For most ambitious teenagers, an after-school job consists of hairnets, nametags, demeaning uniforms, flipped burgers, slung hash, and royally pissed-off customers. Looking for a way out of this vicious cycle? It helps if you play guitar.
Meet nineteen-year-old guitar slinger Jon Siebels. Two years ago, while slogging through his junior year of high school in La Crescenta, California, Siebels and his bassist/vocalist friend Max Collins formed Eleventeen, a punky-poppy musical outfit warmly received on the local club circuit. The right people got interested. Those people got the band signed to RCA Records. And before you know it, Siebels and his cohorts are getting paid almost $100 a week to polish their sound and finish school.
Two years later, with a new X-Files-inspired band name and a new drummer, the world came face to face with Eve 6. No hairnets attached. Well, almost.
"That's one of those things that got completely twisted around in the press," Siebels says of the band's high school arrangement. "It was really no different from any other contract." In his view, the band members merely received their contractual advance in small increments, giving them enough to live on for the year and a half remaining in their high school careers.
Whatever. The end result remains the same, and you can hear it right now on radio stations across the country as "Inside Out," the infectious first single from Eve 6's self-titled debut. With the help of new drummer Tony Fagenson (son of famed producer Don Was), Siebels and Collins have skillfully spliced the energy and vitriol of punk rock with the melody and lyrical depth of pop music, making Eve 6 one of 1998's few bona fide success stories.
Of course, they had to get through high school first. The original band members might have scored a record contract while still in the big house, but sticking out the year and a half that followed would have driven anyone nuts. Siebels describes La Crescenta as the beloved hometown he couldn't wait to get the hell out of.
"It's really not that far from L.A.," he explains. "But when you're growing up, it seems like it's so far away from anything." To its credit, Eve 6 channeled that claustrophobia directly into the album, particularly on tracks like "Open Road Song" and "Small Town Trap," which describe the feelings of kids straining to get out. Collins pens most of the band's lyrics, but the words could come out of the mouth of anyone in a La Crescenta-type environment: "Small town trap/With dreams of breaking out/Inspire me/'Cause if you don't/I think I'll dissipate into dust/The liar in me/Says something's gonna happen soon/Because it must."
Dealing with the almost universal themes of teenage angst and alienation might earn the band scores of fans, but stuffier critics have dismissed Eve 6 as too young and too overdone--another Silverchair-by-way-of-Green-Day overnight sensation. As for those who still seek to stereotype and categorize his band, Siebels doesn't appear too concerned. "There are always those people, but you can see right through those people and kind of understand why they're doing it," he says.
Besides, there are much more important things to worry about. Since its release in April of 1998, Eve 6's debut has gone certified gold, spawning a second hit single ("Leech") and an accompanying tidal wave of press. Yup, that's Eve 6 in Rolling Stone, cheerfully discussing their high school sex lives and modeling some bitchin' snowboarding gear.
So when does all this go to your head? "We've been so busy . . ." Siebels begins with a laugh. "We haven't had much time to fly off the handle."
Perhaps he's referring to the Eve 6 tour schedule. Over the summer the band shared a triple bill with Our Lady Peace and Third Eye Blind, which led directly into fall and winter engagements with the Flys and the Marvelous 3.
These days, however, the stakes run a bit higher, with Eve 6 now headlining its own U.S. tour. "We've had to try [to] rethink our set," Siebels says. "We've tried to think more in terms of dynamics. I think we've stepped it up to making it more of a show."
A revved-up "Open Road Song" opens the set, which plows through the band's familiar material while adding a new tune (tentatively called "Promise") to give fans a taste of what lies ahead. Siebels, though, doesn't worry about matching the success of "Inside Out." "When it comes down to it, if you write great songs, it's gonna be fine," he says.
A final note: Current Eve 6 live performances also feature an acoustic set, which consists of one original tune ("There's a Face") and one slightly unexpected cover (the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself"). Sound a little bizarre? A bit juvenile? Perhaps. But don't bother telling the distinguished gentlemen of Eve 6 to act their age. That's exactly what they're doing.
Eve 6. 9 p.m., Saturday, April 3, the Odeon, 1295 Old River Road, the Flats. The show is sold out.