Wake Up! It's Time for Memento
J. Gordon
8/16/2003 3:04:43 PM

"Kids can see right through anything that’s fake"

Memento is the perfect name for a band so easily remembered by everyone who sees them play. It’s no small feat to tear up a meager crowd of half-awake rockers at 9:20 a.m.--the first slot on the Ozzfest side stage in St. Louis, but this band pulled it off.

“I don’t know how it happened exactly,” laughs lead singer/piano/guitarist Justin Steward Cotta, “We just had a bit more adrenalin than normal. If the crowd you play to at 9:30 in the morning are die-hard Ozzfest fans, then it’s a pleasure playing to them and I guess that shows. They’re not playing PlayStation or out in the nightclub there. They’re here to see music.”

Probably inspired from the electronics and technology of Justin and drummer Steve Clark’s former band, V.A.S.T., Memento are doing a lot more with their sound than the average metal band--but still keeping the weight of the music on the heavy side. Think of it as Ozzfest-friendy pop.

“The work with Jon Crosby [of V.A.S.T.] was actually great. We loved it, but we wanted to pursue another style of music with classic reverberations. We knew it was time to move on, and it was the best thing that could have happened. We wanted a guitar-driven album, not so much a technology-driven one. No disrespect to that, because the first V.A.S.T. album rates in my top 10 albums of all time.” Justin is quick to mention that he had nothing to do with the writing of that album so he can say it freely, without the ego attached. “We wanted something a little more stripped back, something that relied solely on the instruments and the lyric, just so it cuts a little more.”

So when Justin and Steve went looking for spectacular instrumentals, that’s what they got--mainly due to adding guitarist Space to the lineup. Space, who’s got the looks and snarl of a more sober Sid Vicious and the compositional brilliance of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, says that the music is so strong because it comes from the heart.

“Something, anything, done artistically should be done from a truthful sense. Know what I mean? Not trying to be like everyone else. Kids can see right through anything that’s fake. They don’t give kids enough credit. They forget being young and reading lyrics and knowing why you like that sound. It’s not just, ‘oh, they’re cool.’ When I was a kid, I liked bands for very particular reasons,” Space says.

Justin, offstage, is calm, easy-going and quite charming as he speaks of his idols in his rich Aussie accent…bands like U2, Elvis and Led Zeppelin. It’s hard to believe we were considering finding him an exorcist after watching his demon-possessed stage show. Space also has a background growing up in classic rock, but his idols lead more to country greats like Johnny Cash. “He’s the epitome of a hero,” he says, “A real, stick to your guns, call it like he sees it guy.”

The guys in Memento believe that cutting their teeth on the Ozzfest tour is going to do a lot for their exposure. “To get through two months, on this stage, in this heat, in the middle of summer, there is a certain amount of respect that’s immediately attached to your band,” Justin says.

“We give kudos to our friends Chevelle,” adds Space, “bravely opening the mainstage, not as a metal band, but true to who they are.”

Guitarist Space says that you can’t sleepwalk through energetic music onstage, metal or otherwise, no matter what time it is. And it’s not that tough to get charged up and be authentic day after day. “Just turn on the news,” he says, “See all the craziness going on. I’m gonna make sure our time onstage is our time. I’m gonna utilize it.”

“You can overthink it,” says Justin. “Whether you should cater to a certain audience. Should we be heavier? Should we only play really heavy songs at Ozzfest? We felt that when we started. But we unanimously agreed to play “Beginnings,” which is a ballad, for lack of a better word. An acoustic guitar song, essentially. We play it proudly and people really appreciate it. I don’t know why, but we thank our lucky stars they like it. We get to be us and were well-received, so it’s a great balance.”

The guys look to long-term acts with real heart as their models, with a special nod to U2.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” says Space, “and in 15 or 20 years we’ll still be playing music together as a foursome—as we are now. We’d be really happy with that.”

“We take the second stage with that long-term goal completely in mind. You’re lucky to get a second album these days, much less a third. Fourth is like unheard of! With that in mind, we’re really focused on nailing this, doing the best we can live and writing stuff for album #2. That’s our goal,” Justin says.

Memento’s eponymously titled debut album is now out on Columbia/Sony records, with their single “Nothing Sacred” getting major spin on radio stations around the U.S.


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