Friday, March 29, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 7: From the End of the World

You were never noticed in life
It was the wrong time
It was the wrong place
Now that you're gone, you live in my dreams


Photo courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    Anodyne were probably the best band you never heard of around the turn of the century. Though they grew up alongside some of the most popular bands of the Boston boom of the late '90s and shared labels with a who's who of noise rock contemporaries, Anodyne were a band that just never seemed to find its niche with the music-buying masses.
    "We've never really had an audience the way other bands had an audience so kids who like Blood for Blood will like us," guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. "We've always been sort of like a square peg in a round hole in whatever scenario we were in. The Level Plane kids were open minded. They weren't really exposed to extreme music like we were doing. We were never a major band. We were never able to draw more than 50 people anyway."
    If Anodyne were never able to connect with a wider audience, it certainly wasn't from a lack of trying. The road dogs would play just about anywhere with just about any band.
    "We would play with all sorts of bands on tour, black metal, crust, grindcore, that weird electronic spastic shit that was popular then, tough guy shit, all kinds of bands," bassist Joshua Scott said. "We were less concerned about the bands we played with than we were with just being gone and playing shows. There would usually be one or two kids who were into it."
    Critical darlings like Isis championed Anodyne, taking them on the road several times, but it never translated into the same level of material success.   
    "That connection with them helped us a little bit. Aaron and those guys would always try to help us when they could," Hill said.


    If the universe were a just place, Anodyne would enjoy a posthumous revival based on the critical acclaim being racked up by the bands its members formed subsequently. Anodyne should be looked back on as something of a retroactive super group. Instead, the bulk of the band's catalog is out of print and nearly every record label they partnered with, including Hill's own Black Box, was a victim of the shift to digital music. But the members aren't shaking their fists at the deaf heavens and declaiming their lot in life.
    "I think we got exactly what we deserved, no more or less," Scott said. "I had no commercial or popularity expectations. All I wanted to do was play loud, weird music, and travel around in a van with my friends, so I guess it all worked out pretty well."
    Instead, Anodyne's members, to a man, credit the band as a valuable growing experience that made their later musical and business projects possible. Though there may not be a direct musical connection, what they learned in Anodyne made bands like Tombs, Defeatist and 27 possible.
    "Those were great years for me," drummer Joel Stallings said. "I don’t feel that Anodyne is attracting much attention at this point, but these days it’s difficult to keep track of what people are getting into. I rarely meet anyone I didn’t already know who’s interested in the band."
    Acclaim and popularity were never part of the plan, first bassist Mike Davis said. Punk rock rarely leads to fame and fortune, especially when it's that uncompromising. Instead, Anodyne's members took away just as much from the friendships and relationships formed in sweaty rehearsal spaces and basement shows as they did from the music they wrote.
    "You want to keep doing it, you want to write the next song, you want to go practice, you want to play," he said. "That didn't stop when I left the band or when Josh left the band or with Mike's projects. When you surround yourself with creative people these opportunities come up."
    Anodyne didn't just teach its members musical lessons. Founding drummer Thos Niles transferred the same DIY spirit into his post-band businesses.
    "I realized around then that internet startups were just like punk bands; it’s all about building something brand new and fresh, and anything we can think of, we can do, but nobody is ever going to help us but us," he said. "So we have to figure it all out, and challenge all the rules about how things work, almost to a ridiculous contrarian degree where we made things hard on ourselves on purpose just to prove that everyone else was wrong. Really, for me, that was the whole point of every band I ever did, especially Anodyne and La Gritona, maybe Eye For an Eye too, as well as the businesses I’ve started and been a part of since then. Working stupidly hard to make something that is awesome, for the sake of creating something that is beyond what anyone had considered before is my thing, I guess."
    Anodyne spawned a bevy of disparate bands in the years since, and ringleader Hill isn't all that interested in dwelling on what might have been. He has too many musical projects demanding his attention.
    "I don't even think about the band anymore, really," Hill said. "I look back on that time as something that was incredibly important to me and was character building. Playing in a band like Anodyne made me a better person. Whether people now are discovering the band, I don't have an answer to that."


Igor said...

Thanks for posting this series, I have enjoyed reading them and made me check out their other albums. I only had The Quiet Wars, I liked that but the other two albums were really more my cup of tea. I just never got around to checking those out for some reason. I think I lumped them in with Cave In and Converge, two bands that were popular at the time that I just never got into.

How's life with the little one? Have you been blasting some The Inalienable Dreamless yet?

Andrew Childers said...

thanks igor. i actually wanted to get this out before lil grinder showed up. so now we're just on the "any day now" holding pattern.

Anonymous said...

Hey man, thanks a lot for this!
It was a pleasure to read such thoroughly written essay about one of my favorite bands of all time.
I first discovered Anodyne somewhere around 2002 or 2003 (it was "The Outer Dark") and immediately fell in love with their music: that was exactly the kind of stuff I needed and was eager to listen to all day long. Even now, though I have a wide taste of music and listen to dozens of different genres and literally thousands of artists/bands, I still think they were one of the best bands ever.
Too bad they've called it quits but I guess that seemed inevitable. My only regret is that I never had a chance to see them live (due to living on the other side of the globe).

At least nice to know that somebody still remembers them and loves their stuff and articles like this one will surely help others to discover this excellent band.