J. Lynn Johnston - Vocals
James Lee Barlow - Guitar, Keyboard, Backing Vocals
Anthony "Bosco" Boscarini - Guitar, Piano, Keyboards
Ben Froehlich - Bass
Jake Fowler - Drums
They had the talent, the vision, the enthusiasm of musicians discovering intuitive connections with each other. They even had a mailing list – some two thousand supporters, based on the combined lists of several members. Just one thing was missing: the name. For two months or so, they wrestled with all sorts of possibilities; none really captured the emerging personality of the group. So J. Lynn decided to look through his old journals for ideas. Suddenly, there it was, the title of a poem he had written at age nineteen. "That phrase, 'Mad At Gravity,' just jumped out," he says. "It has so many applications, gravity being an inexplicable force. We can measure it, and we can test its effects. It's the power that holds matter together. Every object has its own gravity, whether it's a human body, a planet, or just a little rock on the ground. "Yet nobody has figured out what it is or how it works. So, for many reasons, we all … gravitated toward it." (For ideal effect, add collective groans and hisses from the four other band members.)
Every new band knows that you're supposed to start your trek to stardom by building momentum through local gigs. Then word spreads, A&R people line up, and you're on your way. But these five guys are doing it backwards. With a fresh sound and intelligent songs, the Internet was buzzing about them before they'd even played in public. And now that they're packing clubs all over their Southern California home base and far beyond, fans are seeing with their own eyes that the hype is true. Only a band with exceptional foresight and fire can pull off this kind of a strategy – and that band is MAD AT GRAVITY. Their debut disc, Resonance (released July 16 on ARTISTdirect Records), challenges conventional wisdom as well. It's not slotted to some narrow demographic, with simplistic riffs for passive listeners. Instead, it's a bouquet of diverse approaches, reflecting influences far broader than most bands can handle. It threads provocative, intelligent lyrics through unorthodox rhythms and unexpected chord patterns …and yes, it rocks! It's already pulling fans onto dance floors and stacking the front of the stage with kids who know the words and understand their message. Not bad for a band that had just ten gigs under its belt going into May 2002. The story of Mad At Gravity actually embraces the experience that each member has accumulated on his own – not just in music, but also in other areas of life. Check 'em out for yourself.
Jake Fowler, Drums
It began with Jake, with his head for business, burning ambition, and solid rockin' style. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he moved with his family at age four to Orange County, California where his dad became a Snap-On Tool dealer. At a very young age, Jake developed an intense fascination with science and the natural world, even earning a degree in biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. ("I'm a hard-core evolutionist," he insists.) But music was always his passion. Former hippies, Jake's parents also shared a passion for music. "As far back as I can remember," he recalls, "Hendrix, The Doors, The Who…good music was always crankin' when we were all home. My parents even bought me my first Boston album back when I was in second grade." However it was the tribalistic, two-drummer attack of Adam and the Ants, back in the very early 80s, that nurtured his fascination for rhythm, and when his dad bought him his first drum set in 1983, there was no turning back. After graduating from high school Jake started playing locally. He founded his first band, a Scorpions/UFO-influenced group called Condition West with Kyle Van Horne, his best friend. They would stick together on several other projects, but could never quite get anything else off the ground. When Kyle decided to pursue other interests, Jake went on to found Skin The Cat, Idiot Box, and several other projects, all the while developing skills as a booker and manager until they were as sharp as his drum chops. "I got pretty well known for being a really good manager," he remembers, "which is a radical thing for a drummer to be. I did everything for whatever band I was in; I was driven to succeed." After a near-brush with success through a major-label project that didn't work out, Jake and Kyle decided to pool their talents once again. Although this final attempt between former childhood friends did not work out, one great thing came out of it – Ben Froehlich. "Kyle and I needed a bass player, so I called Ben," Jake remembers, "and I said, 'Hey, do you want to make a band?'"
Ben Froelich, Bass
Ben and Jake met when their bands played one night on the same bill, and it seemed likely that their paths might cross again. Like Jake, Ben was raised in Orange County, but music was not an integral part of his life until college. Other concerns took up his time all the way through high school – one of them was art, the other was soccer. "My mom was an art teacher, so I was always encouraged to study painting," he says. "Throughout my whole life, all the way through college, I studied every medium, although eventually my focus was oil painting. But when I chose where I wanted to attend college, I chose St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, because I wanted to play Division ball." As an art student at St. Mary's, Ben graduated near the top of his class, earning the honor of being on the Conference All Academic Team. But music filtered into his life there as well. "Sibling rivalry started it," he laughs. "My brother started playing guitar, so I started playing bass. He was ahead of me at first, but I passed him up in a few months." As Jake did, Ben essentially learned to play on his own, through hours of practice in his dorm room, as well as playing in other music projects that preceded Mad at Gravity. Eventually Ben's music became a point of contention between him and his parents because he put a more secure profession on hold to pursue music. In fact, a key player in Ben's journey toward Mad At Gravity came into his life as well during those college years – not through music, but on the soccer field.
