 2007's acclaimed Hailstorm, RG quietly began writing new songs for a solo project.
As for the new moniker, RG stresses, "I like my last name, but it's a mouthful. I can't say Zack Galifianakis' last name, and mine's much more difficult. Everyone called me 'RG' growing up, playing sports as a kid, so I thought that could work." He pauses to chuckle. "I'm still adjusting."
While the name might take some getting used to, successfully transitioning from bandleader to singer-songwriter has already proven to be a snap. The casual arpeggios of "Baby Steps" are augmented with a refrain composed entirely of RG's plaintive hums, while leadoff single "Rainy Girl"one of the first tracks he ever wroteexudes earnest romantic yearning. This intimate body of workassisted by engineer Brina Kabler, keyboardist David Zeman, and familiar Last December faces Scotty Kormos and Adam Kurystems from a productive period of isolation after the band went on hiatus.
"I'm emerging from a part of my life that has been pretty dark," RG recalls. "I spent a lot of time alone sitting in small rooms, hotel rooms, friends' apartments, and I came up with a bunch of songs that seemed more suited to just doing them by myself. That was the main impetus for keeping the music simple and mellow.
"The few people who have heard them all have commented that they sound almost spiritual. I have a dry sense of humor and I can definitely be sarcastic. But deep down I can be hopeful, and I think that's reflected in these songs."
For now, the short-term plan is to compile the monthly releases into a "Singles 2011" album, once there's a suitable amount; RG will also be issuing alternate versions and mixes in the off weeks. In the meantime, he's looking forward to freedoms singer-songwriters enjoy more often than full bands: touring with more regularity, retaining his prolific songwriting streak and even starting a blog at homebase, pete-rg.com.
"I have a lot of interests and passions, from photography to politics, and in the past have been kinda hesitant to speak up on certain things because it would be a reflection of the band," RG reveals. "But now I can speak for myself and not have to worry about that."
Most importantly, the task of continuing to inspire himself and his admirers, as both forge bravely into unfamiliar territory. It's a journey alluded to in new song "Times."
"We're all in the middle of this sort of very ambiguous time, very uncertain. All those things upon which we stood that were so solid to us have either completely crumbled away or they're in the process of crumbling. I think we don't know where to stand any longer. We're looking for a new foundation to stand on."