Pete Murray: Vocals
Neil Godfrey: Guitar
Tommy Stewart: Drums
Pete Ricci: Guitar
Jon Fahnestock: Bass
Lo-Pro's self-titled debut conjures large spaces.
The melodic and memorable guitar work and subtle atmospherics draw your mind's eye to a distant horizon line. The powerful drums cut up that distance with an easy grace. And Pete Murray's rich vocals achieve lift-off on the chorus of every song. You would never guess it all started in tiny rooms.
Remembering those spaces now, Lo-Pro's five members shake their heads and laugh. There was Murray's closet of a bedroom where he and guitarist Neil Godfrey first demoed the album. There was the 7-foot-square rehearsal compartment where the duo auditioned their future bandmates in Santa Barbara.
And there was the Boston-area hotel room where the band polished arrangements with Staind's Aaron Lewis, their 413 Records/Geffen label boss. Soon after, they entered the relatively spacious tracking booths and control rooms of L.A.'s NRG studio to record 413's premiere release with producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park).
Of course, it almost never happened at all.
Throughout the late-'90s, Murray and Godfrey dedicated their lives to Ultraspank. The industrial-tinged aggro-rock act toured relentlessly behind two well-received albums, but were ultimately left demoralized by label politics. Following the band's final tour, they both took day jobs and Murray gave up on the idea of ever playing in a band again.
Then Godfrey turned up at his door one day with a batch of new tunes.
"I'd had enough," admits the singer. "But that didn't last long. The minute Neil showed up with these new songs... it was weird, things started to happen differently. We didn't set any goals; we were just making music to have fun. That's where the name came from--we wanted to keep the hype to a minimum and let the music speak for itself."
Lo-Pro's demos eventually reached Lewis, who was launching 413 with Geffen President Jordan Schur.
"I was really picky about what I brought to the table as my first band, and I found exactly what I wanted with Lo-Pro," says Lewis, who runs 413 with help from Staind guitarist Mike Mushok. "I was handed a demo that Pete and Neil made in Pete's bedroom on a computer--and it sounded better than most of the finished product being played on the radio."
Lewis's advice to the band? Surround yourself with the right people.
Enter former Godsmack drummer Tommy Stewart, former Snot and Amen bassist Jon Fahnestock and guitarist Pete Ricci. Having endured similar industry experiences, the new members brought a shared empathy to anthemic songs like "Reach," "Sunday" and "Fuel," as well as moodier numbers like the album-closing "Bombz."
Murray's lyrics may sound relentlessly downcast on paper ("Why's it always feel like Sunday?" he sings on "Sunday"), but the melodies and arrangements always supply a hopeful, uplifting quality to the songs.
"Coming out of the situations we were all in, it would have been really easy to write an angry album," allows Murray. "But we really tried to rise above that."
"We just tried to make these mood-altering songs sound the best they possibly could," says Godfrey.
"Simplicity--the best songs are just the simplest thing in the world," says Ricci.
"And there's not one swear word on the album--now that's something I've never been involved with before," adds Fahnestock, laughing.
The occasional use of expletives aside, the band members' personalities are reflected in the music, according to producer Don Gilmore.
"They had to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and start from scratch," he says. "A lot of people can't do that; they don't persevere. These guys are survivors and they've shown that they won't stop until they've had their day."
For Lo-Pro, however, there was really no otttttherr alternative.
"When you start playing music at a young age, it's all you ever want to do your entire life," says Stewart. "It's almost like you don't have a choice. I don't think any of us chose to do this. I think it chose us."
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