Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

No questions, please
American Hi-Fi just want to have fun
Related Links

American Hi-Fi's official Web site

Sean Richardson talks about American Hi-Fi in 2003.

The bearded dude wearing the Tool T-shirt was not having a good time. It was a chilly afternoon in Manhattan last month, and inside the NBC building on West 49th Street, American Hi-Fi were playing their new single to a studio audience and hoping they’d see themselves on TV when this episode of Last Call with Carson Daly aired. Despite the repeated pleas for enthusiasm from Daly’s hopped-up crowd wrangler, Tool Guy was standing right in front of the stage, staring down the band with something between total boredom and outright contempt. The band were singing about how great it’d be if the geeks got the girls for once, but the sentiment engendered nothing in the way of recognition.

In American Hi-Fi’s world, there are Tool Guys and there’s everybody else. Formed in 1999 when former Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo drummer Stacy Jones decided to try singing some of his own songs, the band have made three albums of compact yet stylistically omnivorous power pop that, despite good sales and the ubiquitous 2001 hit "Flavor of the Weak," have yet to earn them a shred of respect from the sort of people who need their bands to ask the big questions. (One possible exception is Elvis Costello, who asked the band to open for him on a 2002 tour. When Jones got word of the offer, he had to make sure that Costello hadn’t mixed them up with the Strokes; meanwhile, bassist Drew Parsons thought, "Elvis who? Elvis Johnson?")

American Hi-Fi do not ask the big questions: on the just-released Hearts on Parade (Maverick), their third CD, they wonder why we can’t be friends, where we went wrong, and whether or not she got my number. Their musical curiosities run deeper, as they investigate taut, Costello-like new wave, beatbox-enriched falsetto funk pop, amped-up Buzzcocks bounce, sensitive-guy piano ballads, lightweight Pixies guitar noise, even lightly spliffed fake ska. In its unabashed foregrounding of catchy choruses and goofy wordplay, the music recalls New York’s Fountains of Wayne, like-minded pop polymaths who’ve had no trouble cultivating an aura of admiration from hardcore record nerds and skeptical rock critics alike.

"It’s interesting," Jones says when we meet for lunch at a SoHo Thai restaurant after the Last Call taping. "Fountains of Wayne have always gotten critical acclaim, and we’ve gotten that maybe we’re a guilty pleasure, if we’re lucky. But at the end of the day, when we’re on stage and we’re playing, we don’t care. We’re lucky." He chuckles. "In fact, though I like to read the good reviews, I really like to read the bad reviews. I don’t know why, but I get a pleasure out of being kicked around. Maybe it’s something I should talk to a therapist about."

Or, he says, he can just drive around LA, to which he moved from Boston "in 2001 or ’02 or something," with the windows rolled down — it does a good job of soothing the spirit too. (Three of the four Hi-Fis are Californians now; Parsons, whose wife, Esti, co-owns the Boston restaurants Radius, Via Matta, and Great Bay, "is still firmly rooted in Boston," flying out for recording and rehearsals, which he says are not a frequent occurrence.) Or Jones could seek encouraging words from his music-biz buddies: his old Cleo mates Kay Hanley and Mike Eisenstein live down the street from him, and the group have a big fan in Butch Walker, the former Marvelous 3 frontman who co-produced Hearts on Parade. Walker saw the band play a show at LA’s Viper Room, "and it blew me away," he explains via e-mail. "Instantly, I asked the band if they wanted to make a record. They said they didn’t have a record label at the time and I said I didn’t care. I loved the music."

The next night, at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza, where American Hi-Fi are opening a sold-out Bowling for Soup show, Tool Guy is nowhere to be found. In his place are a variety of more extroverted characters: girlfriends screaming from atop boyfriends’ shoulders, ponytailed teenyboppers stoked on a night in the big city, a guy waving around a lit-up BlackBerry instead of a lighter (or cell phone). Their enthusiasm is palpable as Jones dives into the crowd during Hearts on Parade’s "We Can’t Be Friends." A wave of squeals goes up that doesn’t subside till the band launch into "Flavor of the Weak," inspiring an audience-wide sing-along. Jones and his mates return the positive energy, doling out a stream of shout-outs to their fans — even when one of them requests a tune from Parade, which for two more weeks will be available only from finer file-sharing networks everywhere. American Hi-Fi laugh and play it anyway, thankful to be here.

Issue Date: April 22 - 28, 2005
Back to the Music table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group