The Spin Doctors: Songs in the key of free
June 23, 1999
By Donna Freydkin
(CNN) - Spin Doctors' drummer Aaron Comess remembers the heady moment when the full magnitude of his band's success slammed home. Thanks largely to the runaway sales of its multi-platinum 1991 debut "Pocket Full of Kryptonite," the band -- fronted by shaggy, bearded singer Chris Barron -- found itself on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Comess, seeing his face staring back at him from newsstands across the country, realized that after years of playing dinky clubs in even dinkier towns, his band had finally made it.
Not so fast, my friend. As Comess learned, from the top, there's no where to go but down.
Times have changed for the likable group now promoting its fourth release, "Here Comes the Bride," a genial smorgasbord of calypso ("Wow", "Siren Dress"), funk ("The Man"), Latin beats ("Vampires in the Sun") and pure pop ("The Bigger I Laugh, the Harder I Cry").
"Our intention has always been to make really good music, and we try to stick to that," says Comess. "You can't expect every record to sell as much as 'Pocket' did, or you'd be miserable your whole life."
For a brief period, the Spin Doctors ruled popular radio in much the same way that today, Sugar Ray or Britney Spears seem to dominate the dial. And thanks largely to radio's relentless fascination with the Spin Doctors' Top-20 hits from the "Pocket" album, "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong," the New York band has been branded a two-hit wonder seemingly for good.
While the Spin Doctors' 1991 debut went on to sell five million units, the band's 1994 follow-up, "Turn It Upside Down," barely went platinum, and the 1996 album "You've Got To Believe in Something" fared about as well as Julian Lennon's last release. To add insult to injury, the band's label, Epic, gave the Spin Doctors the boot in 1996.
For the new album, Comess and Barron were joined by Ivan Neville on keyboards and Eran Tabib on guitar. The band spent two years recording "Here Comes the Bride" in Comess' Manhattan home studio. This time, says Comess, they're not trying to overwhelm critics, sell millions of albums or storm the radio. Now, it's about making music.
But given the meteoric rise and fall of the Spin Doctors, a little bitterness is to be expected, right? Wrong, says Comess.
Q: Do you feel a certain freedom these days?
Comess: When we made "Pocket Full of Kryptonite," that's as free as you can be. It was our first record and we had nothing to lose. When we made that record, we never dreamed of it doing what it did. Our original goal was just to pay our rent-making music, and today we try to keep the same goals in mind.
Q: For the new album, you had a new label [Universal] and two new members. What was the impact?
Comess: Well, for one thing, we named it "Here Comes the Bride" because our tour manager was getting married, and also because of our two new members. But that's about it. Basically, I'm really proud of this album and I want people to hear it. We experimented with a lot of different styles on this album, and I think it shows that we make music because we love to make music.
The initial goal is to come up with something you feel really good about and put a good album together. From there, you hope people will check it out, like it and buy it. But ultimately, the goal is to create something you feel proud of.
Q: What was it like for you to hit it so huge with your debut album?
Comess: It was great. We'd been traveling around for two years, playing all these shows, and the record had been out for about a year when all that happened. And yeah, it was really cool. Most people hadn't heard of us, but we'd been gradually building up momentum. Every time we came back to a town and played another show, more and more people were there, and we felt something was happening before that album broke. We felt a certain buzz.
You can never complain about having that kind of success. The only problem is that you become over-exposed and risk people getting tired of hearing you, and that's what happened to us. But I don't regret that at all. Of course, after you sell that many records, it's hard to live up to that, and there's a lot of pressure to do so.
Q: Any bitterness about the rapid rise and even faster fall of the Spin Doctors?
Comess: Is there bitterness? Sure. But you can't live your life looking back at what could have been, or you'd be miserable. Everything happens for a reason, good or bad, and for us, it shaped the way were are as people and as a band. Sure, there's bitterness. Being in a band is difficult. But in the big picture, it all happened for a reason.
Q: What's different these days? Less pressure?
Comess: Now, we've gotten back to just doing this for fun. All you can really do as a musician is try to grow and continue to make good music. Personally, my main goal is to feel like I'm improving and getting better. And I really feel that on this album.
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