Nineties’ alternative rock band Failure called it quits in 1997. Its initial run lasted only five years and three albums and it never had a monster hit, but in its absence its fan base grew exponentially via word-of-mouth.
Fast forward 19 years after its last album – the much adored “Fantastic Planet” – the core of the band is together and fans have met its new album, “The Heart is a Monster,” with arduous praise.
“That’s been really redemptive for us,” says frontman Ken Andrews, who worked as a producer and mixing engineer with artists such as Pete Yorn, Blink 182, Beck and Paramore during Failure’s long hiatus.
“The overall reaction to the new record has been way, way more than we expected. We assumed that most people would be kind of like, ‘It’s not as good as their old stuff.’ Regardless of what we thought it was in terms of quality, we were bracing for that. We were really happy to read all these reviews, and people talking online about how it’s a logical step and as good as – maybe better than – the last one.”
Failure joins another beloved ’90s rock band, Hum, at Neighborhood Theatre Sunday.
You might assume Failure imploded due to lack of label support for “Fantastic Planet,” but that wasn’t the cause.
“The main problem was drug addiction on our end,” Andrews explains. “They asked us to make another record and I tried, but we were so far gone at that point we couldn’t get it together.”
Andrews was later reluctant to believe friends who told him what an important album “Fantastic Planet” had become to a generation, he says. He and bandmates Greg Edwards and Kellii Scott decided to test the waters with a one-off show at the El Rey, in L.A.
“It sold out in five minutes,” he recalls. “When we played, the majority of the people were young and had obviously discovered the band after we broke up.”
Encouraged by this response, Failure embarked on the Tree of Stars tour last summer to appease fans of their older material before releasing “The Heart is a Monster” this June.
The album is awash in expansive hard-rock songs reminiscent of Nirvana or Soundgarden if those bands had flirted with spacey production and progressive emo.
“That tour helped us realize the El Rey wasn’t a fluke,” says Andrews, who brought back to the band 20 years of experience juggling egos and honing his craft as an engineer and producer. “I felt like I knew how to manage our own personalities, including mine, a little better.”
Maybe popular music has just caught up with Failure. This kind of longevity is what most bands crave, although Andrews says there were days when he’d have taken a short-term hit over a monumentally slow build.
“‘Fantastic Planet’ sold maybe 75,000, which would be amazing now. Everything was gold and platinum then. It was frustrating. People didn’t understand the band well from a press perspective. We had fans, but it never got the full understanding of the community, I guess,” he ventures, adding: “Now it’s totally different.”
Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday.
WHERE: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.
DETAILS: 704-942-7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.