Living their dream of playing music full time, brothers Rob Grote (on drums) and Paul Grote (on guitar) both perform with The Rankin Twins, occasionally coming back for shows in their hometown of Fredericksburg. Photo by Phil Houseal
Band of brothersby Phil Houseal
Aug 17, 2011
Rob Grote’s response when I called to interview him about the rigors of being a full-time musician was not exactly what I expected.
“Umm... actually you caught me at the swimming pool. Can I call you right back?”
Ah... life on the road.
Turns out Rob - and his brother, Paul - were at a Tulsa hotel waiting to play a gala that evening as the drummer and guitar player, respectively, in The Rankin Twins band.
Hometown folks will remember the Grotes as Fredericksburg High School graduates, Rob in 2003 and Paul in 2001. Their parents, James and Barbara, were both longtime Fredericksburg ISD employees. Both boys started on piano as youngsters, gravitating to drums and guitar around middle school age. They played in local groups of friends, then went on to study music in college - Rob at Texas Tech and Paul at University of North Texas.
How the boys linked up with the Rankin Twins (read about the twins in last week’s column) was the result of a missed opportunity.
“Right out of college I wanted a steady gig,” Rob said. He auditioned with a well-known band, but due to his young age narrowly missed getting the job. “But one of the crew of that band was friends with the twins. He thought I’d be a great match for their band, so the girls called me in.”
He passed the audition. One year later, they were looking for a new guitar player, so Rob referred his brother, Paul. He also got the gig.
“We’ve been with them ever since,” Rob said. “It is cool that we started with them from when they were first building their band. We see a steady, uphill start, and it’s fun seeing them grow and being a part of that.”
Right now, the gigs are mostly “weekend warrior” type stuff. That allows the brothers to give music lessons on the side in Austin, including one day a week in Fredericksburg, at their parents’ home.
So what do the parents think of their son’s careers right now?
“They are definitely behind us all the way,” Rob said with a laugh. “I think they are concerned that in the long run we can provide for us and our families, though.”
Paul echoes that. “We definitely see support from our parents, but I am going to go back to school this fall to explore different options, possibly business. But this is great for now - we’re young, single, don’t pay a mortgage, and have no debt!”
It’s not all wine and groupies, however. Playing full time on the road means lots of travel.
“Travel is definitely the tough part,” Rob said. “Being cooped up in the van for hours, doing the load-in, and equipment setup is the toughest drag of being a musician. But the best part is the performing part. We love being on stage!”
Both the boys are impressed by the work ethic of The Rankin Twins. As one who has worked in many bands, I so know the toughest are those that include siblings, spouses, and mixed genders. This band holds two sets of siblings. But so far, so cool.
“Our favorite part is working with the Rankins,” Rob said. “They are really hard workers and really positive, too. They are always working to promote the band and are very professional.”
Where that leads, neither dares guess. But, after all, they never thought they’d be where they are now.
“When I graduated from high school, I thought I knew what I wanted to do in 10 years,” Paul said. “But this hasn’t been what I thought it would be. You can never see the future.”
But at least this is the music business. And they are in it up to their capos and flamadiddles.
“It is rewarding to work with people you enjoy working with, that are fun to be with, playing music that we like in front of an audience that is appreciative. It’s all positive.”