In its short life, the Los Angeles-based rock quintet Gordon has courted disaster and experienced euphoria.
They finally have found a happy median.
Formed in 1997, the group – heavily influenced by the psychedelic-era Beatles – signed a record deal before playing its first live show, but then original lead singer Devin Kamin reportedly quit in the middle of recording because he didn’t want to tour. Worse still, the record deal fell through.
Enter producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine). He had his eye on Gordon ever since manager Steve Stewart, who also manages Stone Temple Pilots, had passed along a copy of the band’s demo. Just when it appeared Gordon had imploded before it got off the ground, O’Brien signed them to his 550 Music-distributed Fifty Seven Records, the band enlisted former Dashboard Prophets singer-guitarist Chris Dye to replace Kamin and O’Brien manned the boards for the group’s remarkable self-titled debut album (released June 1).
What a long, strange trip it has been, in particular, for Dye.
“It’s been a head-spinning situation from the get-go,” Dye said recently. “A year ago, I had an independent acoustic record out. I was just fooling around L.A. with a ghetto blaster and a guitar. I was starving. It was definitely rough. The label had no distribution.
“I had just come out of Dashboard, which everyone was expecting to be the next big rock band out of L.A., but there were some situations that were beyond the band’s control that didn’t happen. The acoustic record was something I was trying to do to get back in touch with the thing I knew propelled me constantly to do this. I was basically at the bottom, starting all over again.”
Fate stepped in.
Dye, who had been in Dashboard Prophets with Gordon bassist Greg Evanski, went to pick him up from rehearsal the same day Kamin left the band. While he waited for Evanski, Dye listened to the band’s collection of fetchingly atmospheric pop and vibrant rock tracks and was duly impressed.
“They were in there jamming,” Dye said, “and all of a sudden they asked me if I wanted to sing. We played for like an hour, and it was really cool. I felt a spark that I knew could turn into a fire.
“They looked at me and said, ‘We have this situation,’ and it was that immediate. I left and basically didn’t say anything, but Greg kept telling me ‘They love you.’ I was a little leery because it just didn’t seem like a situation I would get involved in, but sometimes the strangest situations are the ones you want to work with. It seemed so whacked, it had to be right.
“Mostly, I didn’t feel comfortable on the label side. They don’t know me, they don’t know who I am. I said, ‘I want you guys to go out and find every singer you can find and try ’em out.’ I didn’t want to walk into the situation until they proved to everybody that I was the guy.”
Their instincts were right: Dye was the guy. He soon became a full-fledged member and quickly asserted himself vocally on such tracks as “Fortified Grapes” (the first single), “Feed” and “Mr. Cornucopia,” each wafting with retro-pop harmonies. He also provided one of the album’s strongest cuts, “Better Daze,” subconsciously written about his own improving status.
“They gave me some room to move,” Dye said of his new band mates. “I didn’t want to change the material, but I wanted to bring something new to it. I had to put my own life into everything. The singer before didn’t have that burn within him and that’s a really important part of doing a vocal, the ability to put yourself into it completely. He hadn’t been doing it long enough to really know how to let himself go. That’s what I felt I could do without having to reconstruct the songs. As soon as we did it, everyone said, ‘This record’s a lot better.’ “
Phillips praised O’Brien’s patience and commitment to the band through a difficult period.
“He’s been there as sort of a George Martin kind of guy,” he said. “He’s more personally involved in this record than he has been with a lot of other records since he’s the producer and it’s his label. He brought a lot of musical talent to the table, basically. A lot of producers are good at recording and getting something to sound good, but he’s good at knowing music, knowing when to catch the right moment, what the right moment is. He’s like a ghost member almost.”
A good portion of the album is radio-friendly – it’s easy to imagine hearing “Fortified Grapes,” “Better Daze” and “Long Island” seeping out of the car radio on a steamy summer drive – but will radio bite? Lord only knows.
“It’s a record that needs to grow on you,” Dye said, “so I don’t think anybody’s going to get it initially. When they listen to the diversity, they’ll understand what the band’s all about.”
“We made a good record,” Phillips said. “We tried, and hopefully it’ll get the attention that it deserves, but there’s also a lot of factors involved. If everything lines up properly, it could do great, but then again there’s been a lot of great records that I’ve heard that didn’t do well. You never really know. You can only hope for the best.”
BWF (before we forget): Catch up with Gordon on the Web @ www.gordonmusic.com.
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