Hometown: East Lansing, Mich.
Latest album: Villains
Reason you’ve noticed them: Their way-earnest paean to lost innocence, ”The Freshmen,” and its Mark Neale-directed video’s endless shots of the Verve Pipe’s lead singer, Brian Vander Ark, who looks even more humorless on film than he sounds on disc.
How they would describe their sound if they were rock critics: ”Actually, the ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY reviewer nailed it,” confesses Vander Ark. ”He said we try to bridge the gap between American grunge and British melodic pop. He happened to think that we fail; personally, I think we succeed.”
How we would describe their sound: Stone Temple Pilots II, Electric Boogaloo.
Target demographic: Freshmen (and the sophomoric) of all ages.
Fashion sense: Hey look! I can wear my clingy polyester soccer jersey on stage too!
Triumphant tale of how they beat the odds: The band started out playing — where else? — colleges around the Midwest. ”Playing fraternity parties is the best way for a young band to make a living,” says Vander Ark. ”A lot of times you play two songs and the cops come break it up. You’ve made your money, and the frat president apologizes.”
Funky fact: The Hard Rock Cafe recently asked bassist Brad Vander Ark (no relation — just kidding: He’s Brian’s brother) for the pants he wore for the band’s 33 dates opening for Kiss.
If this band were a breakfast cereal, it would be: Corn-fed Flakes.
Stock quote on the pitfalls of fame: Says Brian, ”I don’t feel famous. When we play with bands like No Doubt, I think, ‘Look at them. They’re so famous; they’re all over the place.’ Then people tell me, ‘Oh, you’re all over the place now!’ We’re still just a bunch of slobs doing our shtick.”
Lead singer’s instant charisma rating (out of a possible five): Four.
Albums that never leave the tape player on their tour bus: The Beatles’ Revolver, Radiohead’s The Bends, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade. ”It all comes down to melody, and those are albums that I’ll always go back to,” insists Brian. ”Always.”
What’s next: More touring, plus the release of the album’s title track as a single, to follow up ”The Freshmen”; The Last Seduction director John Dahl has submitted a video treatment.