One for the Show

Can Shamsi, Jamal and company maintain "spiritual oneness" in a two-faced record industry?

Rather than push to be dropped and risk financial penalties, One patiently waited for the label to either honor or break its end of the contract. Shamsi believes the ax never fell because other labels were ready to sign them. "Even though the new guys at Mercury thought we were a worthless band," says Shamsi, "they decided maybe they should keep us."

Jamal credits Dana Milmen, a newly hired Mercury A&R rep who actually likes the band, with restoring One to active duty. Although the quintet now has to get reinvigorated about mixing 17 tracks it laid down nearly a year ago, lapsed membership does have its privileges--not the least of which is the 20/20 hindsight that comes from hearing the album's rough mixes hundreds of times in the interim.

Guitarist Mike Butler joined the group one month prior to the Ardent sessions, and hadn't "really settled in with the songs yet." Now, with the added benefit of having played the songs hundreds of times live, he says he's able to preserve more definitive guitar parts. "I just want to be able to hear the record someday and not cringe," he maintains.

Once the hurdles of completing One's debut and selling a whole new set of suits on the idea of releasing it are surmounted, there remains an elimination round of the name game. The band was originally called Water but changed its name to One about four years ago after discovering another band with the same name. "Now," admits Shamsi with a hint of annoyance, "there's millions of bands called One."

As far back as 1993, there were at least two other Valley bands called One (one of them eventually changed its name to Zone to avoid confusion). Amazingly, no one in this One has any recollection of them. Even more irksome is a band of Canadian musicians that for years was collectively known as The One, which, evidently feeling less definitive about itself, recently changed its name to plain ol' One.

Butler recalls the time "some Phoenix guy came to our show and served us with papers, claiming he had rights to the name since 1982. But since he wound up liking the band, he sold the rights to us for the appropriate sum of one dollar. The whole thing was bogus. It wasn't even a legal transaction."

According to Shamsi, the name represents "the oneness of mankind, the oneness of spiritual reality."

Well, why not just call the band Oneness, then?
"Oneness." She mulls for a spell. "I dunno, then you're gonna have some hippies show up at your shows." She's a little more receptive to a suggestion that the band call itself Loch Ness, but like the mythical Scottish creature, it probably isn't gonna fly.

It's been three weeks since the band last set its watches to Memphis time. Besides a triumphant return to the Electric Ballroom stage to buoy its spirits, everyone in the band seems confident in the quality of the new recording. "I don't think anybody will be disappointed," assures Jamal. "A lot of the songs are the way they should've sounded all along. And if Mercury likes our tape, they'll fly us out there and meet the band anew."

For the time being, Shamsi's worries that the label will release "bubblegummy songs as singles," market the band like it's "Hootie with a girl" or force song doctors like Eric Bazilian (author of labelmate Joan Osborne's hit "One of Us") on them have mostly been allayed. For the record, she has met with Bazilian and says they got along great, but have no plans to co-author a song. Finally, Jamal is mighty proud that there's no tambourine on the recording, a hallmark of the dreaded "Tempe jingle-jangle" that decorates most local exports.

When reminded of Shamsi's downright depressing prognosis, her brother brightens up enough to put an upbeat spin on a still uncertain future. "No matter what happens, we'll all still be playing music and loving it. Everyone in this band loves playing."

But what about the aforementioned plans to uproot the band to North Hampton come November so Shamsi can go back to school? "I'm still not so sure." Jamal nods. "I'll leave you with an old aphorism: 'If you wanna make God laugh, make a plan.'"

One is scheduled to perform on Friday, September 13, at Gibson's in Tempe; on Saturday, September 14, at the Mason Jar (all ages); and on Tuesday, September 17, at Gibson's for the CD-release party for the Breakin' Out compilation. Call for showtimes.

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