Alternative music in the 1990’s became less alternative not because the music changed, but as a result of tastes changing. Men in makeup shredding and combing the streets for loose women became passé, and earnest young men howling about their scarred childhoods became de rigueur. The Seattle explosion opened the doors for honest expression, a new openness in songwriting material and a disdain for the plastic nonsense of the 1980’s.
A Seattle band not known for being a Seattle band, Candlebox scored a huge hit with their first single, “Far Behind”. The deceptively slow tune built to a screaming crescendo, bellowing feelings of regret and lament that are no stranger to the wishful among us who really miss yesterday. After a seven month run, another single, “You”, placed a stranglehold on the radio and MTV waves.
An unlikely entrant from York, Pennsylvania, Live scored a minor hit in 1991 with “Operation Spirit”, from their debut, “Mental Jewelry”. The band roared back with “Selling the Drama”, from “Throwing Copper”. After a slew of successful singles and a perch at the top of most critic’s lists for 1994’s best album, Live continued their string of success throughout the decade with more hits and sold out tours.
Both bands retained their spot in music lover’s collections as the new millennium brought the bubble gum yawn inducers from Lou Pearlman’s camp. The public’s attention span became shorter and the Internet changed the culture and more importantly, the way music and other forms of media were consumed. Factoring in the choice to share/borrow/steal music and a genuine dearth of palatable rock acts, genres were deconstructed and music morphed from the soundtrack of your life to a distraction while texting and watching the reality show apes swallow both their pride and bull testicles.
After Live’s singer, Ed Kowalcyzk decides a solo career better suited him, the remaining founders of the band continued to write and record while mulling singers for the new songs. Candlebox singer Kevin Martin’s name was brought up, and the tumblers clicked. He brought tour mate Sean Hennesy along to handle the solos that Chad Taylor didn’t want any part of, and The Gracious Few was born. Live’s drummer Chad Gracey, and bass player Patrick Dahlheimer round out the quintet. With a record in stores and a tour in progress, the band hopes to recapture the excitement and offer an experience that is not just what fans expect, but what they genuinely like. The new songs are not indicative of previous money grabs by also-rans out to grab a dollar and past glory, they really do rock. Amid cries of “Rock is Dead” for decades, a case could be made that maybe it isn’t on life support, just in need of the right medicine.
SIL. What feedback have you gotten about the new record?
CG. I’m sitting in front of Chad Taylor’s house right now, and we have found that the best feedback has been on Facebook. The reviews in mags and online have been great, and it’s really exciting.
SIL. How long has it been since you had a record to tour behind?
CG. The last record from Live came out in 2006.
SIL. This record seems to have snuck up on some people. I heard about it from some Sirius listeners.
CG. It was a quick process. Live went on hiatus, or broke up, whatever you want to say, and Chad and Patrick and I had already been working on new material since June of 2009. We contacted Kevin in June, but his schedule wasn’t open until August when we wrote some songs. We did it again in September, wrote some more and were in the studio by November.
SIL. How did you get together with Kevin?
CG. Chad was working on some projects with local bands here in Lancaster, and Kevin played on one of them. He’s actually a really good drummer, and he played on some tracks for Chad five years ago. When we began writing these songs, Kevin wasn’t really on our minds at all. Then our good friend John said, “You gotta call Kevin”. That’s when the light bulb went off and we knew he was the guy.
SIL. Was the music done when he got there?
CG. We had four songs as ideas, no lyrics or melody. When we all got together, we wrote a song that made it onto the record called “For You”. That was the first thing we worked on when he walked into the room. Kevin said that he didn’t want the responsibility of doing all the lyrics, so we have all pitched in.
SIL. With a new record out, how far ahead do you have all of this planned out?
CG. We’re touring in the states starting in September, then going overseas in January. More touring next year in America, and Australia at some point.
SIL. Is this everyone’s primary project? Are there plans to do Candlebox or Live in the future?
CG. This is our focus for the next two years. Kevin wants to maybe do a Candlebox thing in two years, but for right now, this is it.
SIL. Are you playing any back catalog for either band?
CG. We’ve been playing one Candlebox song and two Live songs. Right now, we’re working on a Depeche Mode song.
SIL. Do you have any other projects that you might be working on?
CG. Chad Taylor and I are the CEO and COO of Questionable Entertainment.
It’s a record company and all of the members are part of the company. We are heavily involved in the day-to-day operations and make sure that everybody gets paid, etc. Chad, Patrick and I also own Aurora Films, and we made our first full-length feature film a year and a half ago. It has Ernest Borgnine, and it’s called “Another Harvest Moon”. We do a lot of local production work and are looking for more in the future.
SIL. How different is it to go from having a known name like Live to starting over with a new band and a new name?
CG. It’s exciting. We can do some things right that we didn’t do the first time, like owning the label and all of the trademarks and copyrights. It’s also scary, we’re all 39 or 40 years old with all new songs that no one has heard. But we believe it will be worth it in the end.
SIL. Since you own the label and are in the band, how do you view downloading in all of its different forms?
CG. I have personally never downloaded illegally, because I’m an artist and I understand the artist side of it. On the other hand, getting art to people can be beneficial.
SIL. Who named the band?
CG. Kevin was the one who said “The Gracious Few”. Our booking agent at Paradigm, Jonathan Levine, used to book a lot of Dead shows and other jam bands, and he said we should go for kind of a Grateful Dead kind of name.
SIL. Are you writing material for future records?
CG. Chad has eight or nine ideas floating around. We’ll be writing the next record while sound checking on this tour.
SIL. Sounds good. Thanks for talking with me, and I look forward to your show.