Failure's Unlikely Reunion: "It's Like a Whole New Audience"
For 17 years, the story of Failure was thought to be written; finished. The L.A. alternative-rock band produced three albums' worth of carefully layered, atmospheric heaviness that was an uncomfortable fit for the grunge-dominated early '90s. After scoring a minor alt-rock hit with "Stuck On You" and joining the final Lollapalooza tour in 1997, the group disbanded under a black cloud of interpersonal conflict, drug abuse and label indifference -- not exactly an uncommon tale in '90s rock.
Photo by Priscilla Chavez Ken Andrews, right, with Failure
Unlike so many of their alternative peers who dabbled in heroin, however, nobody in Failure died...and neither did their music. Whether the group was simply ahead of its time or required the help of new digital distribution tools to be heard, Failure's acclaim continued to grow after the band's dissolution, with many new fans (and critics) coming to revere its final album, Fantastic Planet, as one of the decade's best.
Now all cleaned (and grown) up, Failure has reassembled to write a new and unexpected chapter in their story, with all of the potential for excitement and disappointment that such a return must entail. Before the band takes the stage at House of Blues tonight, Rocks Off spoke with older, wiser bandleader Ken Andrews about how and why Failure now finds itself with another stab at success.
"About six years ago, [guitarist] Greg [Edwards] and I both had children within six months of each other, and that really got us hanging out a lot more and kind of opened the friendship back up again," says Andrews. "I think it was maybe another two years until we found ourselves in the studio, kind of messing around to see what could happen. Eventually, we kind of stumbled on to some songs that started to sound like Failure."
Energized by the new material, Andrews and Edwards began to play it for friends, who encouraged the duo to mount a full-scale reunion. A whole new generation of fans, they were told, had discovered them in the last 15 years.
A tad skeptical, perhaps, Failure booked a show at the El Rey in Los Angeles to test the waters a bit and see if they could really be a band again. The show sold out in two minutes.
"We kind of knew something was up when that El Rey show sold out so quickly," Andrews says. "That would have never happened back in the '90s."
Buoyed by their ecstatic hometown reception, Failure signed on to open a string of arena dates for their old pals in Tool, suddenly playing in front of tens of thousands after a 17-year layoff. If there was any rust when that production rolled through Houston in March, it certainly didn't show. The cinematic, spacey sound that set Failure apart in the rock landscape of the '90s remained completely intact.
"We've all been doing music in some form or another over the past 15 years since we broke up," Andrews says. "Musician-wise, we're probably a bit better than we were, with more confidence as performers. Once we got our stage legs, it started feeling really good."
So good, in fact, that a full-fledged, headlining Failure tour became inevitable. Although all three '90s members are back, however, it hasn't exactly played out as a reunion.
Story continues on the next page.