By Felicia Naoum
The Romantics got their start back in the 70s in Detroit, Michigan – the place where Motown was born. However, it was rock that burned in their soul. In an interview with lead guitarist and vocalist Mike Skill, he doesn’t disagree that The Romantics were labeled as a ‘new wave’ band –but to him, his band is just good old rock and roll. “I think we fall into that [new wave] – it’s still just rock and roll. When we came out, a lot of bands were doing long cuts – 15 to 20-minute songs. [We] wanted to get back to straight ahead rock and roll.”
The Romantics will be performing in Northfield at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park January 19 with Berlin. Skill feels a sentimental closeness to Cleveland. He refers to the rock and roll city as a cousin to Detroit. And they very well should be – both towns birth true musical genius but with a deeper meaning behind them. “People understand the working class.” Skill explains that folks in the hardworking, middle class, Midwestern towns like Detroit and Cleveland, needed an escape from the day-to-day grind. Their escape was through music. Skill recalls the band playing at The Agora in Cleveland decades ago – a special connection indeed.
And although The Romantics go way back with their music, they certainly are current as they are still performing in 2018. The secret? Authenticity. “All we can do is be true to ourselves. If we tried to do something different, it would be phony,” he shares.
At The Romantics show, fans will still get classic hits played – you know the one – ‘What I Like About You’ – the television comedy series What I Like About You (2002-2006) starring Jennie Garth and Amanda Bynes was even named after the hit song and plays in the opening credits. Skill reminds us that statistically speaking, ‘Talking in Your Sleep’ was the band’s biggest hit and chart topper. However, ‘What I Like About You’ took off in a different way – commercials, movies, and television shows were soaking it up.
And how did the song become so big? Skill says ‘just by happenstance.’
Skill talks about the band’s record label in Holland wanting to make a video out of the song that mimicked The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ I’m sure we all can assume following in The Beatles’ footsteps is always a safe move. The video, according to Skill, ended up pushing the song up the charts in Europe.
As the video crossed over to the United States, MTV and Budweiser picked it up, and the rest is really history. Artists such as The Donna’s and Poison have covered the song.
And it just so happened that a whole lot of other people liked it – a lot. “We really lucky and fortunate on the success of the song. It has to do with the spontaneity of the song; it has a great beat.” There may be a lot of luck involved according to Skill, but we can never discount the hard work and talent that contributed to the success of a song people still ‘like.’
Aside from that big hit, fans can expect a lot of spice at the show. Skill says that fans will get old and new material at the show. And even more than material – fans can really expect a party. Skill hints that the records are ‘tamer’ than the performance. That has to leave you with exciting anticipation! “The live shows are raw, high-energy. With the live show, you get this fire and spark that really enlivens the members of the group,” he adds.
Where does all of this energy come from for The Romantics? Skill takes it way back to the band’s roots and other musical inspiration. “It’s an attitude that came to us through Detroit and early Bob Seger.
And that attitude touches all people, despite age. Skill says that the style of music the band plays ‘crosses generations.’ Skill finds fans in the audience to be in their 20s, 30s and older. And it might be that same attitude that reaches fans of all ages – the one that has held The Romantics together – again.
Skill speaks briefly on his separation from the band after the band’s first two records and credits it to the pressure of having to create new material from management since ‘What I Like About You’ wasn’t climbing the charts. Skill felt an urgency to create a new album too soon, and such pressure caused the band to have what he calls ‘inner squabbles.’ After leaving the band for a year and a half, Skill was asked back after the band’s new direction didn’t go as planned. And since his return – he feels he made the right decision.
Are you glad you came back?
“Yes, it’s all been good.”
For more of ‘the good’ and everything you like about The Romantics, check out their show on January 19 at Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park.