The ever-fanciful fuck, drugs and rock ’n’ roll fantasy/myth that has plagued countless prepubescent dudes from Anywhere (or maybe that’s Nowhere), USA for the past 50-plus years will continue to thrive as long as there are albums to spin and a guitar to be riffed. At least that’s what Even the Odd frontman and guitarist Ben Hornbeck would like to believe. “Man, I hope so,” he says.
His bandmates — including bassist Joey V and drummer Ryan Darnell — are loudmouthed, trash-talking, spliff-sucking, booze-fueled creatures of whim ready to rock you and have as good a time as humanly possible in the process. Just ask ’em.
With guts full of shots and beer, Hornbeck and Darnell leave one bar and make their way to another. This one’s a smoky, dimly lit hole somewhere in East Lansing. A couple of waitresses from the last joint have tagged along, per invitation, and the boys seem content living the lives of rock stars in training, and being anywhere that isn’t home.
Who can blame them? Their home is Ortonville, a Michigan backwater Darnell describes as a pathetic small town that might as well consist only of one bar and a Taco Bell. It’s where “you raise cows and everybody knows everybody.”
Over countless drinks, Even the Odd’s history heaves into view. The trio formed in 2001 in the wake of Hornbeck and Darnell’s previous band, Innercorse. That band had what they thought was everything; the major label deal, the top producer, the cash.
Well, kids, take note: After signing with Madonna’s Maverick Records, Innercorse recorded in 1998 with recently sober producer Dave Jerden (Alice in Chains). So far so good. But for Hornbeck and Darnell, who were both in their mid-teens, doing the record was no spring day filled with lilies.
“It [the recording] had a lot to do with Dave being sick of being clean, but it had a lot to do with us too,” Hornbeck says.
“Being so young, rookies in the business, getting so much money, buying weed with it, drinking every day, it was mostly our fault,” Darnell says. “We figured everything would just work out for us, and it didn’t.”
The album was shelved and the band was dropped from the label.
Music Biz 101: Back at square one.
After Innercorse’s lead singer jumped ship, the guitarist and drummer, who’d been playing together since they were 14, ditched the band’s sound (which Hornbeck describes as a rap-rock Linkin Park knockoff) and started anew. After burning through a few lead singers and style changes, they teamed with death-metal guitarist-turned-bassist Joey V, and ETO was hatched. Between balancing day jobs (Darnell: “Joey’s my dad’s secretary.”) and pounding out new material, they used their old contacts to help land a deal with New York indie Wrong Records. Wrong funded their debut album (Popular Among Van Owners) with producer and co-label owner Daniel Wise (Scissor Sisters, Secret Machines).
Released last summer, Popular is a melodic, straight-up rock ’n’ roll effort that Hornbeck says consists of songs everyone can sing along to, recorded through tube mics and Marshall stacks on analog tape.
“ProTools is the worst thing that ever happened to the recording industry and we are proud our album is the real deal,” V writes in the band’s bio, referring to the computer recording software.
“What we do on stage, and what we record, it’s all real,” Hornbeck says between slugs of booze. “There’s no pre-recorded bullshit, there’s no vocal tuners, click tracks or electronics, and it’s all just straight-up rock. Music’s not computerized, it comes from the soul.”
ETO boasts that they are neither emo nor metal, they don’t read NME, they care very little about fashion, and claim that if a band name starts with the word “the,” they probably haven’t heard of ’em.
“We’re not making a lot of money, but at least we’re having fun,” Darnell says, with no trace of irony. “We just want to go out on stage, and deliver an intense, high-energy show.”
“I’ve been to so many concerts where the bands don’t even move on stage,” Hornbeck adds. “It’s like, ‘Well, shit, I might as well just listen to the CD, it sounds better.’ When we play, we want the whole place to feel the energy.”
Not that their motives are entirely pure, but they are rooted solely in rock traditionalism — uh, playing hard and drinking harder — and doing it simply, they say, for the love it. That and chicks, of course.
“I won’t lie. You’re in a band for a few reasons,” Hornbeck coos. “Women, partying and women. I really can’t see any other reason to be in one.”
The drunk-as-fuck Hornbeck and Darnell have been hitting on the tag-along waitresses (and anyone else who catches their eyes) all night, and as the evening morphs into morning, they have no intention of stopping, opting instead for another round of double Jack and Cokes. They pass on the idea of a nearby strip club simply because the place is alcohol-free.
And not unlike the Crüe (who allegedly offered the band a pricey, pay-to-play opening slot on their current comeback tour), ETO does have a story or two to share.
Darnell: “Out in New York, our label hired a photographer from Europe that specialized in ugly people, like Lenny Kravitz, Radiohead, Dr. Dre, Beck, all guys that don’t look like Gavin from Bush.”
As the story goes, after a few wild nights, Darnell got a late night phone call from Hornbeck, who’d made his way to Vegas with the photographer. “He called me at 2 in the morning asking me to be the best man.”
Hornbeck, who’s gotten more than a few nasty text messages and calls from his wife’s boyfriend, says that he and wifey “have been trying to get it annulled ever since.’”
That incident aside (which Hornbeck says “adds up to an interesting chapter in the book of Ben”), ETO still has a million beers to down before it can headline a stadium. For now, the band is headed out with Sponge for 21 shows in 24 days. It’s one tiny step in getting the ETO brand of ruckus on the lips of kids.
“The first time around, we took everything for granted,” Darnell says. “This time we won’t.”
Appears Saturday, Feb. 26, at Bonzai Bob’s (29 Front St., Lake Orion; 248-814-1004). Luke Hackney is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org