Anthony "Bosco" Boscarini, Guitar
"Bosco was my brother's friend," Ben recalls. "They actually played on the same soccer team, and since I played four years of divisional soccer, that's how I met him." Born in Oxnard, California, Boscarini was raised mainly in San Juan Capistrano. There were high standards in his family; his uncle had risen to the post of Finance Commissioner in Italy, and Bosco's father imposed similar expectations on his son. "My parents wouldn't let me play the piano until I promised to commit myself to taking lessons," Bosco says. "Then after I had taken lessons for eight or nine years straight, my dad read in the paper that this music store was going out of business and selling guitars cheap. He offered to buy one for me, but only if I would seriously play it. Of course, I said that I would." By that time, at age twelve or thirteen, Bosco had become interested in composition, and so his approach to guitar drew heavily from the theoretical knowledge he had picked up through his piano studies. "I wasn't paying attention to what guitar players were doing," he says. "I focused instead on the piano. I was composing the kinds of pieces you might imagine as movie soundtracks, so I applied those techniques to the guitar." After graduating from high school Bosco wound up at the University of Southern California as an economics major. He was playing in bands by that time, but his main activity was football. Thanks to the skills he had developed at soccer, he was accepted onto the football team as a kicker. At USC, this is roughly equivalent to being canonized – but a new opportunity would soon prove so tempting that he would hang up his helmet and leave that life behind. It came as a phone call from Jake. Bosco and Ben, having become friends, were playing together in a band called Subtle Plan. Jake had already called Ben and proposed that they get together; when Jake's longtime partner Kyle Van Horne decided to leave, Ben suggested bringing Bosco into the mix. They reached him at a pivotal moment, in his senior year at USC. Though interested in the offer, the guitarist wasn't ready to throw in the towel as a member of USC's football team. However, once the band secured another guitar player and a lead singer, there was no doubt in Bosco's mind – he was on board, and ready to commit to the band. With that, the search began.
James Lee Barlow, Guitar
"After Bosco joined, we decided we wanted a second guitar player to fatten our sound," Jake explains. "So I put an ad in the Recycler and we were lucky enough to find Jim." Another Orange County native, Jim spent most of his childhood in Corona, California. He got into music through his church choir, started taking trumpet lessons in fourth grade, and then traded his horn for a guitar when he was fourteen. His interest in music dovetailed with a curiosity about technology that began with a tape recorder he got as a Christmas present. Putting the two disciplines together, Jim got into the habit of recording demos for the bands he played with through school, then pursued more advanced knowledge through professional audio courses at a nearby community college. "I read up on the art of recording sound, and taught myself how to record with a borrowed 4-track cassette recorder," he says. "Then, when I did a demo with my band at one recording studio, I discovered I knew as much or more about the studio than the studio owners and engineers did." Wisely, that studio began letting Jim use their site for his own projects; one of these included demos for Alien Ant Farm before they released their first album. He also did installation and maintenance for the Edwards Cinemas chain by day, while rehearsing and writing at night, including a short spell on the road with Meg Lee Chin, the vocalist for Pigface. "I was working my ass off," he admits. By the time Jake's Recycler ad caught his eye, Jim was ready for a change. "I wanted to do my own thing and use the music I had been writing while working with everyone else," he said. "So I went down to meet the guys. They were working on a very rough form of 'Walk Away,' so I brought my gear in and, within twenty minutes, we had the music to the song pretty much finished." Jim found that his style blended perfectly with Bosco's. "We have similar tastes, but he's much more of a rhythmic player. He'll do odd chords, jazz-like voicings, and I'll come over the top and fill them in with a countering rhythm or lead type line. But I don't like to call him the rhythm guitarist or myself the lead player; what we're doing is coming up with one big sound together." The instrumental lineup was complete. The songs were coming together. All they needed was a voice. And the more they looked, the clearer it became that finding the right one was no easy task.
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