:: Blue October :: Ogden Theatre :: February 17 ::
By Brian Kenney
It’s nice to hear when a band lands on its feet. With all the cynicism in the entertainment industry, be it reality television or celebrity break-ups, it’s nice to hear that good guys finish first once in a while. Such is the case for Houston’s Blue October.
Anyone who has heard their heavily-rotated single “Hate Me” would dare call them anything like “feel-good,” yet they are a success story built on perseverance over adversity and grace under pressure. And they’re taking none of it for granted.
“It’s like someone dangles that carrot in front of the rabbit and then yanks it away from you,” said bassist Matt Noveskey in a recent interview with The Marquee. Noveskey was talking about the band’s whirlwind romance with Universal Records, which saw the group storming out of Texas, releasing a well-balanced debut (1998’s The Answers) before being signed for their major-label debut Consent to Treatment (2000). But with little-to-no airplay and few units moved, Blue October were subsequently dropped for their follow-up.
For Noveskey and the rest of Blue October, guitarist CB Hudson, multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye and brothers drummer Jeremy and vocalist/lyrist Justin Furstenfeld, Universal’s dismissal was like a hit upside the head with a tire iron. For most young bands without the wherewithal, this would have taken the steam out of their sails; they would have folded camp, rolled out and be teaching Guitar 101 at the local music shop.
“We were young when we got signed in ’99 and as a band, we tried our hardest,” Noveskey said. “It’s hard on you emotionally when you get out there and bust your ass and work and work and you get road blocks thrown at you constantly. And the next thing you know we’re dropped.” Noveskey knew the band had much more resolve than Universal was accrediting them, and after taking a break from the band in 2002, citing personal and health reasons, he returned for what might be called one of the more surprising and well-deserved rebounds in recent indie rock: the writing, recording and release of the now-platinum disc Foiled.
Few recent records have attracted as much attention as Foiled, which, with the lead singles “Hate Me” and “Into the Ocean,” deal full-on with the psychosis and neurosis of vocalist Furstenfeld’s life with honest and self-effacing intensity. It makes Walk the Line look like Singin’ in the Rain.
Furstenfeld, raised on a steady diet of Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, but with a Johnny Cash visceral intensity for confession, was born for the role of tragic antihero. His split personality adds a fourth dimension to this record as he exorcises his personal demons through his lyrics. He joins the hierarchy of classic front men who have put their catharsis on display: Morrison, Cash, and more recently Vedder and Cobain. “Justin’s a songwriting machine. There’s no rhyme or reason to when or where he’s going to write. He can be in an airport and come out of the bathroom with lyrics written on toilet paper,” said Noveskey.
Furstenfeld is more than genuine and like the primeval front men before him, the purging and seething vocalist is spiritually and mentally spent at the end of a 95-minute show. “It’s very exhausting. Just last night, as soon as the show is over, I’m looking over at Justin and we are just wiped out! We give so much every night,” Noveskey said.
After almost a decade of simmering eminence, Noveskey couldn’t have guessed their success during the recording of Foiled. “I wouldn’t say that we’re skeptics. But the situations we’ve gone through (in the past) where we’ve said, “This album’s gonna blow up” like we said when our first album came out, and it didn’t make a spark. So now we don’t go into the studio thinking everything we do is magic. Ultimately that’s why it took us so long to make this album. We weren’t gonna settle. (But we agreed) to keep our expectations low so you don’t get disappointed but let’s just give 100 percent. The bonus is that we’ve now sold close to platinum,” Noveskey said.
It’s this objective, this determination, this resolve that made Blue October not only lick their wounds, but harbor no ill will toward Universal after being dropped. This same label gave the band a second life with Foiled, to the point that if the Grammys issued a “comeback of the year” award, Blue October would win by a landslide. “This is what we do. We’re lifers. It’s not like some of us are into computers or successful with the stock market, so when the opportunity came back around, we were able to handle it a lot better than six or seven years ago. Now we’re more of a family.”
:: Blue October ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: February 17 ::
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• Nine Inch Nails
• Depeche Mode