Failure’s last gig was in 1997, but after 16 years of pursuing families and other musical projects, the band decided they wouldn’t let their name embody them.
A slow rise results in a steady empire. While Failure was away, they received attention and praise by bands like A Perfect Circle and Paramore who had widely recognized covers of a band that disappeared too fast. With an unexpected reunion, the three-piece has been busy with a short tour with Tool and a nationwide tour of their own. We caught up with Drummer, Kellii Scott, to talk about the band’s initial breakup, their reunion, and the upcoming headlining tour that stops at Great American Music Hall on May 14 and May 15.
How’s it going?
It’s been really crazy because we’ve spent all last week rehearsing for our upcoming tour. We start at 9am and do that all day long and we just moved all our gear to a bigger place to do full production rehearsals for our headlining tour after the Geek theater shows in LA for [Tool singer] Maynard’s birthday. I’ve been so insular for the last week.
It’s gonna be fun. It’s two nights tat the Greek Theater, which is a beautiful venue, outdoors in the middle of the mountains; very lush and serene.
Sounds like the Greek Theater in Berkeley on the campus. I understand you went back to school post-Failure?
I was at a crossroads. I hadn’t done anything but play music for so long l I was like, “can I do anything else?” I stepped out of my comfort zone and became vulnerable. I went to LACC and I loved it, took a bunch of philosophy classes, music classes and English classes.
I wasn’t looking for a degree. I just wanted new information. I was very introspective at the time and wanted to see a different person in a mirror, not in a negative or positive way. I just wanted to see if there was anything else out there that excited me. Philosophy taught me things that I can apply in my every day life. It also gives you a bit of clarity to dodge some of the pitfalls of society and makes the holes a lot more clear. There are a lot of ideologies that are really awesome and practical to build the person you are, and there are certain things about them that mesh with society as a whole.
So why, after all these years, did Failure decide to reunite?
I don’t know if there was a light bulb moment. In the musical community it’s always something that’s been a low boil and ever present in the consciousness at large, but the sticking point was when Ken and Greg started hanging out the last couple years primarily due to having children around the same age. They kind of learned how to become friends again, and after a couple years of that, and hanging out due to play dates and birthdays and being with family, out of the blue Greg broached the subject and was like ‘Hey Ken, what do you think about working on some music?’ Ken was really into it, and probably caught a little off guard. They had hung out for so long and music wasn’t really a topic of conversation.
That was what kind of sparked it and they started writing some really good stuff. Ken gave me a call and filled me in and we got together a few weeks after that.
I don’t think people realize how important camaraderie is for a band’s success.
Being together and working together and being in a band with three strong-minded people, you have to be good with relationships. Sometimes you don’t get what you want but you see how happy the other person is, and sometimes that is the deciding factor and it makes it ok. Relationships are complex.
Why did Failure call it quits in 1997?
It was a little bit of everything, our personal relationships had definitely broken down. We had worked really hard and seemed to be doing everything right. We were serious minded about what we did. It’s not just fun and games and prizes, those things are nice but that’s not why we do it. After awhile with anything, we were a band for a really long time and it just seemed like things weren’t moving beyond a certain point and it became very frustrating. Then some days you wake up and wonder if this is worth going forward.
You seemed to have gained more fans and exposure after the split, and influenced bands like A Perfect Circle (“The Nurse of Loves Me”) and Paramore (“Stuck on You”).
For sure, we have more people that listen to our music now than ever before thanks to the Internet and people being turned onto it year after years.
Now you’re back and kicked things off with a short tour opening for Tool. How was that experience?
That was bizarre because the shows were sold out before we were added. It was kind of coincidental. We were gonna do the El Rey show and put together our tour and it sort of just came along. We threw our name in the hat for that and it just worked out by some sort of divine intervention.
The shows were phenomenal and the fans were really great. There was a lot people that managed to get in that knew who we were. It was really good to get out there and do some real live shows one after another before embarking on this whole big ambitious adventure that we call our tour.
Are the nerves high?
We’re pretty in the pocket as far as being emerged and getting our sea legs back. The Tool tour was really helpful because we became a working band again. It’s been really calm and now. We know what’s in store and we know how to do it.
The first El Rey show was nerve racking. I hope to never experience that level of doubt again. At least for the first thirty seconds was an avalanche of emotions. When you’re about to play a show you have to keep all that in control so it seems calm and calculated. By the time we get on tour it will be fun and effortless. I get butterflies to this day even before I play live, but the good kind.
On your tour instead of having an opening band you’ll be showcasing a movie?
We kind of forgo the opening band routine and we have a movie. It’s a montage that Ken Grey put together. It’s comprised of a lot of films that are a mainstay in our musical content, like the “Stuck on You” video that’s a play on James Bond, and the movie “Fantastic Planet,” things that symbolically have influenced our lyrics, or what was going on with us when we weren’t physically playing music.
Our live show has a lot of moving parts. We want this to be about having as much content as possible. This is about us and the fans, we haven’t played in sixteen years and our live set is over two hours long.
Can we expect a new Failure record?
We started some stuff when we first got back together and spent a couple weeks just jamming out ideas. Then of course we abandoned all that and went into rehearsal, but this will be a nice opportunity for us to revisit them. It’s an experiment, but hopefully the idea is that we will be able to record some stuff that we will be able to keep. But we are definitely doing another Failure record, that’s for sure.
Give me your top three contemporary bands…
I really love Radiohead, I still consider them contemporary. I love how they always manage to push their own boundaries and it also proves that you don’t have to do the same thing over and over to keep your fans, which is a big disservice that record labels instill in bands and a disservice to bands in general. I love them musically but for that reason in particular.
Another band I just went and saw a few weeks ago—Blonde Redhead. Everything is so simple and just weaves together so excellently. How they tie their rhythms and melodies are so creative. They’re close to Radiohead and play simple parts but when you put it together it’s amazing and very comforting.
And I’m gonna say, running the risk of sound like a dick, Failure. Since we’ve gotten back together ninety percent of my life has been revisiting these songs and I appreciate them more today than I did back then. I forgot how much I loved being in this band.
But if I had to choose another third band, it would be Mastodon. I love love love Mastodon. I was out on tour a couple years ago in Australia and I heard their records and then saw them every day for a week and half. I was just floored every night.