Before their recent reformation and new album, At Night We Live, Far were seemingly destined to be adored by a precious few and largely ignored in the rock pantheon. They were at once misunderstood and vastly ahead of their time. Much like their mid-90s counterparts Jawbox and Shudder to Think, they were an anomaly: intense, emotional rock without a macho stance. Far were too outside of the box, but they liked it that way. That’s what made Far special: their music was a dialogue-starter for fans who were just like them.
To those who stumbled onto the band, Far were ahead of the curve, onto something before it was a “something.” They had hardcore elements, but they weren’t hardcore. They rocked, but they certainly weren’t metal. They crafted hooky melodies, but they were by no means a power pop act. Their music was authentically emotional, but bore no real resemblance to the eventual explosion of the «emo» scene that many journalists have credited them with being the forefathers of. They combined all those elements and and more. They were on a major label, but they were steadfastly DIY, refusing to cater to any one scene or marketing plan.
For 1996’s Tin Cans With Strings to You and 1998’s Water & Solutions, both of which were released by Immortal/Epic, Far were promoted by the label to the nü metal crowd and the radio rock crowd. Neither specification suited them. In those days, there was no clearly defined “post-whatever” scene to properly place them in. Over several years of constant touring, Far played with everyone from Deftones to The Promise Ring, from Sepultura to Monster Magnet. Until recently, the band’s last show was in 1998, in Chicago. Frontman Jonah Matranga went on to enjoy a prolific solo career under the Onelinedrawing moniker and formed two short-lived bands, New End Original and Gratitude. Guitarist Shaun Lopez founded The Revolution Smile before focusing on production. Bassist John Gutenberger played with indie outfits Jackpot and Two Sheds, and drummer Chris Robyn played live and did session work with many bands.
Though Far have been gone for over a decade, their posthumous popularity has steadily increased. Many like-minded bands that have gone on to be bigger than Far ever were have consistently reference them in interviews. Bands as diverse as Thursday, Jimmy Eat World and Blink-182 claim Far as an influence, as do a host of others. A new wave of listeners have discovered Water & Solutions for themselves. The years have gone by, but Far’s music has stayed relevant.
But none of that was the catalyst for the reunion that resulted in the band’s first album in 12 years, At Night We Live. The reunion started with a few simple conversations in Lopez’s backyard and some loud, messy rehearsals. There was no label, no publicity, no management team. That previously mentioned DIY ethos remained solidly intact. The band’s initial plan was to play a few shows in Far-friendly markets, hit a few festivals and call it a day. The band planned a couple of secret shows under the fake name Hot Little Pony, with no hype other than a fake MySpace page. They needed a song for the music player, so they bashed out a quick cover of Ginuwine’s 90’s R&B classic, Pony. That’s when things snowballed. A friend handed the track to radio stations and it garnered huge airplay at notable stations such as KROQ, Live 105 and 91X. The phones lit up. The song was the #1 most requested track at KROQ for several weeks straight, beating out bands with huge promotional budgets and labels behind them. Since then, the song has been downloaded and played literally millions of times on iTunes, MySpace and more.
No one was more confused about the song’s takeoff than the band itself. It begged the question: What’s next? And so the seeds of At Night We Live, the band’s first new album in 12 years, were planted. Lopez started sending Matranga demos to work on. Between a handful of casual shows, ideas were exchanged via e-mail. Haphazard trips to Lopez’s studio in Los Angeles were made. Somehow, with all 4 band members living in different places, over several months, the record was finished.
The result is an album that references music as wide and varied as U2, Nine Inch Nails, Band Of Horses and Doves. Deafening features a monstrous riff, huge hooks and a confrontational, complex lyric. Give Me A Reason bounces and sways, somehow mellow and brutal simultaneously. Faithful as ever to their fans, the track Fight Song #16,233,241 features a scream-a-long vocal recorded by dozens of people around the world, submitted via the internet. Meanwhile, title track At Night We Live is based on a dream Matranga had about Chi Cheng, the Deftones bassist that remains incapacitated after a car accident. Overall, At Night We Live maintains all the elements that define the band: soaring choruses, ear-splitting riffs, thought-provoking lyrics and sweeping dynamics.
Nothing good or worth fighting for ever comes easy, and that’s abundantly clear with Far. Far lives on with At Night We Live.
Arctic Rodeo releases:
FAR – “At Night We Live” – CD / LP+CD / Special Editions (arr017)