By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Pop punk for everyone.
This plain, simple phrase is more than just words on a t-shirt – it’s a socially-inclusive mantra that has been the heart of what drives Connecticut quintet Always Grounded, who’ve already been listened as one of Alternative Press’ “50 Up-And-Coming Pop-Punk Bands.”
Influenced by the likes of Four Year Strong and Neck Deep and armed with a sound that pays homage to those heavy-handed sing-along choruses from your favorite late 2000’s bands with a modern, hook-friendly twist, Always Grounded should be on your radar, if not already.
Always Grounded – who unleashed their debut EP earlier this year entitled ‘Letters To My Youth’ – are singer RJ Dionne, rhythm guitarist Eli Dionne, lead guitarist Jude Angelo Alexander, drummer Anthony Dailey and bassist Stephen Storm.
RJ Dionne may look familiar to some wrestling fans, as he is known on the independent scene as RJ Rude – one half of the team InZanely Rude and has gotten to work with the likes of Jurassic Express, Private Party and Bear Country.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with RJ Dionne about ‘Letters To My Youth’ and more.
Music Bugle – How did you decide the band name “Always Grounded”?
RJ Dionne – When my brother Eli and I started the band, it was just the two of us. We chose the name “Always Grounded” because my parents were always grounding us as kids. It’s funny, because to this day, our dad denies ever grounding us, but it was legitimately every other week.
Music Bugle – How would you describe the state of the current wrestling industry?
RJ Dionne – The industry is in a weird place. Right before the pandemic hit, I felt like pro wrestling was hotter than it had ever been before. I think that once vaccines roll out more and guidelines start to get more relaxed, it’s going to start booming again like never before.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your ‘Letters To My Youth’ EP?
RJ Dionne – It was different. We started to write the EP last year in October. At that time, we were able to get together and really grind on songs. However, around mid-November, for the safety of Jude, who is extremely immunocompromised, we decided it would be best for us to complete the rest of the EP over Discord calls. This wasn’t exactly the easiest to do. However, we were still able to write some extremely good songs that we are proud of and I think thats what really matters.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
RJ Dionne – The most exciting part for me personally is how reminiscent of early 2000s pop punk we are. I feel like a lot of pop punk bands have this beautiful voice nowadays, meanwhile, there’s me, trying to make music that I used to listen to in middle school. Our style is very much like early Blink-182, New Found Glory and Simple Plan.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?
RJ Dionne – The pizza. Connecticut has the best pizza.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
RJ Dionne – Man Overboard. I haven’t taken their albums off loop at all, except for when I jam out to Alpine Loop’s “Universal Donor.”
Music Bugle – What is your favorite wrestling match of all time?
RJ Dionne – Shawn Michaels Vs Undertaker at WrestleMania 26. The emotional investment I had with the streak made that match super intense.
Music Bugle – What has been your hardest challenge lately?
RJ Dionne – Feeling motivated. The pandemic has taken so much from everyone. Now that things are starting back up, it’s been hard for me to get myself back into the swing of things. Once I start rebuilding my schedule, I know that I will be able to come back full-swing, but getting that schedule rebuilt isn’t easy, especially when you’ve been stuck at home eating ice cream every weekend for a year.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
RJ Dionne – I made the best out of the pandemic. I got a dog and was able to spend time with him that I would have never had. I also started this band with Eli. I never would’ve thought that I could be a lead singer in a pop punk band if wrestling hadn’t been stripped away from me so suddenly.
Music Bugle – What has been your most memorable moment while at a show – wrestling-related or music-related?
RJ Dionne – I will answer both! My most memorable moment in wrestling was at the Mid Hudson Civic Center, where my team InZanely Rude was wrestling Jurassic Express and Private Party in front of 1,200 people. When we were entering, we nearly were bood out of the building because we were the only team no one had heard of. By the end of the match, we were able to turn those boos around and actually get cheered. Everyone saw how hard we worked in that match and saw we could hang with top talent. My favorite music memory was when I saw All Time Low. All the girls throw their bras on stage, so 16-year-old me had a great idea! I took my boxers off before the show and when all the girls threw their bras, I threw my boxers. Jack Barakat thought it was so funny, he came up to me and handed me his guitar pick!