The Burning of Rome mixes elements of showtune pop with horror-themed shock-rock. Frontman Adam Traub was formerly in the Blink-inspired pop-punk band Nobody’s Hero, who were briefly signed to Arista Records.
The Burning of Rome was among hundreds of bands who submitted entries to perform at San Francisco’s Exotic Erotic Ball and Expo on October 24 and 25, 2008; they were one of three winning bands who performed.
“There were naked people everywhere,” says one of the band's drummers, Lee Williams. “Even though we basically just provided the background music to all the bizarre stuff happening,” says Williams, “this show probably had the best equipment we ever played through. It was a huge room, with expensive, top-of-the-line gear.”
The band’s album Death-Pop was nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 2008 San Diego Music Awards. The band itself won Best Rock at the 2010 Awards.
A video for “The Ballad of an Onion Sprout” appeared online in summer 2012. “The Onion Sprout video is a product of love and labor from director Patrick Fogarty," says lead singer Adam Traub. "We wanted the video to be a greeting the band could give to the world to get people acquainted with the Burning of Rome."
"What you see in the video is very much what you might expect to encounter at a live show. We incorporated costume wear, props, how we move, what our instruments are, so that people who had never heard of us before could gather what the band is all about through the course of the video."
The song itself was inspired by two battling ex-bandmates, their old keyboard player and former bass player, who were lovers at the time. According to Traub, "Things went sour between them, and it was taking a toll on the band. We eventually had to have separate rehearsals, so neither of them would have to be in the same room with the other one. And shows were up in the air on whether or not they'd end in a shouting match."
"Eventually, they broke up and both stepped aside from the band, obviously for the greater good. The situation broke my heart at first, but seeing them each bloom in their own way after the fact made me feel inspired to write a ballad for them."
The release of their September 2012 full-length With Us was promoted with a Burning of Rome pale ale microbrew beer, created by Pizza Port Ocean Beach’s head brewmaster Yiga Miyashiro. The first batch was released in February 2012, and the second was released that July. "Yiga said he wanted to brew a beer that we could drink every day," Aguilar laughs. "I said, I don't think that's gonna be a problem."
He says Miyashiro learned that in Italy, vintners play opera to their wines all throughout the fermentation process. During the second round of beer-making in OB, With Us was pumped into the fermenting tank via headphones in order to appease the bartenders.
Says Aguilar, "On the tank, there's, like, a manhole cover on top. And there's a spot where, if you stretch the headphones, they will fit." He is certain his band's music affected the beer's flavor. "There is live yeast in there," Aguilar says, "live actual organisms in the beer. It's like playing music on a pregnant woman's belly."
With Us was recorded in LA at EastWest studios, produced by Adam Traub and Tom Biller, mixed by Dave Darling (Tom Waits, Jack Johnson, Brian Setzer) with additional remixes by Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers, Sublime, U2, Meat Puppets, Pepper).
The band ended up in the same room that Pet Sounds was tracked in 40 years prior. There was an intense energy throughout the recording process. Periodically, Flea, who was recording with Red Hot Chili Peppers in the other half of the studio, or Anthony Kiedis would check in for small talk. Even a nod from Rick Rubin by the coffee machine was a major inspiration.
As of summer 2012, Traub lived in L.A. "I just got this bartending gig. I'm not gonna miss it. I always thought it'd be all Sam Malone, pouring drinks and laughing and having a great time." But no. "It's more like baby-sitting drunk adults." In fact, he says the entire band is happy to be leaving their day jobs for a month.
What does Traub miss about San Diego? "I'm down there more now since I've moved to LA." The rest of the band still lives here and he travels south for rehearsals in Oceanside. "And I still hang in OB. I feel like I'm still a resident living in a satellite city."
In August 2012, the band won Best Alternative at the San Diego Music Awards. Next, a new video for “The Ballad of an Onion Sprout” was released online, featuring a song from their September 18 release With Us, which won Album of the Year at the 2013 San Diego Music Awards. Also in 2013, their video for “Little Piranhas,” filmed in part at the Casbah, reached the top 20 on the MTV.com artists page.
Their song “Cowboys & Cut Cigars” became the official 2014 touchdown song for the Dallas Cowboys and was heard each time the team scored a TD that season. That Spring, they released Year of the Ox, produced by Butthole Surfer Paul Leary and Adam Traub (who wrote all the songs) with executive producer Dave Kaplan. Guest performers include Matt Chamberlain, Dale Crover, and drummer Josh Freese.
The band lineup for the album featured Traub (vocals, keyboard, guitar), Joe Aguilar (guitar), Aimee Jacobs (vocals, keyboard, percussion), Keveen Baudouin (bass), and Danny King (drums). Surfdog introduced the band to famed Butthole Surfer and producer Paul Leary (U2, Melvins, Sublime and Meat Puppets), who fell in love with the band, leading him to captain the production duties, alongside co-producer Traub.
The brunt of the thirteen-song collection was tracked at the El Paso, TX pecan orchard and auditory oasis known as Sonic Ranch, which Traub calls a veritable museum of rock and roll artifacts with some of the rarest recording gear on the planet. The rest of the album was completed back in Leary's hometown of Austin, where guest drummers included Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, NIN), Dale Crover (Melvins, Nirvana) and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, Of Montreal).
“'Melina' is an homage to the 1971 era music put out by Sparks and pre-ambient Brian Eno's Here Come the Warm Jets,” says frontman Adam Traub of their late-2014 video. “The song is a nonsensical anthem for all of the stray cats that wander into our shows and unleash debauchery on the dance floor.”
They took home three 2014 San Diego Music Awards, for Best Live Band, Best Alternative Album (Year of the Ox), and Song of the Year (“God of Small Things”), out of six nominations), the North County band broke up and frontman Adam Traub packed up and moved to Chicago.
Vocalist/keyboardist Aimee Jacobs started working with Shake Before Us vocalist/keyboardist/guitarist Will A. Lerner. A year and a half of collaborations later, they debuted a new band called Strawberry Moons with guitarist John Falk (Shake Before Us, Schizophonics) and Mrs. Henry’s bassist Jason Areford and drummer Justin Schemensky.
In 2018, former Burning bandmates guitarist Joe Aguilar and drummer Danny King joined Demasiado singer Jon Piotrowski in a new version of Demasiado also featuring returning guitarist Damon De La Paz and bassist Eric Shefstad.