Success, albeit brief and moderate, tasted sweet for the Candyskins in the early 1990s. The British guitar-pop quintet was signed to Geffen’s DGC Records, and its debut album, “Space I’m In,” yielded a Top 10 modern rock track hit (“Submarine Song”).
Their second album, “Fun?” (1993), was anything but. Although it spawned another college radio hit (“Wembley”), the LP’s poor sales made them expendable. They quickly were discarded and never heard from again, at least in the United States.
Back home, they still were regarded as Oxford’s second-most favorite sons, behind Radiohead. Brothers Nick (vocals) and Mark Cope (guitar), drummer John Halliday, guitarist Nick Burton and bassist Brett Gordon clung to their longstanding friendships and forged ahead, releasing a third album, “Sunday Morning Fever” (on the U.K. label Ultimate), in 1995.
They struggled, had no money and took on odd jobs to survive. Anger, more than anything, fueled their determination, says Mark Cope.
“After that problem with Geffen, it was like starting all over again, really,” Cope said recently. “When we got dropped by Geffen, no major record company wanted to touch us. It was a no-win situation. It wasn’t our fault. It had nothing to do with our songwriting or anything like that; it was just politics within the record company.
“It makes me angry just thinking about it; they wasted two years of our lives and made it very hard for us financially. It left us out in the cold, but it made us stronger as a band, made us write better songs, and we spent two years writing the best album we possibly could. It’s like being a painter, the more time you spend at it, the better you get.”
Their ultimate revenge is “Death of a Minor TV Celebrity,” their debut Velvel album (released Oct. 13). From the psychedelic refrains of the opening track and first single, “Feed It,” about the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide, to the tidy guitar pop of “Going Nowhere,” the Candyskins rise again in a big way. Just ask anyone who attended their packed label showcase at New York’s Mercury Lounge on Aug. 19.
The Candyskins open an extensive U.S. tour Oct. 27 at The Point in Atlanta, just as “Feed It” garners more radio airplay and reaps the benefits from its inclusion in the upcoming Adam Sandler film “Waterboy.”
While “Feed It” will get most of the attention, it’s hard to overlook the title track.
“It’s a true story,” Nick Cope said. “It’s about a young guy in Southern California who in ’83 always wanted to fly, so he tethered these hot-air balloons to a Jeep and it launched him skyward. He had a gun with him so he could shoot out some of the balloons to control his flight, but he couldn’t land it properly. The police shot it down for him and he became this sort of cult hero.
“After his 15 minutes of fame was up, he couldn’t stand it and shot himself in the heart and died. It just struck me how he wanted to be famous and when it finally happened, it was fleeting. It’s a lot like the music business, you have to enjoy it while you can because you never know when it’ll end. We would know.”
Even with the renewed buzz about the band, Mark Cope still faces subtle reminders of how far they have come and how far they have to go.
“The day before we flew over to (Los Angeles) to do the video for ‘Feed It,’ ” he said, “I was cleaning other people’s houses for some extra money and I’m sitting there polishing their CD cases and I see our CDs in there. I’m thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing?’
“I’m just proud that we stuck to our guns. We all went to school together, and if we had split up as a band and we all went off in different directions, it’s more than splitting a band up, it’s splitting a group of friends up and also letting go some of your youth as well. We’re holding on to that, because we enjoy each other’s company so much. Just imagine what it’d be like if we could get paid to make music and being together, that’s an ideal life.
“When we did the video that day, we all said to each other, ‘You could work 20 years in an office and never get a day like this.’ You’ve got the sun coming up one side, you’ve got the moon going down on the other side; the Hollywood sign is behind you and the whole of L.A. in front of you and you’re dressed as a spaceman. You don’t get days like that very often.
“We’ve got friends from school who now have loads of money, they have houses and cars, and they still say, ‘I’d give it all up to be doing what you’re doing. You’re still doing what you said you were going to do at school, be in a band.’ If you stick with something and believe in it, you’ll get rewarded.”
BWF (before we forget): Peel back the Candyskins on the Web @ www.rotator.co.uk/candyskins.
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