Max Collins – Vocals and Bass
Jon Siebels – Guitar
Tony Fagenson – Drums
Eve 6 weren’t even legal drinking age when they were presented with their first platinum record. Thus, life came hard and fast at the members of SoCal pop-punk trio, whose meteoric success in the late ‘90s and early millennium ingrained their anthemic radio hits into the fabric of the lives of a whole generation. Then, it all sort of ended…until now.
Reunited and re-energized, the band has returned with album Speak In Code eight years after parting ways in 2004. As the fourth full-length release for Eve 6 and their debut on new label Fearless Records, the album heralds not just a return to form for the threesome, but a new chapter in a book that had ended all too abruptly.
“Overall I’m really proud of it, and I think we’re doing right by our fans, who’ve waited a long time for us to make another record. I think we’re giving them something they’ll enjoy,” says singer/bassist Max Collins. “Once we got in the studio there was a lot of energy. There aren’t any filler moments; each song has its purpose. This is the strongest collection of songs we’ve ever had on one record.”
Eve 6—which also includes drummer Tony Fagenson and guitarist Jon Siebels—formed in Southern California in 1995 while the trio were just teenagers, then inked a deal with RCA Records before they’d finished high school. The band issued the self-titled Eve 6 in 1998, attaining platinum success with hit singles “Inside Out” and “Leech,” the former capturing the #1 spot on the Modern Rock charts and crossing over successfully to Top 40 radio. More widespread recognition came with gold-selling sophomore effort Horrorscope (2000), which spawned radio gems “Promise,” “On The Roof Again” and the ubiquitous prom and MTV anthem “Here’s To The Night”.
It seemed like Eve 6 were everywhere—the band made appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and TRL with Carson Daly, with their videos in constant rotation on MTV. The band then released the more experimental It’s All In Your Head in 2003, featuring singles “Think Twice” and “At Least We’re Dreaming,” but parted ways with RCA thereafter. Their rapid rise to prominence at an early age had led to an inevitable mental and physical exhaustion, and in 2004 Eve 6 announced an indefinite hiatus. It was time to turn a new page.
“There were parts which were fucking incredible, and amazing and awesome, and there were aspects that were terrifying and freaky that you don’t know how to handle. I feel like we did some growing up in public,” says Collins. “I needed to stop drinking. In order to do that, the wheels had to come off. I don’t think I could have done it if the band was still going.”
After a year apart, Collins and Fagenson began writing and producing for other artists, including 2007’s hit ballad “We Don’t Have To Look Back Now” for rock band Puddle of Mudd, and collaborating on a new experimental side project, the Sugi Tap. “It was an inspiring time, going down different musical avenues together and trying things we wouldn’t have in Eve 6,” reflects Fagenson. “Ironically, when we did reform Eve 6 a couple years later, those experiments allowed us to progress the sound of the band more freely than if we had been in the band the whole time.”
Collins and Fagenson eventually reignited Eve 6 in 2008, with guitarist Matt Bair temporarily replacing Siebels who was occupied with his project Monsters Are Waiting. The band spent the next two-plus years touring, writing and reconnecting with fans, then in 2011, armed with new material and management, signed with Fearless Records. A month within inking the deal Collins and Fagenson finally convinced Siebels to return to the fold.
“After going down some different paths it hit me that there was this thing out there that people wanted and wanted to hear,” explains Siebels. “It just clicked and made sense to me. After such a long break I was so happy to be playing with these guys again.” Continues Fagenson, “The way [Siebels] hits the strings and puts that muscle into the chords is very distinctive to our band, and that was a welcome piece of the sound that we had missed. Songs that had been kicking around for a couple years got new life with his playing put into them.”
