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The Quasi-Controlled Madness That is The Burning of Rome

Adam Traub of The Burning of Rome shouts into a megaphone.

Photo by Andy Trimlett

Above: Adam Traub of The Burning of Rome shouts into a megaphone.

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: Members of The Burning of Rome discuss their band. Produced by Andy Trimlett with Tremain Hayhoe and James Dabkey.

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: The Burning of Rome plays "Hark, Ye Conquistadors!" at the Belly Up Tavern on June 30, 2009.

Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: The Burning of Rome plays "Death by Discotheque" at the Belly Up Tavern on June 30, 2009.

If you like your music to grin at you with a wide-eyed look of barely contained insanity, then The Burning of Rome was custom-built for you. The core of this San Diego band includes Adam Traub (Lead Vocals & Keyboard), Lee Williams (Drums), Aimee Jacobs (Synthesizer), Joe Aguilar (Guitar), and Colin Kohl (Bass). However, they often play with a cavalcade of additional performers who play everything from the accordion to the saxophone, drums of varying shapes and sizes, and even the triangle. They'll often add a DJ for good measure, so the shows are worth seeing just to watch the logistical feat of getting that circus on stage. You can get a taste of their particular flavor of crazy in the video to the left, which shows their recent performance at the Belly Up Tavern, and an interview with Adam, Lee, Aimee, Joe, and Colin we recorded at Speakeasy Studio in Oceanside.

Everyone who hears this terrifyingly fun troupe of musicians compares them to someone different, which is part of their charm. I've heard their music compared to everyone from indie rock superheroes Arcade Fire to the ever-changing, never-disappointing David Bowie and even Phantom of the Opera - yes, the actual opera. “The sound is very eclectic,” says drummer Lee Williams. “I just like people to hear it and then say what they think it sounds like. And you usually get some weird answer that you've never heard before.” For example, someone at a recent show stated with confidence to Lee that the band sounded just like Silverchair, the alternative rock band from the land of kangaroos. If you take nothing else away from this post, remember that The Burning of Rome sounds nothing like Silverchair.

For my part, I shall boldly declare them the spiritual successor to the former kings of Halloween, Oingo Boingo. The combination of Adam's devilish antics on stage; the dance-worthy keyboards, synthesizers, and xylophones; and the often dark lyrics sung with a wink and a crooked smile all make for a very Boingo-esque experience. They are by no means the same band, but Adam Traub, the founder of The Burning of Rome seemed more than comfortable with the comparison and we even traded some stories about Forbidden Zone, the movie in which Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman plays Satan in the Sixth Dimension.

Both their 2008 CD, titled "Death-Pop," and their live shows are a fantastic experience, but for different reasons. The CD is a highly polished version of the band's sound. But when The Burning of Rome takes the stage, they burst out of their straight-jackets and turn the venue into a maniacal bedlam. Ridiculous costumes, playing guitar on the floor, and running through the audience with a megaphone are all par for the course. They ended one show at the Ruby Room by stomping around stage as a half-gallon of some unidentified liquid bounced up and down around their electrical cords. Now that's rock 'n' roll!

To hear some of songs from The Burning of Rome’s CD and for their latest shows, visit


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