SWO got warped: Summer culminates in performance at VA Beach stop of national tour

It’s been a busy summer for the boys of Safety Word Orange.

The Richmond-based band recently completed the third in a string of summer tours and performed at the Vans Warped Tour in Virginia Beach, according to drummer Travis King, a Chester native.

“For us to be touring as much as we do, it’s a big thing,” said King, 21. Only three or four area bands tour, he said, and touring, which can sometimes call for sleeping in sketchy motels or parking lots, is not easy.

“The band is doing great,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know how much happier I could be.”

Safety Word Orange was founded in Los Angeles in late 2007 by lead singer James Mason and guitarist Robbie Rusbuldt, King said. The name – which band members are frequently asked to explain – “more or less represents a place in every person’s life that you don’t ever want to go back to,” he said.

After recording the band’s self-titled debut EP, Mason and Rusbuldt moved back to Richmond, their hometown, and started looking for a more permanent line-up, according to the band’s website.

“They found me through Craigslist, actually,” King said. “I auditioned and got the drummer spot.” King said he came along right around the time the band’s second CD, On Your Mark, Get Set…, was coming together.

Guitarist Jackson Wise also auditioned for and earned a spot in the band, as did bassist Reid Taylor, who lives in Midlothian. Taylor, 19, said he saw an ad on Craigslist and visited the band’s page on MySpace, a popular social networking website.

“It [the band’s page] looked really sketchy,” he said, laughing. “I was slightly scared at first.” The group started playing the band’s old songs and everything “just kind of clicked,” Taylor said.

Some groups write the music they do because it’s what kids want to hear, he said, but that’s not how Safety Word Orange operates.

“Everything about this band actually means something. Every lyric, every single second of music,” King said.

The band was in Florida when it learned it had beaten out more than 500 other bands for the spot on one of the stages at the Warped Tour, which King called the “Superbowl of music for our generation.” Saying they were excited when they heard the news would be an understatement.

“We ran around like little girls, let’s be honest,” King said.

“Travis jumped on me,” Taylor said. Taylor has been going to the Warped Tour for about five years, he said, and he’d always wanted to play there. Both he and King said playing at the tour was “amazing.”

“That right there was a huge, huge, huge step,” King said. “We had the second biggest crowd on our stage.”

Before the show, the band had to get home from Florida and make posters, flyers and CDs, Taylor said. They got to the venue at 9 a.m. but didn’t play until 2 p.m., he said, so they used that time to mingle with concertgoers.

“We worked our butts off to get people there,” he said. More than 95 percent of crowd he’d never seen before in his life, Taylor said. But, recognizing faces in the crowd is a thrill, too.

“I like the fans that will follow us anywhere,” King said, though “you get some weird fans.” One fan built and gave the group Build-A-Bears, along with gift baskets and a cookie cake, he said.

People the band members have never met connect with them on Facebook, a popular social networking site, Taylor said, and sometimes he’ll spot status updates about the band or posts containing some of its song lyrics.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “The fact that people come and pay to see my play music, it’s a little weird.”

The group was recently featured in Alternative Press magazine, which called Safety Word Orange one of the top five unsigned bangs to look for, King said. And though its recent tour has ended, the work hasn’t – since returning home, the band has gotten new stage props and a new lightshow, King said.

The band is also working on a music video for its next single, he said. The storyline has been filmed in Northern Virginia at Rusbuldt’s house, he said, and the band scenes will be filmed in a hangar at the Chesterfield County Airport.

The band will play with several other groups on Sunday, Aug. 29, at Wheel’s Birthday Bash at The Canal Club, located at 1545 E. Cary St., Richmond. The show is a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, King said. Fall and winter tours are on the horizon, too.

For more information on Safety Word Orange, including concert dates, visit www.safetywordorange.com.

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