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A modern way of living

The Exies hit the road ahead of their third album

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Scott Stevens is talking via cell phone from his tour bus as it crosses the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

"The Arch is within my grasp," Stevens says. "Everyone just woke up so we can look at the city as we roll by it." By "everyone," the singer is referring to the members of his band, The Exies, and its tour-mates, Smile Empty Soul -- cohabitants of a tour bus in some kind of '50s-style tour approach.

"It's like the time of Richie Valens and Buddy Holly sharing a bus," Stevens says above the chatter in the background. "It's awesome. There's always something to do. It's kind of like a family."

The bands are on a co-headlining tour that's bringing rock back to the masses. While '90s-style, grunge-era rock has generally been placed on an endangered species list, The Exies are doing what they can to keep the genre alive and it's off to a good start with seven sell-outs in the first 13 shows.

Along with the tour, the band's third album, A Modern Way of Living With the Truth, is set to hit shelves on May 8. Completed last September, the album has been delayed from set-up time by the label and to "let it move a little to let people know we're getting ready to come out," Stevens says. "There's a song on this record for everyone. There's an identifiable situation, whether it's hate, shame, love, joy. It's all in there on this album and as long as it gets heard, I think people will identify with it."

The first wave of the new album came in the form of the first single -- a cover of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" that has garnered its fair share of praise and criticism. A mixture of acoustic strumming and heavier riffs, the Exies' version is a far cry from the original. It may take time for the lyrics to sink in and for the listener to adjust to what they're hearing before recognition sets in.

"I wanted to do my take on how those lyrics make me feel," Stevens says of the cover. "It was something that didn't come right away. I shelved it for like a year. It was a rainy day outside, I was at home alone and picked up my guitar and started messing around with it again. I tried it in a different tuning and I started cutting some of the lyrics. It was hard, but it was really fun to do. It took three or four days to figure out what to do with that track."

The band is also showcasing some of the new material on their current tour and, so far, reactions have been positive. "Truthfully, everybody that has been an Exies fan since Inertia in 2003, they've loved it" Stevens says. "They're very receptive to it live if they don't know the songs, and the people who have heard it online think it's the best thing we've done."

He feels the new album follows a natural progression in growth from the previous two, and that the "writing and honesty are stepped up a notch." There was also some freedom that came along with a change of label. Virgin Records released the bands first two major-label recordings, but The Exies, who has reunited with original guitarist Chris Skane after the departures of David Walsh and Dennis Wolfe, now finds itself on the Eleven Seven label. "They let us have complete control over everything," Stevens says. "There's not as much money, but in a way, that's a good thing. Sometimes labels throw out too much cash and hope good things happen instead of being more focused."

Though the new album was finished six months ago, The Exies aren't yet looking to their fourth album. "I'm not even thinking about a new record," Stevens says. "This one comes out in a month and we're going to ride this for a little while. We'll stay on tour for as long as we can. If we have a run of 500,000 sales on this record, or 800 or 7 million or whatever, then I think for the first time a lot of people will know who we are. If this album is successful when it comes out, we'll be on it for two years. That's how it'll roll."

The Exies will perform with Smile Empty Soul at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 at Amos' Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door. For more information, visit amossouthend.com

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