Ready for the world
Local band the Revolution Smile catches the ear of budding record mogul Fred Durst
Smart hard rock isn’t an oxymoron.
And Sacramento seems to have bred quite a few bands whose calling cards are high-volume intelligence. Take the Revolution Smile, one of three acts—the others being Milwaukee and onelinedrawing—to rise from the ashes of Far, easily one of the most influential smart loud bands to come out of this part of Northern California.
When Far unraveled in late 1998, the group’s former guitarist and founder, Shaun Lopez, dickered with other options. He hooked up with Walter Schreifels of the defunct New York band Quicksand, who was putting together a new group, Rival Schools. But Lopez soured on that idea quickly. “I realized I just didn’t want to join a band and be a guitar player,” he admitted.
Lopez realized that if he was going to start his own band again, and he didn’t want to risk getting into the kind of adversarial relationship he’d had with Far frontman Jonah Matranga, now of onelinedrawing, he’d have to sing as well as play guitar. “It was pretty rough at first,” he admitted. “But I was comfortable with writing songs, and I always had vocal ideas in my head. I was afraid to do it, but I just went ahead anyway. Within a year, I was up to speed on not being embarrassed about something I was singing.”
In the spring of 2000, Lopez formed the idea of a new venue for his songs, and thus was the Revolution Smile born. Over time, he would be joined by drummer Jeremy White, guitarist Tim “T.T.” McCord—a former roommate whose brother, Matt, plays drums in Tinfed—and bassist Octavio Gallardo. “I think I learned from being in Far that being friends with each other is so much more important than being good players,” Lopez said. “That band was never about friendship; it was built on creating good music. And when you do that, you’re basically lighting this fuse that is going to blow up.”
So, this new, less-volatile group of friends holed up at Alkali Flat studio the Hangar in late 2001. “We’d go in for 12, 13 hours and say, ‘Hey, let’s see what we can get done today,’” Lopez recalled. A CD, At War With Plastic, was released by the indie label Animation Records in 2001; a follow-up EP, We Are In This Alone was slated for release by Buddyhead, a label formed by the snarky buddyhead.com Web site. A limited edition later was released through the band’s Web site, www.therevolutionsmile.com.
Buddyhead wasn’t as together a label as Lopez had hoped. So, when Fred Durst, the loudmouthed frontman of the big-league rap-rock group Limp Bizkit, called, Lopez was ready. Durst was looking to replace Bizkit’s departed lead guitarist, Wes Borland, and was a fan of Lopez’s work with Far. Lopez told Durst he wasn’t interested because he’d found a pretty good band situation. Durst wanted to hear the Revolution Smile; he’d started a custom label called Flawless Records through Interscope/Geffen/A&M, Limp Bizkit’s home, and he was looking for something new.
Say what you will about Durst, but as an A&R man, he’s pretty astute. “[He was] like, ‘We want to fly you down [to L.A.], and we want to get this deal done now because as soon as labels hear that we’re into it, they’re gonna be jumping down your neck,’” Lopez remembered.
Lopez told Durst he didn’t believe in showcasing for labels. Durst kept calling. The band went but didn’t take instruments. The label wanted to hear music. The band got some gear together and launched into a four-song set. After one song, they had a deal.
The result can be heard on Above the Noise. The melodic but muscular 13-song CD was produced by Dave Sardy, who also did the last Far album, Water & Solutions—but the formula for it is pure Lopez. “About 70 or 80 percent of the songs on the record were written on an acoustic guitar—just me in my room,” Lopez explained. “I think that’s an important way to write songs because otherwise you end up throwing tons of distortion onto something that really isn’t that good to begin with.”
The Revolution Smile is playing dates with CKY before it joins the Ozzfest tour.