The Worcester Phoenix
January 21, 1994

On the Rocks - By Joe Longone

Waking Up
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 the pavement.

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 rock.

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 spotlight.

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