Jacksonville rock ‘n’ roll outfit deems itself Fit for Rivals

By: Justin Chandler Porter, Contributing Writer

 

Fit for Rivals is a four-piece rock ‘n’ roll group from Jacksonville that prides itself on a straight-forward, raw style and independent status.

For lead guitarist Thomas Amason, bassist Eli Clark, drummer John Hartman and lead singer Renee Phoenix, the mantra “cigarettes, whiskey and rock ‘n’ roll” fuels this band.

It’s toured with bands like The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Go Radio and Framing Hanley to support its debut album, “Steady Damage.” It performed in 2011’s Warped Tour with Godsmack and Puddle of Mud and has an upcoming show March 10 at Jack Rabbits in San Marco.

Defining a band’s sound is normally a delicate subject. Without hesitation, Phoenix, a UNF English junior, describes her band as straight rock ‘n’ roll.

She said musical artists such as Joan Jett, the Foo Fighters, Eagles of Death Metal and the Queens of the Stone Age influence her.

“Anything that’s straight rock ‘n’ roll, that doesn’t have that auto-tuned sound — like it’s coming from the heart,” she said.

Clara Vanum, another Jacksonville band, toured with Fit for Rivals across Florida. Lead singer Keith Kirkland describes the band’s sound as “damn powerful.”

“It’s crazy seeing Renee up there belt out her vocals. Their music is very well-written. Playing with them is a privilege,” Kirkland said.

While Phoenix is the only member of her band currently attending UNF, she said without UNF, she may have never formed the band that would evolve into Fit for Rivals.

“In a way, [UNF] opened up my eyes to everything,” Phoenix said, “and gave me an opportunity to do music.”

Phoenix said the band has been very busy recording a new album, organizing tours and coordinating with venues. Its local popularity brings a lot of Jacksonville support, and fans have been waiting for the upcoming show.

Phoenix said Fit for Rivals hasn’t played a headlining show in Jacksonville in over a year.

“We’re expecting a really good turnout for that,” Phoenix said.

Being an independent band, free from record labels, offers few marketing opportunities. However, Fit for Rivals is getting a lot of exposure and much promotion.

Recently, on WWE, its song “Crash” was featured on one of the wrestling entertainment company’s big, pay-per-view events, Phoenix said. WWE Films used “Crash” in the 2010 film “Legendary.” Phoenix said the WWE spots gave the band a boost in exposure.

Not only has the WWE helped the band with sending its music out to a broader audience, but the band said YouTube has also been key to promoting its music.

Successful independent bands pride themselves on not caving to mainstream pressures and not shaping their band to meet legal requirements. Fit for Rivals is enjoying its independence and is in no hurry to commit to one label. Most recently, it performed at a showcase for Universal, which asked the band to join its record label.

“Hurry up and wait,” Phoenix responded.

Phoenix said all the band members get along exceptionally well. She said the defining moment in her band’s creation was finding a group of individuals with the same mindset.

“It’s like finally finding people who want to take this to the next level, who want to do it not only for fun but take it seriously. Do tours, be the perfect band, strive to be better than you are every day,” Phoenix said.

 

Email Justin Chandler Porter at [email protected]

 

WANNA HEAR IT LIVE?
Fit for Rivals is playing at Jack Rabbits March 10. The once-red, now eggshell white building sits at 1528 Hendricks Ave. in San Marco. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show — which also features Bleeding In Stereo, Pawn Takes King, A Brilliant Lie and Appalachian Death Trap — cost $8.