Adam Traub, singer and keyboardist for the Burning of Rome, has the phrase "Don't Give Up the Ship" scrawled across the back of his synthesizer. And if anyone's familiar with surviving misfortune, it's this 28-year-old, whose diagnosis in his late teens with a rare muscular disorder led to a series of surgeries and the end of a promising future as guitarist in the band Nobody's Hero.
Fortunately, the post-op downtime led Traub to the small, upright piano in the corner of his house, a move that permanently changed his musical direction.
"I propped my leg up on a stool and tinkered away, trying to figure out Beatles songs," says Traub, on the phone from his home in Echo Park. "I ended up taking some piano classes and studied theory to boost my ability and hone my craft."
The Burning of Rome, who open for the Psychedelic Furs Sept. 1 at the Uptown Theatre, are the result of what started as a solo recording project. Eventually, Traub realized that he'd created an incredibly full sound—with echoes of Danny Elfman, Mr. Bungle and Pink Floyd—and he began hunting for musicians to take it live. A 2012 album, With Us, is loaded with cinematic, solidly orchestrated songs that show the fruits of that effort, netting the band a San Diego Music Award nomination.
Described as everything from a Danzig carnival ride to goth music for the new millennium, the band, Traub says, is really about creating a blitzkrieg of sounds influenced by the likes of the Buzzcocks, Ennio Morricone, Mozart and the Velvet Underground—a genre the band calls "death pop."
The band has such avid fans back in their home base of San Diego that last year the head brewer at Pizza Port Brewing Company, one of the better Southern California breweries, created a beer in their name.
"Brewing is a spiritual process for this guy," explains Traub. "He had the new album playing on a loop, with headphones over the fermenter, to serenade the yeast while it was fermenting—like in Italy, the winemakers will play opera to the grapes."
The resulting beer, the Burning of Rome IPA, can be found at the brewery's San Diego pubs. But does it taste how the band sounds?
"It did taste like the band," says Traub with a laugh. "It had a sharp edge to it on the first sip, but then it mellowed out the further you went with it."