Punk rock group
One of several pop-punk bands to emerge in the wake of the grunge scene of the early 1990s, MxPx delivered two albums for Seattle’s Tooth & Nail Records before its members had even graduated from their Bremerton, Washington, high school. Like the Offspring, Green Day, and Blink 182, their music featured clever and sometimes cartoonish lyrics, tight, guitar-driven arrangements, and an attitude of good-natured unconventionality. While most of their songs dealt with typical adolescent themes such as school, parents, and other authority figures, some of them delivered messages inspired by the group’s Christianity. As singer Mike Herrera told Campus Life early in the band’s career, “It’s pretty much, like, feel-good punk rock. It’s happy and melodic, but it’s fast at the same time…. Kinda something for everyone.”
Growing up in Bremerton, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington, the three members of MxPx met while in the ninth grade. Originally known as Magnified Plaid, the group changed its name to avoid confusion with another area band, and came up with MxPx. Singer and bassist Mike Herrera had already written dozens of songs on his own, and with the addition of drummer Yuri Ruley and guitarist Tom Wisniewski, the three band members began rehears-
Members include Mike Herrera (born on November 6, 1976), bass, vocals; Andy Husted (member, 1992), guitar; Yuri Ruley (born Yuri Zane Ruley on June 3, 1976), drums; Tom Wisniewski (born on October 20, 1976), guitar.
Group formed while the band members were in high school, 1992; recorded two albums for Christian label Tooth & Nail while in high school and played dates around the United States; joined the Warped concert tour, 1997-98; played European dates, 1998; signed by major label, A&M Records, 1997; toured with Cypress Hill and the Offspring, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —Tooth & Nail Records, P.O. Box 12698, Seattle, WA 98111, website: http://www.toothandnail.com; A&M Records/Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404, website:http://www.amrecords.com.Website —MxPx Official Website:http://www.mxpx.com.
ing and playing around the Bremerton area. As Herrera recalled in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1998, “I was totally into punk, but I was so new playing my instrument and writing my songs, I just kinda wrote what I could. There were maybe ten bands in the area, and about half of them would regularly play shows in the area.” In contrast to the distortion and feedback that dominated grunge music around the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s, however, MxPx included some pop-oriented punk songs in its repertoire. “They used to make fun of us because we didn’t have as much distortion,” Herrera remembered. The band also was distinctive for its inclusion of Christian themes in its lyrics, another contrast to the darker orientation of grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
MxPx soon became more than just another garage band in Bremerton. In 1994, while they were completing their junior year of high school, the band released its first album, Pokinatcha, on Tooth & Nail. The label specialized in releasing Christian-oriented music, and many of the songs on Pokinatcha reflected the band’s Christian beliefs. In “Weak,” Herrera wrote that “Jesus pulls me back together, my soul will be with him,” while in “Think Twice” he sang, “We are a brotherhood and we all know it, bonded by the son of God is how we live.” Other songs, such as “PxPx,” noted “He’s the one true center of our lives” in its social commentary, while “Jars of Clay” carried its religious theme throughout its lyrics. With Herrera’s vocals as much shouted as sung over the steady drumming and intense guitar riffs of his bandmates, however, MxPx sounded like a punk band, not a Christian rock group.
While completing their senior year of high school, MxPx completed another album for Tooth & Nail, 1995’s Teenage Politics. Like the band’s first release, Teenage Politics contained songs that included Christian references in their lyrics. In songs like “False Fiction,” Herrera sang that “Unless you know Christ you won’t know how I feel,” while in “Different Things” he wrote, “Jesus Christ, God, Son, and Sacrifice, believe in Him, He’ll open up your eyes.” Other songs covered more typically adolescent themes such as problems with dating, parents, and employers. Although the band did not shy away from acknowledging its Christian orientation in its music, it nevertheless played to a broader audience, playing concerts around the United States with other punk-rock groups during the members’s last year in high school. Despite their out-of-town forays, each band member graduated on schedule in 1995.
After releasing one more album on Tooth & Nail Records, 1995’s On the Cover, MxPx signed a new contract with A&M Records, which agreed to allow the band to continue recording for Tooth & Nail but take advantage of A&M’s more extensive resources for promotion and distribution. The deal between the small, independent Tooth & Nail and the larger A&M was a rarity in the music industry; the arrangement allowed A&M to re-release the band’s 1997 offering, Life in General, which had sold well despite Tooth & Nail’s limited promotional budget. A&M hoped that the single “Chick Magnet,” whose video had received some airplay on the MTV network, would bring the band crossover success. Indeed, Life in General hit the top 30 on both the Contemporary Christian chart as well as the Heatseekers album chart for up-and-coming acts in Billboard. Taking advantage of this breakthrough, MxPx also toured as an opening act for No Doubt and Face to Face in the summer of 1997, as well as appearing on the Warped Tour.
