Almost Famous, and Deservedly So: The Exies
J. Gordon
4/7/2005 10:10:57 PM

"That’s our job, basically. To offer escapism."

It seemed kind of appropriate that the Exies would be watching the movie “Almost Famous” on their tour bus as I walked in for this interview. After all, there they are, holding their own on the main stage of radio festivals, perched on the edge of sell-out shows and the Top 10—if they’re not yet famous, then they’re getting damn popular.

Following their critically-acclaimed debut CD, Inertia, the Exies have returned with their sophomore release, Head For The Door [Virgin Records] which is getting tons of airplay on Active and Alternative Rock stations. An appearance on WB's The Mountain, where they performed the hit "Ugly" and "Tired of You" aired on November 14th, while the video was featured on MTV 2's New Faces Of Rock show the week of November 15th. Another live performance in November on FUSE, a recent stint on the Velvet Revolver tour, a performance on The Late Late Show in January, and a performance at the Blender Magazine Sundance party in Salt Lake City, UT rounded out the initial launch for the record.

What’s behind the name, “The Exies”? To the uneducated, it sounds awful close to ‘sexy’-- and one look at these guys might make that a good guess. Actually, though, the meaning is more cerebral and musically appropriate:

“We were both huge Beatles fans,” says bass guitarist Freddy Herrera of himself and lead singer, Scott Stevens. “That’s where we got the name. In the Ray Coleman biography [on John Lennon]—the best book on him which I lent to Scott and he’s read it, like five times—before the Beatles actually did anything, they went up to Hamburg to play. Up there, there were the ‘Mods’ and the ‘Rockers’ and there were the art students who thought they were Existentialists. Lennon called them, ‘The Exies’.”

After about fifteen solid minutes of praise to the Beatles and all popular music that followed in their footsteps, both guys again give a double-nod to John Lennon, who, along with the best alternative and grunge of the 90s, so thoroughly infuses their work.

“After I heard Twist and Shout,” says Scott Stevens, wearing a dreamy, awe-inspired expression one can only attribute to such idolatry, “…with his voice, Lennon’s raspiness, I thought ‘I’ve got to learn to sing like that!”

As a mainstream, straight-up rock band, The Exies aren’t out to woo the critics and alienate the masses with high-brow, inaccessible art. The Exies are all about rock and a good time.

Scott, with his shaggy golden brown hair, a sweet boy’s smile packaged in a tough exterior, is an amalgam of all the best-looking guys in rock and roll. But really, cute band boys are a dime a dozen, and he’s smart enough to know that. The difference with Scott is that, whether it’s pulling off Lennon’s raspiness (which he does well), Kurt Cobain’s pain, or even the Black Crowe’s Chris Robinson-style guttural groove, man, he can sing.

“Straight up rock is not around very much right now,” says Scott. “There’s only a few bands out there that are doing it well. Velvet Revolver does it well. The Foo Fighters do it well, and we do it well. Breaking Benjamin, who we’ve got a tour with, is a rock band, but they’re a little more on the hardcore side. I think if it’s shown to the kids, they’ll get it--and they’ll like it!”

“Even though we’re not rewriting the book on rock, it’s almost like it’s new because it’s not around anymore,” adds Freddy, who leans back against the wall of the bus with a thoughtful look. His rugged, Native American good looks set him apart from the mainstream all by itself. But Freddy is also not about being a fashion plate, and he—and all the guys—are clearly about what matters in rock: having a good time.

“We’re all big fans of all kinds of music. We listen to everything. But I don’t want to be one of those seeking only good reviews. I base my success on how much fun the kids are having. Being from LA, we are force-fed so much of the cool, cliquey music. When we get out here, this is real out here. This is real! Suburban Midwestern kids!”

“It’s hard to know where we are with everything when we’re in LA.,” adds Scott, as he strums a few chords on his acoustic guitar. “It’s comforting to know that appreciation and praise is out here, and we can actually break through. KROQ and those stations, they’re great, but they’re a little too cool for school,” says Scott.

Scott says his teenage influences of the 90s, bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains, are all over Head For The Door. “That stuff turned my whole world around! That lives in me and in this record, I’m showing my reverence and admiration, but I’ve still put in my love for the Beatles, my melodic sense of things in there, too. For kids that are 18 now, it’s all new to them. When we play our stuff it’s kind of got a tinge of the 90s. I wouldn’t say retro--it’s recent past--but to these kids, it sounds new.”

As success swallows The Exies whole, it’s only expected that things might get a little crazy with the fans—especially the girls.

“A cluster of girls were trying to pull me into the audience in Little Rock,” Scott laughed. “It’s a little creepy when you get hang-arounds that sit around outside the bus and pound on the door. Or sometimes, if we let them come on the bus, they don’t want to leave. But we’re cool. I remember being a fan, and I don’t want to spoil it. We can at least give them a handshake or a smile.”

“And we’re down with that,” adds Freddy. “Just to meet the people, we’re so lucky. We wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for them. It’s the least we can do. And we all take turns selling merch. It’s cool, we get to meet people. Just because you play music doesn’t mean you’re royalty.”

Freddy says his goal is to do what music did to him as a kid, when he slept in a van to camp out and buy tickets, waiting all day and night to hear a song that gives him goosebumps. So, now that The Exies are ‘almost famous’—is that good enough?

