Three of the four members of It's Alive have played together, off and on, since they were teenagers in Lake Mary, FL, a small town about 30 minutes outside Orlando, where vocalist/lyricist Zach Webb first met and formed a musical partnership with drummer Eddie Matta, often joined by bassist Juice Dean.
The current incarnation of the band, with the addition of guitarist Clay Haywood, has been together a little over two years, but Human Resources, their debut album for Wind-up Records, boasts the camaraderie of four like-minded musicians on a mission. The first single, "Pieces," offers a taste of this "burning sound," a heavy rock and roll bottom provided by the rhythm section of bassist Dean and drummer Matta that gives way to lush melodies, characterized by Webb's full-throated, emotional vocals and Haywood's anthem-like guitar riffs. It's Alive's debut is the album the band has prepared all their young lives to make.
"We've really studied the structure of how to turn a good pop melody into a great song," explains Webb, originally from California, though he moved with his family to Lake Mary when he was just five. "Taking those guidelines, and being patient, has made a big difference in this band since we started."
It's Alive take their name from a dream in which Zach saw the name plastered across a giant computer in a recording studio. "It's dark and ominous," he says, "but also positive. It's not about death or anything morose. It's more along the lines of being here and relevant…right now."
For a young group, all still in their early 20s, It's Alive sound like established veterans, from the intense rush of the thudding "The Bottom" and the emotional conviction of "Here's to You," to the righteous anger of "Liar" and "Questions," a song "for anyone who's ever been cheated on." On the other hand, you can hear Webb's prog-rock leanings in the album's only ballad, the wide-screen "Selfless," as well as the keyboard-laden pop of "Back Into The Rain" and the whisper-to-a-scream dynamics of "Dialysis," about comparing a particularly painful break-up to removing that individual from your blood.
Webb claims the recording process helped the band hone their song structures. "More than anything, it was about just really grooving together, finding that niche where four people are playing as one," said Zach. "It's like each of us has this shit-eating grin on our face because we're in the pocket, feeling each other out. It's a vibe thing, very organic."
All four members of It's Alive had reputations as ace session players and songwriters before coming together as a band. And while Webb is the main lyricist—a particularly difficult post-high school break-up with a girlfriend influenced several of the songs, like "Pieces,""Here's to You,” "Back Into The Rain"and "Dialysis”—the other members all contribute.
Zach describes himself as an art-rock fan, with Peter Gabriel, Genesis and Nine Inch Nails among his faves, while he prefers raw, backof-the-throat vocalists like Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan and Steven Tyler, "who don't necessarily have the best singing voices, but they're so distinctive."Drummer Eddie's influence comes mainly from heavy rock, but has studied drums and song writing across all genres of music. "Rock/metal head"guitarist Haywood is influenced by Billy Idol band member Steve Stevens and bassist Juice is a big hip-hop guy who "loves hard-core beats he can feel in his chest." "It all boils down to great sounds, taking it to the third dimension and pounding rhythmically,"explains Zach, describing the It's Alive approach onHuman Resources.
And while the band deals with some pretty heavy, dark personal issues, Webb is clear that songs like "Selfless,"with its orchestral string arrangement featuring Dave Eggar on cello and Bon Jovi violinist Lorenza Ponce, leave a slight crack open in the door for optimism.
"There's always a particle of hope,"he says. "We'll be OK, we'll make it through. I've always made it a point to frame the problem then state the solution, so people know I'm strong enough to survive. The whole message is it's worth getting through all this stuff. I didn't think I'd come out whole at the other end. But I love the idea of unconditional love. It's a beautiful thing."
Indeed, the anger of "Dialysis"and "Liar,"the latter an "I told you so"to an old friend of the band who never felt they would succeed, eventually gives way to the tuneful "Back Into Rain"and "Selfless,"a tribute to the commitment of It's Alive to one another and their burgeoning career.
"We're definitely family,"explains Zach. "We made a vow to each other to do this until our high school classmates graduated college. By that time, if we weren't signed and our career on its way, then we'd go back to school. But this has been our higher education. It's been an awesome journey and I can't wait to start the next chapter with these guys."On Human Resources, It's Alive do just that.
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