Eve 6 then re-enlisted Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Dashboard Confessional, Good Charlotte, Pearl Jam)—who produced the first two Eve 6 full-lengths—to helm the sessions for Speak In Code. With all the lead time, the album contains a mix of compositions that began as far back as the side project, as well as recent works written in the months leading up to the recording process. “We were really taking a ‘best of everything’ sort of approach, almost like a band’s first album, in which there’s a lot of material to choose from,” Fagenson notes. “About half the songs were standouts from what Max and I had been working on and demoing over the years, and the other half were newer ideas that came with the inspiration of Jon’s return and all that was happening to us at the time. We have a unique process, where each song is sort of its own animal. Don was crucial in helping us tighten everything up, and inspiring Max to dig really deep lyrically and get to some root emotion down there.” Explains Collins, “Neil Finn [of Crowded House] once said, ‘A great producer is someone whom you admire musically and otherwise, who you feel compelled to show up and show off for.’ I feel like Don is that figure for me and the band.”
In many ways, Speak In Code is a work with deep personal significance for Collins, who has weathered his share of personal adversity. The album is a testament to coming out okay on the other side, with friendships still intact, but it’s within the journey that the story truly lies. Whether it’s romantic relationships or dealings with his bandmates, communication—and its barriers—is a central theme underpinning the release.
“In some of the songs frustration is a theme. I was sort of looking at difficult personal relationships with a humorous spin in some places, and with more earnestness in others,” explains Collins. “The title [Speak In Code] is a lyric from ‘Curtain,’ and there was something kind of evocative about it. In that song, I’m referring to being newly sober and just feeling like an open nerve, feeling freaked out, having people and life being sort of overwhelming. It’s almost like people are speaking a language you don’t understand.”
Opening track “Curtain” is a pivotal moment for several reasons—not only does it provide a title concept, but it also speaks to the group’s return from hiatus, drawing on the relations between the notoriously volatile Gallagher brothers from Britpop icons Oasis. “There was a lot that I could identify with there,” Collins says. “Being in a band is like a marriage; it’s like a family. You’re in the trenches with these guys, and sometimes it’s easy and awesome, and sometimes it’s not so easy.”
First single “Victoria” lyrically weaves a tale that draws the listener into a hook-laden, 80‘s-influenced anthem, putting a contemporary spin on the classic Eve 6 sound. “[‘Victoria’] indulges this paranoid what-if fantasy that kind of has a foot in the truth: My wife went on this girls’ vacation to Mexico, and when I was looking through the photos, I saw my imagination start to go, and wrote that song,” Collins recalls. “I’m convinced in my mind that something’s going on that really isn’t.”
Far from being just some nefarious nostalgia cash-in, Speak In Code is a genuine example of triumphing over one’s obstacles, both professionally and personally, seven years in the making. Eve 6 say the time rebuilding was essential to regaining their footing, which seems more solid in 2012 than ever. “In a lot of ways, the years leading up to this album release was a bit of a ‘paying our dues’ situation. We certainly had to earn the right to have this opportunity again,” says Fagenson. “This time around I think we realized just how hard it is to really get a rock band going and just when you think you’re near the finish line you realize there’s another hundred miles to go. But all that work and time simply strengthened our belief in what we were doing, and it was a crucial aspect of our development. It really taught us about stick-with-it-ness and perseverance.”
“The time we spent apart really made us appreciate what we have in each other. It’s a chemistry you can’t manufacture,” adds Collins. “We literally grew up playing music together. The bond that we have as a result of so much shared experience infuses the sound of the band.”
In support of Speak In Code, Eve 6 recently took to the road with The All-American Rejects and with Everclear. Diehards who caught the band live in prior years will undoubtedly be thrilled to see the trio once again on stage, but it will be a somewhat older, definitely wiser group that greets them. According to Collins, it’s all good.
“We’re looking forward to playing new songs, and reconnecting to the fans with new material,” says Collins. “I feel this profound gratitude to the other two guys in my band. We’ve been through a lot—we’ve had the mountaintop moments and the Death Valley moments—and we’re still here today, we all get along, and we made this thing together. It’s almost miraculous, to me. There’s this convergence that goes on for something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts, and that’s such a joyful, cool fucking thing.”