Staying Power

The Chimeras are the Tempe band that would not die

"It was like boot camp," Lawrence says.
Although Lawrence's bandmates were supportive of his decision to take a monthlong hiatus and get clean, his peers in rehab were not so supportive of his determination to continue as a rock musician.

Mark made it clear to his brother that he would still be part of the band.
"And this is what I was telling the people in rehab," Lawrence continues. "But they're telling me, 'You can't go back to the band. That's the worst place for you to be!'

"My family couldn't come see me. I couldn't have outside contact because the people in rehab thought I was in serious denial. I kept telling them, 'No, I'm ready to quit doing drugs. I'm not ready to quit playing music. Those two things are not synonymous.'"

Lawrence successfully completed the program and immediately rejoined the band, which experienced a creative catharsis on his return. And Lawrence stayed sober.

"In rehab they teach you about the dysfunctional family, and I think the band is like a family," Lawrence says. "And this band--regardless if I was the person who was self-destructing--we all went through it. So, spiritually, I'm on top of the game now, and it improved the band. Not only because of me, but because the whole unit went through it."

The rest of the Chimeras agree the band's material is notably stronger now that Lawrence isn't using drugs or alcohol. Lawrence says the difference is sober songwriting.

"When you're drunk and you write a song, you may think, 'Hey, that's a great song,' even if it doesn't have a hook, doesn't have a good chorus or there's no segues," he explains. "But there's more things that go into writing a song than bleeding all over your guitar.

"I think the real inspiration for me to stay sober is what happened to Doug," Lawrence continues. "I felt sorry for myself for a long time because of drugs and alcohol. I really pitied myself. Now it's like: How fucking hard is it to play music with a purpose?"

But if Hopkins has remained an inspiration for the Chimeras, his pop influence has faded from the band's music. All but three of the songs Hopkins wrote for the band have been excised from the Chimeras' repertoire, and none of the late songwriter's work appears on Mistaken for Granted.

"Obviously, Doug Hopkins and the Chimeras wrote a lot of good songs, and his influence is still with us," stresses Milner. "He was a great guitar player and a great musician. But if anyone thinks we're up there trying to ride on Doug's songs, they should understand that we're a new band since then."

The Zubias' songwriting style has started to accommodate more of a blues/rock format and even a twist of the traditional Mexican folk music they heard as children.

"My brother and I have been blues-based writers," says Mark. "Doug was more pop, and we went to that pop thing. Now I think we're back to somewhere in the middle. We can take what we learned from Doug and apply it to what we do now."

So far, so good. Mistaken caught the attention of Morty Wiggins, vicepresident of Bill Graham Management, the promotional entity behind the Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop. Wiggins and the band's lawyer, Fred Davis (son of Arista CEO Clive Davis), plan to shop the Chimeras around, confident they can get the band a record deal.

And so the Chimeras recently returned to the studio to record a demo tape produced by Gin Blossoms guitarist and longtime friend Jesse Valenzuela. The demo was cut at the Vintage recording studio in Phoenix, a small, white building that looks more like a VD clinic than the studio where the Gin Blossoms recorded their latest single, "Till I Hear It From You."

Despite the potential that is crackling in the air, the Chimeras have come to realize that there's more to staying together as a band than cutting record deals.

"Recently, I realized that if I can get up and play three times a week, if I never get to reach the other goal, I could do that for the rest of my life," says Andrews.

"Breaking up?" Smith asks.
"Shooting each other?" Milner remarks.
"I think we just crossed the threshold of Normal Land," says Lawrence Zubia.

"It goes in waves," Lawrence continues, smiling. "Right now is a good time for the Chimeras. It happens like that. Catch us next April when we're playing a Saturday night at Long Wong's and everybody is down the street watching some other band.

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