Alt-Rockers Failure Return with Adventurous New Album

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Plenty of bands set out to do something different. Few actually achieve what they set out to do. Failure, an L.A.-based alternative rock that formed in the early-’90s, is one of the few. With its intricate sonic textures, the band’s 1996 effort Fantastic Planet was heralded as something decidedly fresh upon its release. Acts such as Tool embraced the band’s space rock sound. After an incredibly long hiatus, the band has just followed Fantastic Planet up with the equally adventurous The Heart is a Monster, which comes out on June 30.

Initially, Andrews was studying film at Cal State L.A. when he started writing songs.

“My hobby on the side was Failure,” he says. “I had written about five or six songs I had demoed by myself in my apartment bedroom. One of my roommates, Robert Gauss, was a drummer. He ended up being the original drummer on [1992’s] Comfort. He heard the music I was doing. He thought it was really cool. He wanted to do a band. It took us about a year-and-a-half to find a third member to join the band. That was eventually [guitarist] Greg [Edwards]. We weren’t interested in doing it just to do it. For me, personally, having our live following grow and labels come around was a shocker to me. I wasn’t expecting that.”

In 2014, the band reunited to play their first show since 1997. That show went so well that the group stuck together and eventually wound up in the studio last year to record The Heart is a Monster. Andrews says that the reunion was partly prompted by the fact that he and Edwards both became fathers at about the same time.

“We started seeing each other more and bonded over the fear of being new dads,” he says. “It was like, ‘Why don’t we mess around in the studio?’ We were both still doing music, so it seemed natural. A few months went by and we kept chipping away at a few song ideas and all of a sudden we had good demos of four songs. We liked them and wanted to keep going but we were curious about what the live situation would be like so we booked a show.”

The show was a huge success, and Andrews noticed the band had accumulated a new fanbase that would’ve been too young to see the group the first time around.

“We realized we had a whole new fanbase that was not from the ’90s,” he says. “People in their mid-20s made up the majority of the crowd. They knew the material so well and they were so into it. It was really different for us. In the ’90s, we were struggling to build a fan base. We had some fans but there was some confusion about what we were. We didn’t have many crowds singing to the music because no one really knew it. Now, people are super familiar with it. They know the albums inside and out and it’s a whole different world. It’s really just a simple word-of-mouth between friends. In talking to these 20-year-olds, they have friends who got the record and then got hold of the other records. They just started getting into our band and just saw we were playing. They didn’t know we were a ’90s band that broke up. The fact that the whole landscape has become more fractured helps us. Kids don’t feel the need to be limited by liking a certain genre. They just want to like the music, and it’s less about going with the status quo.”

Edwards has said the new album moves from outer space to inner space. That’s a rather abstract statement and something Andrews says speaks to the more personal lyrics.

“I think what he’s trying to say is that if Fantastic Planet was a metaphor for isolation and drug abuse, which was also part of that, then this album is more introspective and about questioning identity,” he says. “That’s all I got for you.”

Songs such as “Hot Traveler” and "Atom City Queen" feature heavy guitar and bass riffs. They come off a little more in-your-face than trippy tunes such as the dreamy “Snow Angel.”

“To me, there’s certain things we did differently on this record,” says Andrews. “We tried to pare some songs down to the real trio sound. There’s only one guitar at one time. On Fantastic Planet, there were rhythm guitars and lead lines going at the same time. I wanted to see if we could be heavy in the confines of a trio.”

The band’s return has been received really well from press and from fans and Andres says performing with the group “feels really good.”

“Talk to me six months from now and I don’t know how I’ll feel then,” he says. “Right now, it feels great. We constrained the tour a little. I don’t want to be out for more than four weeks at a time without a significant break. I have two little kids and I can’t handle being away from them for that long.”

Failure, Queen Kwong, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, July 5, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216-321-5588. Tickets: $22.50 ADV, $25 DOS, grogshop.gs.


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