Santa Barbara, between the thriving State Street club circuit and the staggering Isla Vista backyard scene, has forged a respectable reputation as a breeding ground for prospective “Next Big Things.” But for every Toad the Wet Sprocket, there’s an Ugly Kid Joe, and the industry handshake can be a Get Out of 7-11 free card, or it can simply herald a respite of a couple years before the drone work begins.
For better or for worse, self-described nu-metal quintet Pressure 4-5 has accepted that grip.
Leaping from a self-released LP – the recording of which was billed at $900, but paid in part by trading in some gear for lack of funds – the group has been snapped up by Dreamworks, sent off into the Ozzfest maelstrom and set up with Orgy and Slipknot producer Jay Baumgardner. The result of that session, an LP entitled Burning the Process, is slated for release on October 2nd and cost $300,000 to record.
Three hundred thousand dollars. Think about it for a minute. Think about how long it would take a band to pay off that kind of advance via royalties. Was it worth it?
“Jay is a big tech guy,” said lead singer Adam Rich. “He helped us cut down some of the parts of our songs to help us get rid of some of the crap that didn’t need to be there. He would have his input with the record and he’d say, ‘Why don’t you guys try this?’ We’d try it, but it was always up to us.”
“He gave us a lot of freedom,” said bassist Lyle McKeany.
The same kind of freedom, perhaps, that comes from playing amid a fairy ring of cans on your buddy’s front lawn. “I used to live on DP,” McKeany said, “so we used to play at my house a lot. … Those shows [in I.V.] are great – we have so much fun. There are like 500 kids who show up, and then they end up spilling beer on [guitarist] Mark Berry’s pedals, and he gets really upset.”
Now the band has moved on from the student slums to the professional stage. “At Ozzfest, we were the new guys,” said McKeany. “But we are almost more mellow than a lot of the bands out there. A lot of bands are crazy party freaks. We’re not really all about that.” An Isla Vista group out-partied? But McKeany’s tour diaries (posted online at www.pressure4-5.com) back up this assertion. Reflecting neither angst nor pretension, and employing the word “wow” without a trace of irony, they indicate that perhaps this band may be a rung or two higher than such poetic, emotive, Spin-photographer-punching nŸ-metal juggernauts as Insane Clown Posse.
But what about the “Nirvana Factor”? Cobain and company went from playing the local Seattle/Olympia scene to across-the-board stardom, only to have know-it-all fans bill indie release Bleach (recorded for $600) as their best album. “I think our older stuff was a sort of mish-mash of our influences,” Rich said. “We hadn’t really created our own sound yet. That’s the evolution. We’re trying to define ourselves … [we’re] trying to create something a little fresher, a little newer.”
Rich sees professional musicianship as preferable to the life he led before. “There are a select few [in I.V.] who actually like rock music, and the rest are totally jaded, stupid, rich kids.” Pressure 4-5 is nothing if not professional at the moment. “We have a week and a half off, and then we’re heading out with Alien Ant Farm for like nine weeks,” he said. “Our goal is to be out there playing all the time. Sitting around really sucks.”
“I don’t think I’ll miss anything [about I.V.],” Rich said. Still, you can take the boy out of Isla Vista, but…
“We always drink Coors Light,” McKeany said in as fine an example of product placement and/or sponsorship trawling as has ever appeared in the Artsweek pages. “It’s sad, but we drink it.”
“I don’t get high,” said Rich, “I stay high.”
…but you can’t take the Isla Vista out of the boy.