Just two years ago, quickly rising modern rock quartet Pale Blue Dot was a galaxy away from its creator, Tony LaRocco. Back then, LaRocco wasn’t playing music—he had walked away from a promising artist career and sold all his equipment.
A serendipitous chain of events led him back home to music. Now, he returns with, Pale Blue Dot, a band of ace musicians with intuitive musical interplay, and deep bonds of friendship. The Charlottesville, Virginia quartet announces its arrival with the majestic EP, Telescopes.
“I hit a wall with music years ago. I felt like so much was riding on me as a songwriter,” Pale Blue Dot founder Tony LaRocco confides. “I needed time away from it all for self discovery. But, when my wife got pregnant, I started playing for our unborn child. That reawakened my passion. Now, I’m firing on all cylinders.”
Pale Blue Dot is Tony LaRocco, vocals, rhythm guitar; John Robert, lead and slide guitar; Jason Heuer, bass; and Zack Simpson, drums. The quartet pens adventurous contemporary rock with radio ready hooks and imaginative arrangements. Pale Blue Dot’s imaging is stark, mysterious, and conceptual. Its artwork and lyric content conjures nature, space, tenets of Buddhism, and self-reflection.
The group has built an impressive profile since its 2013 formation. Charlottesville, Virginia’s adult alternative and alternative rock station WCNR enthuses: “Pale Blue Dot is one of the best bands born in Charlottesville in a long, long time. Tony LaRocco is an excellent songwriter. It’s only a matter of time till these guys are huge.” Daughtry rhythm guitarist Brian Craddock signed on to produce Telescopes at his studio The Cat Room. He says: “I was immediately intrigued by Tony’s vision for the record. Tony wanted a live feeling recording capturing true performances of the band. Of course, using this methodology, it always helps when you have great songs like Tony does”
Pale Blue Dot founder, Tony LaRocco, grew up playing in bands as a self-taught musician. Upon returning to music, he went back to school to formally study his craft. His vision for the group crystalized upon hearing stellar guitar playing wafting out from a house nearby. The neighborhood virtuoso was lead guitarist/production music composer John Robert. Robert brings years of professional experience to the group. His contributions also include clever arrangements and virtuosic versatility that allows him to craft tasteful guitar parts to enhance the songs.
LaRocco and Robert began as a creative core, workshoping LaRocco’s songs while homing in on a fingerprint aesthetic. After nearly a year of dedicated exploration, the pair welcomed seasoned vet bassist Jason Heuer. After recording Telescopes with a studio drummer, the three finally found the ideal drummer—someone with chops and dynamic intuition—in Zack Simpson.
The title Telescopes aptly reflects the EP’s soul-searching modern pop-rock.
A telescope is a device a person uses to closely examine distant objects. Pale Blue Dot use its songs as something of a tool to evaluate things outside its sphere. Within the EP’s five tracks, the quartet turns its lens toward our current culture of violence and disharmony, relationships, and social issues. The group also covers unique territory like the legacy of astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, and it shifts perceptive to self-reflective matters.
Pale Blue Dot effortlessly covers a full emotional range on Telescopes, shifting from urgently melodic pop-rock, to burly rock, to meditative balladry. Throughout, LaRocco leads the charge with a plaintive passion that manages to be earthy and shamanistic. The band matches his gifts with sensitive and almost telepathic band dynamics.
Telescopes’ leadoff single is the bucolic ballad, “Coyotes.” Here, the band plays with uncluttered impressionistic musicianship, leaving ample space for the lonesome pedal steel courtesy of guest musician Jay Starling of Love Canon. On “Bird” the group expertly balance light/dark dynamics through complimenting ethereal chiming guitars with muscular and cathartic rhythm section playing. The track also boasts a stunning teardrop guitar solo from guitarist John Robert.
Telescopes concludes with “Storms,” a somberly beautiful track that evokes a moonlight drive on a warm night during a time of inner turmoil.
Currently, “Coyotes” is in constant rotation on WNRN 91.9, and Pale Blue Dot is looking ahead to recording its debut full length which will showcase the band’s growth and its solid lineup with drummer Zack Simpson.
Looking back on his journey to Pale Blue Dot, LaRocco says: “Those years away from music I was so depressed. I remember thinking back on that time when I got the master tapes for Telescopes. I listened to the music and said to myself ‘I’m finally settled.’”