Face To Face
Some might suggest that it’s hard to get to know Face To Face. Are they mercurial, trans-genre rock cynics? Or are they legends, deserving of credit only for starting a Southern California punk revival steeped in fierce but eloquent songwriting, yet ultimately over-taken by the group’s more image-conscious pop progeny? All suggestions aside, the fact is that Face to Face are something more than the torch lighters, or the benevolent architects of somebody else’s punk rock. The fact is that Face To Face earn their respect each sold out night on each increasingly successful tour after each unique, powerful and personal recording they release. And the fact remains that there isn’t a more talented, committed or important American punk band to arrive in the last 15 years. These uncommon qualities that have lifted the band to their rarified status will be supremely evident on April 9, 2002 when How To Ruin Everything, Face to Face’s sharpest, most addictive release, hits record stores everywhere.
After a meteoric rise from So Cal punk obscurity in the early ’90s, Face To Face have maintained their devoted following by consistently releasing superior material and touring slavishly. Perhaps victims of their own success, the band sold more than half of a million records without much notice or assistance from the corporate rock marketing machinery. Early career decisions to do business with major labels paradoxically led to reduced exposure for the group while they continued to expand their fan base and headline larger and larger venues. While unproven alternative acts were fattening label rosters and modern-rock playlists with forgettable faux-angst posturing, Face To Face had to create their own buzz via punishing live shows and material that transcends fashion. Vocalist/guitarist Trever Keith thinks he understands how the group has flourished under such trying circumstances: “Thanks to the loyal dedication of our fans, [we have] managed to survive a number of catastrophes that would have destroyed most other bands.” Actually, Mr. Keith is being a little modest, talent and hard work had something to do with it too.
Perhaps the loyal and dedicated fans can explain it best. Travis Barker of Blink 182 said in Spin Magazine, “The first time I saw Face to Face, it introduced me to a completely new style of music.” Echoing the powerful feelings that most devoted and knowledgeable music lovers share about the group, Chris Conley puts it this way, “When I started Saves The Day, [F2F release] Big Choice was the soundtrack of my life.” New-breed punk acts like Conley’s have enjoyed more tangible forms of support from Face To Face as well. Along with fellow Vagrant Records artists like Dashboard Confessional and Alkaline Trio, Saves The Day first received national exposure while opening for their idols. Now that these and many other Face To Face-influenced acts have become outright stars, hereby increasing the size and scope of Vagrant Records. The timing is perfect for How to Ruin Everything, the first full-length Face To Face release of new material for the emerging label. Of course, the band wouldn’t commemorate this event by offering anything less than the best recording in their career, which is exactly what they have done.
Inspired by the fact that Face To Face is “finally on a label that understands how to sell our records” Trever Keith and company have delivered a raw gem of an album. Taking a few stylistic cues from their own influences (especially colossal Brits like the Jam and the Clash) Face To Face put a classic punk twist on their sinewy, trademark pop-punk sound. Instead of cheesed-up British accents, the band show an affinity for the direct, pop song structures that made certain late ‘70s and early ’80s rock essential listening. That’s not to say that How to Ruin Everything is any kind of retro novelty, rather, this is an expression of what Keith calls “all the reasons we used to love punk rock.”
Over their long and sometimes tumultuous career, a few questions have naturally arisen regarding lineup and label changes, musical misinterpretations, rumors, rivalries, innuendo et al. Some might be more valid or insightful than others, but Face To Face believes they all deserve a response. Listening to How to Ruin Everything should answer all the ecstatic fans as well as the punk rock insiders and critics. After all, it’s about the music, isn’t it? And nobody drops an agile guitar riff, or takes more skillful lyrical aim at the emotional frailties of a generation than Face To Face. This is a band that has always stood for something, a band that won’t apologize or be inhibited by their past or anyone’s preconceptions. On How to Ruin Everything’s second of 15 vicious tracks, “The Take-Away” Face To Face openly pronounce their disdain for such limitations, and put a question of their own out to the rock ‘roll collective: Are you ready to do something about it?? If you are, on April 9th, you’ll get your chance!