Q&A: Failure Succeed After Almost 20 Years Apart
Not every band will stay together for decades, or break up to never be seen or heard from again. Take Failure, the Los Angeles ‘90s alternative rock trio that built an audience of shoegaze and space-rock enthusiasts that found the band a welcome change from the grunge coming out of Seattle.
However, like many acts from that Seattle scene, internal turmoil tore Failure apart and in 1997, after just three albums, band members Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards and Kellii Scott went their separate ways.
While the trio spent much of the next 17 years apart, the band would communicate during that time over various Failure reissues and the release of previously unreleased demos. Obviously, there was still an external appetite – and an existing fan base – for Failure.
Eventually, Andrews, Edwards and Scott mended fences and in 2013 announced that Failure was reuniting. After a successful 2014 club gig in Los Angeles, Failure joined Tool on tour and the rest, as they say, is history.
Recently, Riffyou.com spent time with Scott to discuss Failure’s reunion, including what it took to get everyone in the room together, motivations, current relationships and the band’s killer new album, 2015’s The Heart is a Monster.
RY: When Failure decided to return, was there ever a concern about if you’d still have an audience out there?
Kellii: “Not really. The only time we really felt that way was when we did that first show at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles (in 2014.) The show sold out in two minutes. We knew something was going on and there was a fan base out there that was much more rabid and bigger than before. The one thing we weren’t certain about was what the demographic of that fan base was going to be. To our surprise, we found that two-thirds of the audience, if not more, were young kids – people who were maybe, three, four or five years old when we broke up. That was pretty wild. We’re now seeing that crowd over and over, but the one thing you can’t get used to is how the crowds react…they’re super into it.”
RY: That must really stir up some interesting emotions for you guys.
Kellii: “Yeah, you really have to choke it back sometimes, just to stay focused on what you’re doing and not fall apart.”
RY: Did the idea of Failure reuniting come from you guys, or people around you saying, ‘It may be a good time to come back’?
Kellii: “It was definitely organic. There were a few things that had to happen within the band – not even musically, but relationship wise before anything else could be talked about. That’s part of why it probably took so much time…the repairing of old wounds, rekindling friendships and putting the past, in the past. [We had to build] better, meaningful, deeper relationships, personally, and I think a lot of that really shows on the new album – there’s lot of that rejuvenation and newness to the album. It all feels very fresh and very exciting. It feels like there’s a future for Failure, even more so than there was a past.”
RY: Once you got those personal relationships in order again, what did you guys need to hear from each other, musically, to know that it made sense to do a new album?
Kellii: “In retrospect, the music was the easy part. I don’t recall any moments where working on new music felt laborious. It all felt pretty natural. You’d work on songs, but there was never anything like, ‘Oh, I’m just so tired of working on this.’ In 2014, we spent two or three weeks doing these jam tapes. We’d come into rehearsal, press record and just jam. That would go on for a couple of hours, so we amassed 30 hours of us just playing crazy jams. By the time we got into picking out little gems for the album, we maybe only used 15 minutes of that.” [Laughs]
RY: When you went from those jams to making the album, did you think that you were creating for yourselves, or for the fans?
Kellii: “It was definitely for ourselves. The first hurtle with anything we do is making ourselves happy and meeting our own personal goals. We’ve been fortunate that our goals have been connecting with fans’ [expectations.] We wanted to make another great record – something as good and viable as Fantastic Planet (1996)…if not better. We didn’t shoot to just make another Fantastic Planet. We wanted to surpass that. By doing that, I think that’s what the fans would like.”
RY: Have you determined what Failure does better now than it did back in the day?
Kellii: “I think…everything. As important as all of the music stuff is, our relationships [are better.] We’re out on the road and having such a great time. It’s super, super fun. That keeps you from getting tired, wanting to go home, or getting caught up in the daily grind of touring. All of us, coming back to Failure, are more refined in what we do. Collectively, we’ve always had lots of strength, but being apart and moving forward [separately] has helped us refine ourselves.”
RY: Have you guys thought about the future very much and what could be next for Failure?
Kellii: “It’s definitely day by day. We have a lot more to do to support this album.”
RY: Even with that said, have you determined what you want from Failure moving forward?
Kellii: “I actually thought about what I wanted from this band right when we got back together and, honestly, I’ve already gotten it. I couldn’t be happier or more satisfied. If for some horrible reason it was over tomorrow, I’d think we all won. To do what we’ve done, almost 20 years later…how often does someone get a second chance to do something they love? The big prize is that we made this album.”