Why Fatherhood Is Responsible for Failure's Reunion
Father's Day is just around the corner (June 15 for you slackers), and whether you've had the pleasure of yielding your own spawn or owe it to your old man for teaching you life hacks, there's a new reason to love fatherhood -- it revived Failure.
The whole disillusioned '90s grunge umbrella covered the likes of many a garage band, but none is more underrated than Failure. The three-piece rock group is headlining its first tour in nearly 15 years and nearly two decades since the release of its last and most popular album -- the raw, melodic and soaring, ambitious Fantastic Planet that explored nearly every wavelength the genre was headed over the next few decades.
After seven years together, the band split in '97. The members went their separate ways in the biz. Front man Ken Andrews produced music for ON, Pete Yorn and Candlebox as well as Chris Cornell's James Bond theme. The remaining band members went on to play in numerous bands, including Queens of the Stone Age and A Perfect Circle. Guitarist Greg Edwards graduated to an experimental rock group called Autolux that shared the stage with Nine Inch Nails, The White Stripes, Beck, Deerhoof and Thom Yorke.
It would take nearly a decade of lunches and catching up before Andrews and Edwards rekindled their friendship, Failure and the chemistry behind Fantastic Planet in an 27-stop reunion tour expected to lead into the group's fourth studio album's release in 2015. The band's Tree of Stars Tour stops in Tempe a few days before Father's Day -- June 13 at The Marquee. Edwards fielded a few questions from Up on the Sun about fatherhood, getting distracted onstage and the new Failure album.
As the story goes, you reached out to Ken Andrews about nine years ago and that's where this reunion all started. What made you pick up the phone?
I don't think I reached out to him, but I've heard that somewhere. [Andrews recently said it in an interview.] We just sort reconnected. I think we had lunch together nine years ago and then we hung out very sporadically. It wasn't until we were both married with children that our families wanted to hang out together and that led to us spending more time together and that naturally evolved into rekindling the band.
Do you guys share any dad-like hobbies, then?
Not really, no. No, not like cigars or a man cave. Just the studio. We should pick up some. I know what you mean.
Failure's following has grown quite a bit since the band broke up. Your first reunion show sold out L.A.'s El Rey Theatre really quickly. What was going through your head during that time?
I think we were surprised at how quickly it sold out, and it was amusing for us how familiar people were with our songs. You hear a lot of performers talking about how a performance is a relationship with the audience and feeding off the audience. I've never really experienced that or got into that point of view, but I have to say at that El Rey show and on this headlining tour that's definitely an element of the show every night. The audience is doing a lot of the work for us.
Is the new fandom like when you break up with a girl and all of a sudden everything changes -- she wants you back at all costs, etc.?
Who's the girl -- the band or the audience? [laughs] We made some records that had a lot of depth. And people who maybe weren't around to see us tour or perform any of that stuff, it just became maybe a little mythical to people who really love the records.
What came first -- the idea of returning to the road or the studio?
It was always headed toward going back to the studio and trying to write and record something as Failure. We put the reunion show in there as an intermediary along that path, which gave us something to shoot for that was very much more quantifiable than writing new material. We saw we could play those songs and it would be fun to play maybe one small club show.
Is playing live important to the writing process for you?
Yes. It's everything. It never comes from one thing. Songs can be written by one person in a room -- the skeleton of a song, the lyrics and melody -- but that becomes something different when it's brought into a live situation. But then songs like "Another Space Song" and "Heliotropic" just came out of us playing together and recording jams. ... We were just playing and playing and playing, and then we'd go back and listen to hours of the playing and pick out the best moments and then expand on those moments. [Those songs] you can never recreate something in a room alone, just like it's harder to write the more song-oriented things like "Nurse Who Love Me" in a jam.
Do you feel like you're a better musician than you were two decades ago when you wrote Failure songs? How does it affect the way you approach them now?
It seems like everybody likes to say they're better when they're older, but, I don't know, that doesn't seem to be true to me. Most people in rock 'n' roll don't get better when they get older. Writers are different, maybe. I think I'm more thoughtful, maybe a little more cautious. I don't know if that's a good thing. Everything seemed easier then. There was almost no thought, though of course there was. Maybe it's just a memory.
You went on the tour with Tool earlier this year, which was kind of full-circle since Tool was one of the first bands you toured with. Was the experience nostalgic?
When we first toured with Tool, we did, like, a small club tour through France and the U.K. and the Netherlands and Belgium, maybe. That was a long tour. Then we did a U.S. tour with them and The Flaming Lips, which was a really interesting bill, and it was amazing to see The Flaming Lips at that point. It was also small, 1,000-seater places. So, touring with Tool now because they're just like -- (pauses) -- it's like another dimension. It's different. A totally different feeling.
I bet! You guys were playing arenas now!
Yeah, we didn't expect to do anything like that. It was fun and, for the people who weren't busy finding their seats, a spectacle and they enjoyed it.
Have you done any recording?
Yeah, we've done a ton of recording. The one thing that was encouraging during this process and this tour was that we have a few core ideas that we feel really strongly about and can form the foundation of a record. I think if we didn't have those ideas that we thought were really strong, it'd be hard to do any of this.
Any insight into those ideas?
They're songs [laughs].
Fair enough, I guess.
To me, and Ken, too, we talked about this, [the songs] sound like the next logical step after Fantastic Planet.
What's been the most surprising thing to happen on tour?
I think the surprising thing is the audience reaction, the amount of singing that's going on. They're just there -- every beat, every note, every word. For me, it's very easy to get bored and distracted onstage. My mind can wander and it's hard to stay in the moment. That might seem funny, but that's how it's always been. On this tour, every time I look up the audience keeps me in the moment.
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