Stuck On Reunion: After a 17-year hiatus, Failure forges ahead

photo: Ryan Daly

Even with countless numbers of bands from the ’90s reforming to cash in on the nostalgia economy, the occasional reunion announcement will come along and take people completely by surprise—such as when Failure announced in late 2013 that they would be reconvening and touring America.

The Los Angeles-based post shoegaze act had a fine run in the ’90s, releasing three critically acclaimed albums—including the unheralded masterpiece Fantastic Planet—before flaming out due to infighting and drug problems. Fast forward some 15 years later, guitarist/vocalist Ken Andrews, bassist Greg Edwards and drummer Kellii Scott have washed away the bad blood and discussed playing together again.

The wounds have apparently completely healed as Failure was inspired enough to record a brand new album. Titled The Heart Is A Monster, the LP picks right up where they left off with plenty of grinding rhythms, dense arrangements, and melodies that become part of your DNA after one listen. Substream caught up with Edwards, who was taking a break during the band’s rehearsals for their upcoming tour to talk about the delicate balance of reuniting and Failure moving forward as a unit.

Having been back together for a little bit, what do you think has made things within the group better than how things were?
GREG EDWARDS: If I think back to how I was then, I have no problem saying that I’m more mature now. But that doesn’t mean much relative to what I was. Musically, we’re more mature and more confident and less precious about everything. I think we’re able to look and see the bigger picture and the greater goal within the details and not get bogged down in vitriolic poison and fights. Not that that happened a lot, but even if it happened a little bit in a recording session, it has a long aftereffect. It affects the trust between the people you’re working with. That’s awful for any artistic process. Maybe we’re just older and lazier and we just don’t want to deal with the emotional aftermath of those sorts of outburst, but for whatever reason we don’t do that anymore. We tend to be more focused and productive.

Is it also easier without the added weight of having to bow to the whims of a major label?
I don’t know what kind of pressure that added to it or not. Having it all be all DIY, and all under our own steam, I think it’s only positive. I don’t look back and see anything positive about the big record company except the instant gratification. You get a big advance so you didn’t have to worry about money for a year. That’s also money that you had to pay back and that most bands that were signed back then never did actually pay that back. Even if you had to raise everything ourselves or spend money out of pocket, it felt better that we were in complete control. Also when we were making the records back then, we were nobodies. We didn’t have a sense that we had a following. Then after the band broke up, people were constantly coming up to all of us and expressing their love for Fantastic Planet. That gives you a sense that there’s some sort of legacy that you’ve created. And if people are responding to that thing you did, that gave us a different purpose going into making this record. We knew we had a built-in audience that were emotionally connected to what we had done before, and they were going to be ready to receive this.

Although you have a label releasing this, everything else was funded by PledgeMusic. How was the crowdfunding process for the band?
It’s wonderful that it’s there because we wouldn’t have been able to function the way that we did. We don’t have a record company that’s giving us money to do these things. Basically it enabled us to operate like we had a nice record deal with a budget and we could make the record the way we wanted to make it.

Now that you have this record out in the world, do you have expectations for the future of Failure?
I think we’re just taking things as they come. We just decided to do something and we put our heads down and did it. I don’t think we’re having huge ambitions about it. I associate that with when we were together in the ’90s, that ambition of youth, which is just fantasy—and a lot of it. I don’t miss that. With the way that my career has gone, I’m completely happy and satisfied. And I’m completely happy and satisfied with the story of Failure even given the way it self-destructed. I like that story and I like this record being the followup to Fantastic Planet. S

A version of this piece was published in Substream #47.