The guys of Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, the hard-hitting rock band that got Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port in hot water for staying out partying too late before a photo shoot, weren’t always causing trouble on The Hills. Not long ago, the band – lead vocalist Ronnie Winter, 24; guitarists Elias Reidy, 21, and Duke Kitchens, 23; bassist Joey Westwood, 21; and drummer Jon Wilkes, 21 – was rehearsing in a trailer in Middleburg, Fla. PEOPLE caught up with Winter to find out more about the RJA and to consider what songs are perfect for leaving the summer and heading into fall.
Did you like being on The Hills?
Everyone was really nice. It was a good time. I stayed away from the camera. I’m still shy. We’re not the glam rock kind of band, but you have to be open to new things.
Elias certainly wasn’t shy.
He’s one of the most entertaining guys I’ve ever met. He’s the guy that keeps everybody going when moral is low. He’s the life of the party kind of guy.
When you guys got started, did you expect to make a living in music?
We didn’t take it seriously at first. We didn’t have high hopes. We were just like “We’re going to play some rock and roll” I was living on my own in Middleburg and we practiced in my trailer. All of us were working manual labor construction jobs so the release for us was hanging out and jamming.
And people started to notice?
It was incredible. People started coming to our shows. We sold out local venues. Then we started selling out venues the size of national acts. People were buying our CDs. Eventually we sold enough of our own records to get a deal with Virgin.
Your first single ‘Face Down’ became an anthem for a lot of teenagers. What was the inspiration?
My parents got divorced when I was 11. I don’t have any love lost for them. They got together way too young; they weren’t ready for it. Neither of them went to college. They just got together and lived by the moment. That turned into drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence after that.
Do you and your bandmates have girlfriends?
I’m actually married and have been for over a year. I’m young, but she’s definitely the right girl for me. Elias has a significant other. So do Duke and Joey. Jon is the bachelor of the band.
How do you achieve that "rocker boy" look that drives girls wild?
Elias and Joey don’t even try. They wake up and they’re cool. They basically do their thing and we all copy them. We ask them which shirts to wear and how to comb our hair.
What songs are perfect for the transition from summer to fall?
The summer to fall transition is interesting. It’s really romantic when you think about it. There’s definitely a theme: Slow and melancholy.
Ronnie Winter’s Song Picks
• “Make it a Part” by Further Seems Forever
“It’s really obscure and different. When seasons are changing there’s a lot of adjusting. It’s a time signature.”
• Any track off of new Thrice record
“It’s really overlaid with guitar so you can really trance out to it.”
• “Jack’s Lament” by Danny Elfman from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas
• “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel
• “California Dreaming” by the Mamas and the Papas