Categories: Interviews

Making their Presence known

Positivity goes a long way in the music business, and Presence has plenty of it.

The Tallahassee, Fla.-based rock quartet’s confidence has never wavered, even during the low points, says lead singer Jay Slim.

“One of the reasons I think we got our record deal, and hopefully good things are going to happen for us, was the positive attitude we all shared from the very beginning,” Slim said recently. “We knew back then that we had something special, that if we stuck with it and got through the hard times, then we’d be fine.”

They were right. Slim, Dan Fulmer (guitar), D.J. Stange (bass) and Nick Wells (drums) have risen to the occasion with their debut Curb album, “Rise,” released May 20. Produced by Michael Barbiero (Creed, Puddle of Mudd), “Rise” delivers a volatile mix of hip-hop-influenced rock and emotional lyrics.

“We got a lot of interest from other labels,” Slim said, “but I think they passed because of the genre we’re in. A lot of labels were maybe apprehensive about signing a band like us, because lots of critics talk about the rap-rock thing being a fad, this and that. You know how A&R guys are; they have trouble making up their minds sometimes, so they listen to what other people say mostly.

“That’s why Curb’s a perfect place for us. The label itself is run like an independent label, so it has that mom-and-pop-type feel. It’s like a little family. We like that atmosphere. We’re working to surround ourselves with good people, which in this industry you know is hard to find.”

Already, the first single, “Tonz of Fun,” is having its day at mainstream rock. Slim expected the song, a salute to a night of raucous drinking, to have its share of detractors, but so far the reaction has been all thumbs up.

“For such a surface-type song – because there’s a lot of deeper stuff on the album – it has so many different angles to it,” he said. “The song is funny, but it’s also poking fun at somebody or something that may hurt feelings. ‘How shallow can a man be’ is the intro line, so it’s not meant to hurt any feelings, but it does. Maybe it’ll get people to understand there’s side to that story.

“The album is full of songs that deal with death and loss – our manager had lost his mother; I lost my grandfather and D.J. had lost his father. I was depressing myself. ‘Tonz of Fun’ was like a relief for us, where we could do something a little bit more lighthearted.”

Though it’s not specifically about the late “Saturday Night Live” star, “Van Down By the River” is a tribute to Chris Farley.

“That one has really stood the test of time,” Slim said. “Me and D.J. wrote that before Dan and Nick were in the band. We wrote it just after Farley passed away. We were such huge fans of his – and at that point in our lives, we hadn’t had a lot of personal loss, like a family member or anybody really close to us. We felt a kind of closeness with Farley because we identified with his humor so much. That might sound a little cheesy, but we watched him all the time and had his ‘Best of’ on tape.

“When he died, what it did was made me sit down and think about my own life. The song really isn’t about Chris, but his passing made me think, ‘Okay, now it’s life or death.’ “

Now that “Rise” is in stores, Slim says they have their work cut out for them.

“We’ve set our goals really high,” he said. “It’s not a big-headed thing. We really believe that the positive attitude will get us there. Hard work pays off, and believing really pays off, too.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I grew up listening to hip-hop strictly, but the first record I bought was an R&B record, Boyz II Men’s ‘Cooleyhighharmony.’ It’s good, but I don’t listen to R&B anymore.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Me, my brother and my dad saw Hammer. It was the loudest thing. My dad was covering his ears the entire time. Hammer’s thing was over the top, but it was very entertaining.”

THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “Wow, I’ve had a lot of bad jobs. I can drive around Tallahassee and basically every half-mile I could pull into a place that I’ve worked at. Before Dan and Nick moved up here to be in the band, I worked at a Chevron station. It was a half-mile from the trailer I was living in. It was probably the lowest point of my life. I got fired. I think I was overqualified for the position, Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I got fired because I tried to tell the guy how to run his gas station.”

ORDER “RISE”: Click here.

ON THE WEB: www.presencemusic.net.

Gerry Galipault @https://twitter.com/Pauseandplay

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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