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Rockville Centre’s Des Rocs brings back rock ‘n’ roll

Daniel Rocco, a South Side High School graduate known as Des Rocs on stage, is on his second solo tour.
Daniel Rocco, a South Side High School graduate known as Des Rocs on stage, is on his second solo tour.
Courtesy Des Rocs

On the road and in the recording studio, he’s Des Rocs. Behind the scenes, he’s Daniel Rocco, a Rockville Centre-raised artist on the rise.

The South Side High School graduate launched his solo music career just over a year ago. Once performing with fellow South Side alumnus Gerard Lange as a duo called Secrets Weapons and opening for bands like Panic! At the Disco, Weezer and Fall Out Boy, Rocco’s decision to start anew came after Lange contracted Lyme disease in 2017 and took some time off.

Now, Rocco is on a mission to bring rock ‘n’ roll back to the mainstream with his new persona: Des Rocs. “It’s a bizarro-world version of my own name,” he told the Herald. “I keep everything mysterious.”

Rocco released the first Des Rocs single, “HVY MTL DRMR,” in February 2018 and his first extended play, “Let the Vultures In,” last November. The tracks “went viral,” Rocco said, a surprising but encouraging feat for rock music in the 21st century. Rock ‘n’ roll artists such as Elvis, Queen and the Talking Heads have influenced Des Rocs, who has about 1.2 million monthly listeners on Spotify. His most popular song on the audio streaming platform, “Let Me Live/Let Me Die,” has been played nearly 16 million times.

With Rock ‘n’ roll, he said, “There’s a certain grandiosity that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s in my bones and I write it naturally, so for me to produce it unapologetically, to create art that feels so true to who I am and have people react well to it, is amazing.”

Since his debut, Rocco has released several singles and will release his second EP this summer. He works with a producer known as Katalyst, whose production credits boast high-profile rappers, such as Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. “The music I grew up on — old school rock ‘n’ roll — wasn’t around in a modern way,” Rocco said. “The combination of those two influences — me with my rock demos and them adding their urban production — makes Des Rocs unique. I had never really done entirely my own thing before, but I had a very specific vision for something I wanted to create.”

Rocco is now in the midst of his second solo tour. This summer, he’ll play the first day of Lollapolooza in Chicago, one of the country’s largest music festivals spanning four days and showcasing a variety of popular music from heavy metal to hip-hop. This year’s headliners include The Strokes on Aug. 1, Childish Gambino on Aug. 2, Twenty One Pilots on Aug. 3 and Ariana Grande on Aug. 4.

Des Rocs said he will also embark on tours and festivals around the country this year that are yet to be announced. “We’re looking at some absolutely insane U.S. tours, which are not confirmed yet, and if we get it, will be amazing,” Rocco said.

It’s a far jump from the singer-songwriter and guitarist’s humble beginnings, playing shows at former Rockville Centre nightclub Backstreet Blues, now the Vibe Lounge, on Front Street. Both Lange and Rocco grew up in the village and met in math class at South Side High School. They played in bands for much of their lives and officially formed Secret Weapons in 2015 after years of writing music while handling full-time jobs.

Lange and Rocco remain good friends, and Lange recently began a career in music production. “Everything is cool,” Lange said of Rocco’s solo work in an interview with the Herald last year. “I don’t want to pull him away from his solo thing.”

Des Rocs’ popularity is perhaps most readily seen in the flurry of kind words fans write to him on Twitter. “Nobody reinvents music like Des Rocs,” one said. “Been walking to work listening to ‘Let the Vultures In’ for the past week,” another wrote. Yet another chimed in, “10/10 would recommend.”

“Everything I’ve worked on has naturally led me to where I am now,” Rocco said, adding that though it’s “a long way away,” a full Des Rocs album is in the works.