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Face to Face

Face to Face

Rock group

Bad boy rockers Face to Face made a name for themselves as a punk band, but they weren't entirely comfortable with that label. The group combined pop influences with classic punk sounds for a crowd-pleasing blend that owed as much to the Police as it did to the Sex Pistols. "It's just straight-ahead modern rock," drummer Rob Kurth told Cathy Maestri in Riverside, California's Press-Enterprise. Widely credited with contributing to the resurgence of popularity of punk music in the 1990s and 2000s, the band broke up in 2003 after 13 years and six original studio albums together, saying it was time to quit while they were ahead. Two of the band's members, front man Trever Keith and bassist Scott Shiflett, continued to play together in a new band called Viva Death.

Face to Face was formed in the Southern California desert town of Victorville, when singer/guitarist Trevor Keith and bass player Matt Riddle teamed with drummer Rob Kurth in 1991. Keith and Riddle had played together since they were in junior high school and already had a clear idea of what kind of band they wanted to create; after first playing heavy metal, the two had settled on a modern rock sound strongly influenced by the band The Cure.

The newly formed band established itself by playing in clubs in the California cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, since their native Victorville lacked suitable venues for their music. Influenced by the punk bands with which they frequently played in their first club gigs, the group began to move toward a more punk sound while retaining their earlier modern rock sensibilities.

The trio released their debut, Don't Turn Away, in 1991 on the Dr. Strange label. The album found a wider distribution through the Fat Wreck Chords label a year later.

In 1993, following the re-release of its debut album, Face to Face brought in a second guitar player, Chad Yaro, and then hit the road on an intense, months-long touring schedule. Touring spawned a number of singles that the band brought together in its sophomore effort, Over It. One of the album's tracks, "Disconnected," became a hit on the Los Angeles radio station KROQ, helping the band to land its first major label contract, with Victory Records.

Primed by the success of "Disconnected," the group's next album, Big Choice, sold more than 100,000 copies after its 1995 release on the Victory label. The speedier version of "Disconnected" featured on this album was also featured in the movies Tank Girl and National Lampoon's Senior Trip. Following the release of Big Choice, the group went on tour with bands such as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Offspring, to help promote their album.

Not long after Big Choice hit store shelves, the band parted ways with both its record label and one of its members; Matt Riddle left the band at around the same time the Victory label went out of business. The band replaced Riddle with bass player Scott Shiflett in time for to sign with major label A&M Records. The result was a self-titled album released in 1996. The album featured songs that had been perfected in front of crowds at small venues around the country, as part of the band's Econolive tour. The songs were then produced in the studio. During this time the band began its association with Vagrant Records, which nurtured the band's own label, Lady Luck Records.

Rob Kurth and the band parted ways in 1997, shortly before the release of the band's Live album, and was replaced by drummer Pete Parada. For its next recording Face to Face moved to Beyond Records. In 1999 the group followed Live with Ignorance Is Bliss. This album featured new drummer Pete Parada, and it represented a departure from the band's usual sound, offering a more introspective, less hard-driving lineup of songs.

Although it was well received by critics, not all fans appreciated the band's new sound, as evidenced by some of the responses at their live shows following the album's release. "For the first time," Keith told Alan Sculley in Gary, Indiana's Post-Tribune, "there were people showing up at our shows that were booing us and giving us a hard time about playing this material."

Ignorance Is Bliss was quickly followed in 2000 by Reactionary, released on the band's own Lady Luck Records in conjunction with Beyond, and distributed by the record giant BMG. Reactionary represented a return to the group's signature sound, but it broke new ground in one important respect—the way in which it was assembled. To create the album's track list, the group posted 16 songs on the internet in the form of MP3 computer files, and invited fans to vote for the ones they liked best.

In six weeks almost two million votes rolled in, and the 12 tracks that attracted the most votes made it onto the album. In a testament to the band's commitment to their fans, the members of the group left two of their own favorite choices off the album because they didn't receive enough votes. Even the order of the songs on the album was determined by the number of votes each track received. The most-voted-for song, "Disappointed," became the album's opening track as well as the album's leading single, receiving extensive airplay on the band's old ally, KROQ in Los Angeles.

Following Reactionary's release, the band hit the road on a tour sponsored by music file-sharing company Napster. Following an incident in which he attacked a booing fan at a concert, Yaro left the group, leaving Keith, Parada, and Shiflett to soldier on as a trio.

The album Standards & Practices was the group's next album. Released on the Vagrant label in 2001 in the United States, the album had been distributed abroad two years earlier and was composed of covers of songs by The Smiths, The Pogues, Fugazi, The Jam, and other bands. Face to Face's sixth and final studio album, How to Ruin Everything, was released in 2002.

Face to Face disbanded in 2003, after a 13-year run. The group's parting was an amicable one, with Keith citing not differences in opinion or personal friction between the group's members, but a feeling that the group had said everything it had to say. Shiflett added that the group's members wanted to quit while they were still having fun. Keith and Shiflett went on to found a new band called Viva Death, which released its self-titled debut on record label Vagrant in 2002.

For the Record …

Members include Trever Keith (born on May 26, 1969), guitar, vocals, songwriting; Rob Kurth (left group, 1997), drums, vocals; Pete Parada (joined group, 1997), drums; Matt Riddle (left group c. 1995), bass, vocals; Scott Shiflett (born on August 22, 1966; joined group, c. 1995), bass; Chad Yaro (group member, 1993-2000), guitar.

Group formed in Victorville, CA, 1991; released debut album, Don't Turn Away, on Dr. Strange label, 1991; Don't Turn Away reissued on Fat Wreck Chords, 1992; signed with Victory Records, released EP Over It, 1994; released Big Choice, 1995; signed with A&M Records, released Face to Face, 1996; formed own Lady Luck Records label in association with Vagrant Records to release Live, 1998; moved to Beyond Records, released Ignorance Is Bliss, 1999; released Reactionary, 2000; released Standards & Practices on Vagrant in the United States, 2001; How to Ruin Everything, 2002; group disbanded, 2003.

Addresses: Office—2118 Wilshire Blvd., #413, Santa Monica, CA 90403. Website—Face to Face Official Website: http://www.facetofacemusic.com.

Selected discography

Don't Turn Away, Dr. Strange, 1991; reissued, Fat Wreck Chords, 1992.

Over It (EP), Victory, 1994.

Big Choice, Victory, 1995.

Face to Face, A&M, 1996.

Live, Vagrant, 1998.

Ignorance Is Bliss, Beyond, 1999.

Reactionary, Beyond, 2000.

Standards & Practices, Vagrant, 2001.

How to Ruin Everything, Vagrant, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), September 27, 2002, p. GO13.

Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, PA), November 17, 2000, p. 2.

Post-Tribune (Gary, IN), February 16, 2001, p. D11.

Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA), March 17, 1995, p. AA20; September 20, 1996, p. AA16; August 18, 2000, p. AA13.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 12, 1995, p. 6E.

Seattle Times, February 23, 2001, p. G10.

Online

"Face to Face," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 30, 2004).

Face to Face Official Website, http://www.facetofacemusic.com (June 30, 2004).

"Viva Death," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 30, 2004).

—Michael Belfiore

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