In 1998, MxPx joined the Warped Tour again to support its 1998 release, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo. Although the album contained a couple of Christian-oriented songs, such as “Tomorrow’s Another Day,” the band by now was seen as firmly within punk-rock territory. A1998 profile in Rolling Stone even noted that the band’s work with Tooth & Nail “created the misim-pression that MxPx are a Christian-rock band.” Indeed, in contrast to the content of their first releases, Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo largely put aside explicit references to the band’s religious beliefs. And, although most of the songs carried social critiques, the album also developed the band’s lighthearted side with tracks such as “Party, My House, Be There.”
While the band’s musicianship had improved with each release, production on its albums remained as sparse as ever, with Herrera’s frantic vocals competing for notice over the band’s straightforward and energetic playing. Typical of the reviews were Ride BMX’s approval of MxPx’s 1998 compilation Let It Happen: “It’s great, high-energy stuff that will make you run as fast as you can until you get cramps and then fall over wanting more.” On the other hand, in the wake of multi-million selling albums by Blink 182 and Green Day, with whom they were often compared, MxPx’s bid for wider crossover success disappointed some critics. A Los Angeles Times review of a 2001 concert dismissed MxPx as “Punk Lite” ; Despite “optimistic lyrics shouted across rapid beats and loud-fast electric guitar … the band has yet to add anything meaningful to the punk genre, unless you count the Christianity of its members.”
Now in his early twenties, Herrera defended his band’s direction as he promoted the band’s 2000 release, The Ever Passing Moment. Retaining Christian lyrics on some tracks, such as the reference on “It’s Undeniable” to “giving God control,” most of the songs covered the familiar territory of struggling with authority issues. The single “Responsibility,” a top 30 hit on Billboards Modern Rock Tracks in the summer of 2000, was about “how I don’t want to grow up right now,” said Herrera in an interview with the magazine’s Jill Pesselnick. He added that the new album was inspired by the realization that “you’ve got to live each moment or life will pass you by. You’ll never get it back.” With a couple of hits under the trio’s belt, Herrera added that he was pleased by MxPx’s success, but that mainstream acceptance would never cause the band to abandon its integrity and creativity. “I want the radio to play us because we wrote a good song. But I don’t want to write a song just so radio will play it.”
In 2001, MxPx recorded The Renaissance EP, a production for the band’s own label, Rock City Recording Company, which had also released its concert album, At the Show, in 1999. MxPx also continued to tour extensively, making a point to ask concert promoters to make tickets available at outlets that avoided service charges and handling fees such as those charged by Ticketmaster. While MxPx now recorded for a major label and toured on corporate-sponsored concerts around the world, and Herrera appeared in a Rolling Stone fashion layout sporting a $320 Versace shirt, it remained at least in part true to its origins. With the return to its roots for The Renaissance EP, which the band promoted on its website as: “What our first three records may have sounded like if we had recorded the songs at the present time,” MxPx continued its prodigious musical output, making it the band’s ninth album in just eight years.
Pokinatcha, Tooth & Nail, 1994.
Teenage Politics, Tooth & Nail, 1995.
On the Cover, Tooth & Nail, 1995.
Life in General, Tooth & Nail/A&M, 1997.
Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo, Tooth & Nail/A&M, 1998.
Let It Happen, Tooth & Nail/A&M, 1998.
At the Show, Tooth & Nail/Rock City Recording Company, 1999.
The Ever Passing Moment, Tooth & Nail/A&M, 2000.
(Contributor) The Real Slim Santa, KROQ-FM compilation, 2000.
The Renaissance EP, Rock City Recording Company, 2001.
Billboard, August 9, 1997, p. 9; October 4, 1997, p. 18; September 9, 2000, p. 97.
Campus Life, February 1996, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times, December 9, 2000; March 23, 2001.
Ride BMX, July 1999, p. 50.
Rolling Stone, July 9, 1998, p. 117; August 17, 2000, p. 100.
Saint Paul Pioneer Press, June 18, 1998.
MxPx Official Website, http://www.mxpx.com (April 16, 2001).
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