Bands, especially in places like East Lansing, regularly cross paths. You get to know the other musicians and sometimes even like them better or appreciate their talents more than those in your own group. Eventually the realization hits that if you are ever going to get out of a place like East Lansing the group has got to hit on all cylinders. So two bands merge, losing the loose change, in the hopes that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is pretty much the origin of Verve Pipe.
Vocalist/guitarist and de facto leader, Brian Vander Ark, guitarist Brian Stout and drummer Donny Brown formed the East Lansing group in '91. Stout hung around for a couple years before being replaced by A.J. Dunning. Keyboardist Doug Corella arrived in '95 just before Verve Pipe landed their major label deal. On the way, Verve Pipe had two indie releases on the LMNOPop label - '92's "I've Suffered A Head Injury" and '93's "Pop Smear."
"Villains" was released in '96 and spawned the unlikely hit "The Freshmen." The mournful acoustic ballad about suicide and "not being responsible - we were only freshmen" proved to be the group's signature song.
Verve Pipe rolls through the same emotional terrain that Jakob Dylan more effectively plowed with the Wallflowers. "Villains," with the hypnotic "The Freshmen" is the group's main attraction. Beyond that song, Verve Pipe employ repetitive keyboard riffs to anchor their songs. The title track and "Photograph," the album's best song, with a catchy, hook-laden chorus, are prime examples. "Barely (If At All)" opens the album and is an efficacious uptempo track. Later, "Real," a sub-two minute Punk influenced song scores. But as if to prove they are too smart to play it straight, there's an unnecessary tempo change. Oh well.