Sometimes a hit comes along just when a band has given up on the hunt.
Sam Llanas, one-half of The BoDeans, admits he was caught off-guard by the pop band’s first taste of Top 20 success this spring with “Closer to Free,” a track off their 1993 album “Go Slow Down.” Out of nowhere, it popped up as the theme song for the Fox TV series “Party of Five,” and after a San Diego radio station latched on to it, it snowballed from there.
“It was totally unexpected and it just kind of came right out of the blue, but it was a really nice shot in the arm,” Llanas said recently from his Waukesha, Wis., home. “It was complete dumb luck, really, the way it happened.”
After 13 years together, Llanas and fellow guitarist-vocalist Kurt Newmann had long abandoned any hopes of scoring a hit song, even though they have a history of critically lauded albums dating back to their Slash debut “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams” in 1986.
“Before ‘Closer to Free’ happened,” Llanas said, “we had been on the road and making records for 10 years without a hit, so it gets you pretty grounded. We know what we’re about, what we can do.
“We know better than to chase around for a hit. We did that for a couple of years and it got us nowhere, so when we decided to make the ‘Go Slow Down’ record, we just said, ‘F— everybody else. Let’s make a record that we really like and that we’re proud of,’ because you can chase your tail around forever.”
Still anchored firmly, The BoDeans aren’t turning tail with the Nov. 5 release of their seventh album, “Blend” (Slash/Reprise), preceded by the single “Hurt By Love.” They stick to what they know best: songs of introspection and passion.
“We just wanted to make a collection of strong songs,” Llanas said. “We recorded this over like two years, so it was hard to have one train of thought, so to speak. We just wanted to make a good record and not go overboard with too many songs on it.
“We wanted to have 10 songs that we felt were really strong, as opposed to how in the age of CDs sometimes you have 15 songs but how many of them are really that good. So we decided to keep it short and to the point.”
Cuts such as “Heart of a Miracle,” the rave-up “Count On Me” and “All I Ever Wanted” make for a cohesive, tidy guitar pop album. It shows a maturity built on Llanas and Neumann’s enduring friendship.
“We’ve always been very good friends, before we even made music together,” Llanas said. “We were in the 11th grade, and a mutual friend introduced us in study hall. We’d all be around a big table and we found ourselves laughing at the same things.
“We could hang out for long periods of time, without really having to say much. We had this passion for music that nobody else had that we knew. He was the first person I met who felt exactly the way I did about things.
“We respect each other, and I think our writing styles complement each other. It was a lucky day when we met.”
BWF (before we forget): The BoDeans album discography – “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams” (Slash, 1986); “Outside Looking In” (1987); “home” (1989); “Black and White” (1991); “Go Slow Down” (Slash/Reprise, 1993); “Joe Dirt Car,” double-disc live set (1995); “Blend” (1996).