Michael Rank, it seems, always has been one step off the beaten path to commercial status.
As frontman of the rock trio Snatches of Pink in the 1980s and early ’90s, he was on Caroline Records’ roster with Nirvana, Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins. While he and band mates Sara Romweber (drums) and Andy McMillan (bass) toiled on the club circuit in their native Chapel Hill and the rest of North Carolina, hometown heroes Squirrel Nut Zippers, Ben Folds Five, Superchunk, Flat Duo Jets and Southern Culture on the Skids made names for themselves.
For Snatches of Pink, it was time for a change. The trio became Clarissa, and now with its second Mammoth album, “Blood and Commons” (issued Oct. 7), time has come today.
“We had such problems with Snatches of Pink, which we thought was a name that really meant nothing, and then it obviously meant a lot of things to people, sexually and otherwise,” Rank said recently. “That started to become more of a problem than anything. It’s hard enough being in this business without having to bring this baggage of this name that offends people for whatever reason. It wasn’t helpful, so I thought let’s just call it something that couldn’t mean anything.”
Clarissa – the name – may mean nothing, but “Blood and Commons” has the opposite effect. It’s covered with a blanket of Rank’s sonic guitar and vocals, equal parts alluring and defiant, from the first single (“All But White”) on down to “Waterfield.”
Rank is careful not to be overly optimistic, but he does have a good feeling about this album’s chances.
“This one seems to be grabbing people’s attention; it’s more accessible,” he said. “We really wanted to make something that was a bit more straightforward, certainly in terms of getting the vocals and guitars up.
“And the label’s been supportive. I’ve gone from just having the one person (at a record company) who’s a fan to a good majority enjoying it, and that’s a good sign.”