One of Jim Louvau's favorite talking points when making a case for his new band The Attitude is the void to be filled because there are no more new rock stars. And he's right. If you want cocksure swagger and violence, rappers have that segment fully under control. And as for who's currently trashing hotel rooms, getting arrested for DUI, doing way too much blow, failing rehab multiple times, and train-wrecking themselves daily for our own twisted amusement, it's the Lindsay Lohans and Britney Spears of the safe teen-pop world who've recently discovered you don't even have to know a Mötley Crüe song to live like one.
"We want to be famous rock stars by playing rock music," Louvau says. "We're going through with the original plan." Exhibit A is the band's debut five-song CD, Straight to the Middle, which may be a nod to how difficult it is to shoot to the top these days, when the star-making machinery seems preoccupied with naughty girls who leave the house without panties.
But these five Phoenix guys, nearly all of whom sport more studs and rings in any one orifice than most people have worn their whole lives, mean it.
At a practice session, you wouldn't expect Louvau to trot out the same straight-back rock-star moves that he'd use on a crowd of 4,000, let alone in front of the four guys in the band who've heard this material a hundred times already. Nor would you expect to hear Anthony Kirksey hit all the neck-bulging harmonies on "Best Days," or lead guitarist Jared Bakin to engage in any guitar heroics beyond tuning. But they did. Even when no one's looking, these guys are giving 110 percent on a day when it's 110 degrees outside and the swamp cooler is barely working.
Five years ago, Louvau and bassist Nick Ruggerio were in a band called Victims in Ecstasy. They had a hard time convincing the rest of the group that a more streamlined (but, ultimately, more open-ended) direction was the way to go. The balance of the band wished to remain in the industrial park they'd situated themselves in and everything ground to a halt. After releasing a CD and showcasing for a series of labels, the band imploded and Louvau became a recluse from the local scene.
"I took a year off, went back to school, tried to get away from anything that had to do with music for a bit, just to clear my head of it," he says, explaining his dejection. "We toured and had a big fan base, a lot of good stuff going on. So when it wasn't around and people approached me, it was like having the same conversation over and over again. I would rather never leave the house until there was something new to talk about."
That something new would be The Attitude, conceived as almost a mirror opposite of Victims in Ecstasy. It's as if Louvau carefully considered everything A&R men told VIE, adopted what felt right, and ditched the rest. The resulting songs are melodic, hooky with electronic flourishes (none of which would sound out of place on a Garbage record), coupled with the contrasting shred and regular vocals found in most modern metal.
When Louvau and Kirksey began writing songs together, the results were decidedly hard rock, not the industrial music Louvau maintains that his former group never actually played. "Back in the day, the only bands that were doing sequencing were Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson. So any band doing that was lumped in with the industrials," Louvau says. "It never really felt like an industrial band, and that was kind of like an ongoing joke with us. We'd win Best Industrial Band awards and be on industrial tours. Now we're just a straight rock band."
The obvious question would be: Why not be a traditional band all the way, get a keyboard player, and not do any sequencing at all?
"James has a problem with keyboard players onstage," Kirksey says. "He thinks they look kinda lame. Danny Lohner from Nine Inch Nails rocks it, but everyone else looks like they're doing homework."
The Attitude's first show was opening up for Mindless Self Indulgence last August. That set the bar early on, and the band's tried to play mostly national shows since then, working with local radio stations and opening for the likes of Bullet for My Valentine, Buckcherry and Flyleaf.
"They're a Christian rock band," Louvau says of Flyleaf. "They were great. When we played with them, they had a 'no chicks or alcohol backstage' rule. So we had to 'old school' it, chug some brews in the parking lot."
Clearly, playing "straight to the middle" has helped The Attitude escape the pigeonholing that hamstrung Victims in Ecstasy. "Are we a metal band? No. Are we heavier than a rock band? Probably," Louvau says. "And we refuse to be called a post-punk band or post-anything kind of band. Sounds like we should be delivering letters or something."
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Another way of going big with The Attitude is through video. The Attitude's spate of videos has production budgets, real lighting, a real crew, and a real director. "What sucks now," Ruggerio says, "is that now every band with a camera phone is shooting band videos on the cheap and posting them on YouTube."
Yet another case of technology making more problems than it solves like MySpace, which was vital to the band in grabbing new followers in the beginning but now seems impossible, given the glut of bands on there. It's kind of like an open mic night, with everyone waiting to go on and no one listening.
"We actually do open mic nights to keep our chops up," Louvau says proudly. "If you're only doing select shows, once every month or so, it beats sitting around scratching our asses. So we'll go to Joe's Grotto on a Wednesday night, make up some name like Amateur Hour, and play to whoever's there. And get an honest reaction, too."
"You still got to give them the same show you would if it was packed," Kirksey says, "whether it's four people or 4,000. Obviously, it's a lot nicer when it's 4,000."