“We want to take it as far as it will go,” admits Scott. “I want to know what it’s like to fulfill that dream that started when I was fifteen. To be able to tour, and have a million-selling record, and a sold-out show almost everywhere we go, and to just make people happy. That’s our job, basically. To offer escapism. To get lost in it, like when I go see U2 or something. If it’s a kick-ass show at the end, I’m very thankful. They’ve transported me somewhere.

“This is a glimpse of what it possibly could be. We were on the road with Velvet Revolver. We’ve seen what it’s like to play in front of 10,000 people and they’re all just singing--there’s such reverence for the band. This is what we’d like to get to. Even though we’re on a smaller scale, some shows are 75, some 150, some are 500—but it seems like they’re really with us. We’re laying the groundwork and when we come back it will be double. We put out a great high energy show: it’s loud, aggressive, a little pissed off at times, and then it gets soft and passionate other times. I think people are responding to that.”

If you haven’t caught The Exies live yet, it’s a must. Think: a tighter Nirvana, veering away from the fuzzed-out punk to a cleaner rock sound, with all the electric passion of a killer summer thunderstorm. If you hadn’t heard 90s alternative music before, you’d be inclined to say, ‘Holy Shit! This is the best sound I’ve ever heard!’ Alas, the band is right when they say it’s not technically a new sound. For this album, anyway, you’ll just have to be content with the fact that The Exies are simply great.

04/08/2005 Henry Fonda Theatre Los Angeles, CA w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/09/2005 Majestic Ventura Theatre Ventura, CA w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/10/2005 House of Blues - Mandalay Bay Las Vegas, NV w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/14/2005 Corral Nightclub El Paso, TX w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/15/2005 Southbeach Lubbock, TX w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/16/2005 The Backroom Austin, TX w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/18/2005 Sunset Station San Antonio, TX w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/19/2005 Antone's Beaumont, TX w/Theory Of A Dead Man and Breaking Benjamin
04/20/2005 Bricktown Live Oklahoma City, OK
04/22/2005 Scout Bar Houston, TX Buzzfest pre-show
04/23/2005 Cynthia Woods Pavilion Houston, TX KTBZ Buzzfest
04/24/2005 Smirnoff Center Dallas, TX Edgefest
04/26/2005 Parish at House of Blues New Orleans, LA w/ The Vanished
04/27/2005 Nite Town Lafayette, LA w/ The Vanished
04/28/2005 Eddie C's Gainesville, FL
04/29/2005 Mississippi Coast Coliseum Convention Ctr Biloxi, MS
04/30/2005 Ford Amphitheatre Tampa, FL WXTB Radio Show
05/03/2005 The Mission Augusta, GA
05/05/2005 Culture Room Fort Lauderdale, FL
05/07/2005 Floyd's Music Store Tallahassee, FL
05/08/2005 Jacksonville Fairgrounds Jacksonville, FL WPLA Radio Show
05/12/2005 Rocketown Nashville, TN
05/13/2005 New Daisy Theatre Memphis, TN w/ Breaking Benjamin
05/14/2005 Bogart's Cincinnati, OH w/ Breaking Benjamin
05/15/2005 UMB Bank Pavilion - Riverport St. Louis, MO KPNT Pointfest
05/17/2005 The Cotillon Wichita, KS w/ Breaking Benjamin & Silvertide
05/18/2005 The Oasis Springfield, MO w/ Breaking Benjamin & Silvertide
05/20/2005 The Masquerade Atlanta, GA w/ Breaking Benjamin & Silvertide
05/21/2005 Center Stage at the Plex Charleston, SC w/ Breaking Benjamin & Silvertide
05/22/2005 House of Blues Myrtle Beach, SC w/ Breaking Benjamin & Silvertide
05/24/2005 Electric Factory Philadelphia, PA w/ Breaking Benjamin & Silvertide
05/25/2005 Action Sports Center Mattydale, NY
06/11/2005 TBD - Kansas City Kansas City, KS
07/27/2005 Raley Field Sacramento, CA "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
07/29/2005 PC Coliseum Vancouver, BC "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
07/30/2005 White River Amphitheater Auburn, WA "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
07/31/2005 Amphitheater at Clark County Portland, OR "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/02/2005 Rexall Place Edmonton, AB "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/03/2005 Pengrowth Saddledome Calgary, AB "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/05/2005 USANA Amphitheatre Salt Lake City, UT "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/06/2005 Red Rocks Amphitheatre Denver, CO "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/09/2005 UMB Bank Pavilion - Riverport St. Louis, MO "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/10/2005 Marcus Amphitheatre Milwaukee, WI "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/11/2005 Blossom Music Center Cuyahoga Falls, OH "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/13/2005 Nissan Pavilion At Stone Ridge Bristow, VA "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/14/2005 PNC Bank Arts Center Holmdel, NJ "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/16/2005 Jones Beach Amphitheatre Wantagh, NY "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/20/2005 Meadows Music Theater Hartford, CT "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/21/2005 Verizon Wireless Arena Manchester, NH "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/23/2005 Molson Amphitheatre Toronto, ON "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/24/2005 DTE Energy Music Theater Clarkston, MI "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41
08/27/2005 Tweeter Center Tinley Park, IL "Crue Fest" w/ Motley Crue & Sum 41

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