After all these years, L.A. remains a beacon for those seeking fame and fortune. Whether a person is born in Okinawa, Japan, like the Exies drummer Dennis Wolfe or Menomonee Falls, MN, where the group's guitarist/vocalist Scott Stevens grew up, L.A.'s warm climate and seemingly endless possibilities are hard to resist.
However, once a person arrives in L.A. it rarely turns out as planned. Success is still a long ways away and to make ends meet musicians need day jobs like accounting assistant (for a Hollywood chiropractor to the "stars"), bassist for a disco cover band called Booty Quake or booking agent for has-been Tommy Tutone (remember the phone number in his one hit?). Those were just some of the pre-Exies paychecks for guitarist David Walsh, bassist Freddy Herrera and Wolfe, respectively. Stevens at least managed to land a gig as a recording studio runner - namely he picked up or delivered anything a producer or engineer needed. Despite the low status, at least it was a creditable music industry gig.
Often, hard work, dedication and talent leads to a recording contract. Sometimes it's just dumb luck or the right clothes. In the studio, an engineer told Chris Carnes from Sonicrome that Stevens was in a group. Stevens' wingtips caught Carnes eye. "I'll bet your band is cool because you got cool shoes," Carnes said. Soon Carnes was passing around the Exies demo tape which led to a contract with the indie label Ultimatum. Their self-titled debut, reminiscent of Radiohead, Foo Fighters and even The Beatles, led to extensive touring. The Exies were eventually signed by major label, Virgin, and spent a good part of '02 writing and recording "Inertia" with producer Matt Serletic.
In December, '04 the Exies issued "Head For The Door." Sales were solid but not particularly impressive, even with the single "Ugly" being used as the World Wrestling Entertainment's theme song and "Slow Drain" landing on the NFL Street video game. The Exies spent much of '05 supporting Motley Crue on their Carnival Of Sin Tour. Though a highly popular jaunt, it remains a mystery how anyone could think working the Crue crowd would broaden the Exies audience. But there you go.
All this activity failed to generate the expected results - mega sales. So Virgin decided to cut the Exies loose.
At this point, both Wolfe (who had replaced Thom Sullivan in '02) and Walsh left and it looked like the end of the line. But rather than pull the plug, Stevens and Herrera recruited former band member Chris Skane (a guitarist from an early incarnation of The Exies) and drummer Hoss Wright. "A Modern Way Of Living With The Truth," was released in May, '07, on Eleven Seven Music.
As sometimes happens, world events take over. In mid-'07, celebrity Paris Hilton's self-indulgent behavior (drunk driving, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license and general air-headed, pettiness) landed her a whopping 45 day jail sentence. Immediately, vacuous Hilton supporters started a petition asking California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon the toxic spoiled heiress. But the actor-turned-political-actor replied that he had better things to do. No doubt.
The Exies weighed in calling pleas for leniency ridiculous. "She did something anyone would be punished for," said Stevens. "She's no different than anyone else, and she needs a reality check and needs to take the hit like everybody else would." The band started a petition to keep Paris in jail for her full term. While the Free Paris petition received 27,000 signatures, the Jail Paris petition garnered 76,000 supporters. But Hilton's sentence was cut in half for "good behavior." You gotta be kidding! It was yet another crushing blow against democracy in the U.S.
2000 The Exies
2004 Head For The Door
2007 A Modern Way Of Living With The Truth
The Exies, is short for 'The Extentialists'. The philosophy states that "individual human beings have full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives." How heady.
The Exies debut suffers from a Radiohead influence. They lack the experience to pull it off. Hell, even Radiohead has trouble nailing it. Follow-up CD "Inertia" features a straight-ahead approach and is better for it. First single, the percussive "My Goddess" has a noisy kick while "Creeper Kamikaze" possesses a compelling melody. The album contains a couple self-indulgent ballads like "Genius" but there is a lot of good stuff here. They are on the right track.
Lean, muscular Rock emanates from "Head For The Door." There's the epic, "Ugly," the post-Grunge, "Dear Enemy" and the melodic hooks on "Slow Drain." That an album with this much and more going for it got the Exies dropped is disconcerting. Maybe the music business is all about instant gratification and the blind pursuit of the almighty dollar. Too bad the Exies got sideswiped and sidetracked in the process. They had a good thing going here.
"Modern Way Of Living With The Truth" has a broader scope than its predecessors. In places it's harder and edgier; "Lay Your Money Down" and "Dose." That's countered by a disproportionate number of radio friendly down-tempo songs. "Stray" is an OK Rock ballad while "My Ordinary World" plies the soft chorus/loud verse with the usual results. There's even an acoustic/electric take on the Talking Heads' classic "Once In A Lifetime." Yeah sure, they give it a different reading, and it sounds good, but "Modern Way" is hardly better for it. Collectively, these songs are a classic case of trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Given the Exies' history, who can blame them?
The set excels with the uptempo title track, "Fear Of Being Alone" and "Different Than You." Toning down the drama and avoiding the "market considerations," the group is in their element when they simply kick it out.