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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nineties Alt-Rock Darling Failure Finds New Fans in Today's Kids

Posted By on Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 7:47 AM

click to enlarge Failure will perform at the Firebird on Saturday, October 17. - PHOTO BY RYAN DALY
  • Photo by Ryan Daly
  • Failure will perform at the Firebird on Saturday, October 17.

The ongoing and seemingly unending cycle of band reunions has, for most music fans, become a predictable pantomime of pent-up nostalgia yielding increasingly unrewarding returns. After a decade (or a few decades) of absence, that one band you loved so much back then finally gets back together, so you dutifully cough up the ticket price to see it at a venue it would have never played in its heyday. You're there, squinting your eyes and ears in a feeble attempt at time travel, only to realize that the band is older, the crowd is older, you're older and, no matter how objectively good the show is, it didn't give you anything new and it didn't make you young again.

And then, to make matters worse, the band decides to release some new music, compounding those emotions — only this time in your home.

click to enlarge Failure's critically acclaimed 1996 album, Fantastic Planet.
  • Failure's critically acclaimed 1996 album, Fantastic Planet.

Failure was first active during the '90s alt-rock boom, so its 2014 reunion (after seventeen years of absence) could have — should have — followed that same script. An acrimonious collapse fueled by creative burnout, drug-addled conflict and general popular indifference gets paved over by years of critical reassessment (the band's 1996 album, Fantastic Planet, is routinely hailed as a lost alt-rock/space-rock masterpiece), word-of-mouth praise (Failure is routinely name-checked by groups ranging from Pelican and Cave In to Speedy Ortiz) and individual successes (bassist Greg Edwards in Autolux, guitarist-vocalist Ken Andrews as a producer-engineer for the likes of Chris Cornell and Paramore). But a funny thing happened on the way to the reunion circuit: kids. Not the band members' kids, but, like, The Kids.

"I've met a bunch of people who discovered Failure in the last maybe two years, through just like a friend sharing some music or something," Andrews tells RFT Music. "They just thought that we were a band that had started maybe in 2010 or something. Until they saw our pictures, I guess."

Some might call it luck. But maybe the band's endurance happened by design.

"I think we were pretty interested in not being too of-this-moment when we were making Fantastic Planet," Andrews says. "We definitely have some '90s in us, for sure, but I think some of it gets obscured. Or it's not as obvious in some of our music."

Thanks to that timelessness (and, honestly, to the fact that the band was never all that popular during its initial run), Failure's string of reunion gigs in 2014 has turned into a critically acclaimed 2015 album — The Heart Is a Monster — and another tour that has the once-estranged members acting like a brand new band.

"What I'm noticing now is that for the people who did see us [at the first reunion shows], they're like me and you. They've got busy lives, careers, kids probably," Andrews says. "They maybe don't go to see the same band play a show in the same calendar year twice. [But] the new fans are still coming, and they're the ones who are interested in 'I wonder what the set's going to be like tonight' and 'Is Kellii going to play the same way that he did last year or last month' or whatever. They're kind of just more into it and more engaged.

"So right now I feel like we're just doing what any — not 'new' band, but a band who's been around, but maybe not for twenty years — is doing," he adds. "That's going out and trying to build your fan base. One person at a time."

7 p.m. Saturday, October 17. The Firebird, 2706 Olive Street. $20 to $25. 314-535-0353.

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