On the Rocks - By
Tribe Survive their super-collision with success
If you talk to a lot of the local
rock groups, you get the sense that the elusive major-label
contract is the answer to most of their problems - the
golden goose of the music biz. "If that's what
they think, they're wrong," says Terri Barous,
keyboardist for Boston's Tribe. Just recently, I got
a chance to chat with Barous and fellow band member
Janet LaValley about how life has changed for two area
musicians that had made it to "the big time."
"The major advantage to
being picked up by a label is that the band doesn't
have to worry about who'll pay for the recordings. What
many people don't realize is that most signed bands
make their living off touring and selling merchandise.
There would have to be a lot of our records sold before
we'd see any of that money," comments the industry-wise
Barous. She and the band's guitarist, Eric Brosius,
are the song-writing team that supplies Tribe with most
of their material. Last November, the two intensified
their collaboration by getting married.
LaValley, the band's radiant,
raven-haired lead vocalist, doesn't see the group's
contract as an panacea either. "Once you get to
this point, there's just a higher level of concerns
and pressures that you have to handle. It's not that
much different than before. Being signed doesn't guarantee
you'll be any more successful. Like in the past, it's
the day to day life of being in a band," she says.
Tribe was originally the idea
of bass player Greg LoPiccolo. LoPiccolo and his friends
formulated the concept of a band before they knew what
to do with it - back in the early '80s, Barous was the
only charger member who could actually play an instrument.
Eventually they got it together and held auditions for
a lead singer. LaValley seemed like a natural centerpiece.
In 1985, the band, demo tape
and bio in hand, ventured out into Boston's fertile
club scene. In the subsequent five years, Tribe attracted
a large local following and enjoyed a popularity fueled
by a handful of lively locally-produced recordings.
At the height of this period they released "Here
at the Home," their first album. It's one of the
songs from this collection that got the attention of
New York talent agent Danny Bennett and led to Tribe's
1991 signing with Slash/Warner Bros. records.
Their first release under contract
was "Abort," a showcase of the band's best
material from its first six years. It was a smashing
debut. The material featured reveals a clever and diverse
musical outfit. Starting with the jazzy "Here at
the Home," "Abort" carries a bubbling
effervescent glee through 11 more songs, including such
pop classics as "Rescue Me" and "Joyride."
Tribe's newest release, "Sleeper,"
shows the band moving in a different artistic direction.
The weightless air of "Abort" has been abandoned
in favor of a darker and condensed mood. Again, 12 songs
are offered up for public consumption, but I fear many
will have a difficult time swallowing the album's nontraditional
melodies. Some of "Sleeper" is breathtakingly
beautiful - like a flower rising through the crack in
Maybe, it's less the amount of
money you can make while under contract, but more the
quality of the ride - the ability to go places you could
never go before, and the possibility of doing things
you could never dream of doing.
"People all over the country
are listening to our songs. 'Supercollider' is very
popular in Atlanta right now, and we're thinking of
going down there to do a show," says Barous, still
somewhat in awe of the national recognition. "Supercollider"
has easily been the band's biggest hit to date - the
"tribute" to Texas's 46-mile-long nuclear
research project is currently Boston's WBCN's number-one
song. The "Supercollider" video, made right
at the research site, has just entered rotation on MTV.
And if you need irrefutable proof that Tribe's making
it big, there's always their Thanksgiving-day performance
of "Supercollider" on the Conan O'Brien show.
Only the recent departure of
drummer Dave Penzo, since replaced by Mike Levesque,
has slowed Tribe's momentum. The band are busily touring,
entertaining millions, and will be making a stop next
Friday, January 28, at Bowlers. Apostrophe recording
artists Curtain Society will open. Area clubgoers should
avail themselves for a night of very enjoyable cerebral
Photo Caption: A RECORDING CONTRACT
may not solve all a band's problems, but Tribe have
found their way onto the MTV and into the late-night