Supergroup rises from Nirvana
by Christine Laue
In the years since Nirvana lead
singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide, the two surviving band members have
formed other bands. Dave Grohl switched from drums to become frontman of the
Foo Fighters, and bassist Krist Novoselic launched his new project, Eyes
Adrift, in late 2001.
While Eyes Adrift is just
starting - it released its first CD Sept. 24 - the band is getting plenty of
attention for its supergroup lineup. In addition to Novoselic on bass, Bud
Gaugh, former drummer of Sublime, and Curt Kirkwood, former lead singer of the
Meat Puppets, round out the group.
"When both Krist and Bud
called me within a day of each other, I said (expletive)! This could be
insane!" Kirkwood said.
That's been fans' reaction, too.
Besides boasting the bassist for one of the 1990s' most famous bands, Eyes
Adrift includes members who also produced big hits of the alternative-rock era
- Sublime with songs such as "What I Got" and the Meat Puppets with
The members of Eyes Adrift are
aware of the attention and expectations their histories bestow upon them, but
Kirkwood, despite his band's success, claims he is the odd man out.
"Krist or Bud have been
there where something they had has hit the ceiling. Once you've had that, I bet
your confidence is different. I've just not had that. I wouldn't know,"
Kirkwood said from his Austin, Texas, home. "I had a big hit
("Backwater"), but people wouldn't know the band name. . . . I've
always been more in a cult space."
One reason people might not know
his band name, Kirkwood said, is timing.
"I put out my first
major-label debut the same week (Nirvana's) 'Nevermind' came out," he
said. "It went nowhere."
It's an ironic point,
considering that the last song Cobain wrote hit airwaves in recent weeks, just
as Kirkwood's newest project debuted.
"I'm used to getting my
(butt) kicked by Nirvana," Kirkwood said.
The difference this time,
however, is that the legal battle that had kept the Nirvana song from the
public might shed light on Kirkwood's new band, as Novoselic talks about the
dispute and answers questions about his latest work.
Of course, the biggest question
always is "what does this supergroup sound like?"
The group combines rock,
alternative country and folk. The album varies from song to song, with some
aggressive guitar riffs and bass lines showing the Nirvana influence while
cymbal splashes and other ska, reggae and Latin percussive elements show
Sublime's. Kirkwood's contribution is possibly the most obvious of the three
groups, with his subdued vocals tying the album together. Novoselic, however,
takes lead vocals on three tracks - the scathing criticism of the media in
"Inquiring Minds," the hoedown trot of "Dottie Dawn & Julie
Jewel" and the long, psychedelic jam of "Pasted."
"I hear 'em. I hear 'em big
time," Kirkwood said of the respective group's influences. "The bass
is pretty obvious to me when I hear it. The drums - I mean it's kind of how I
heard it before we started playing together, imagining it."
For a guy who launched his music
career playing Kansas covers, the idea of making music with Nirvana's bassist
and Sublime's drummer is still hard to grasp as a reality. Even so, the
experience somehow has been one of the most natural for him.
"It's the easiest gig that
I've had," Kirkwood, 43, said. "It's just so easy to do. In a good
way. I like things to be easy so I can relax on stage."
Kirkwood had performed on stage
with Nirvana long before Eyes Adrift. It was that experience, playing with
Nirvana during taping of the MTV special "Unplugged" in 1993, where
Novoselic and Kirkwood first met. Years later, Novoselic saw that Kirkwood was
performing solo and called him to see if he would want to play together sometime.
Gaugh also had seen that Kirkwood was performing solo and gave him a call just
a few days after Novoselic's call.
Besides the chemistry the
musicians immediately sparked, the three also shared similar but tragic
Kirkwood's brother Cris
Kirkwood, also of the Meat Puppets, has struggled with addiction and lost his
wife to an overdose. Sublime lead singer Brad Nowell died of an overdose, and
Cobain battled addiction for years before shooting himself.
"Everybody who got popular
. . . just dissolved," Curt Kirkwood said. "There's a bunch of us
kind of recovering, like '. . . what was that?'
"We're not dopers. We don't
have intravenous drug (stuff) going on, stuff that's going to cause a
catastrophe," he said. "I think that's why we like each other."
The three also shared similar
ideas and experiences about the music industry. They decided that instead of
trying to get signed to a major label, they would put the album out on an
independent label where they would be free from the pressures of re-creating
grunge or being the next No Doubt.
"The industry is just too
gimmicky right now," Kirkwood said.
So the band produced its
self-titled album on SpinART, hired a company to market its first single,
"Alaska," to radio and let their supergroup status work for them.
"Our whole thing is try to
play the game without the big sponsorship," he said.
It's working. "We're
getting a lot of attention for no money."
Kirkwood admits that like a hand
to a flame, he reflexively pulls back from some attention, having seen what it
can do to individuals. But, he adds, "I love success as much as the other
guy. . . . I don't think it's gotten out of hand yet."
Eyes Adrift could have a hit at
the same time Nirvana does, if the publicists can sell "Alaska" to
"I absolutely don't believe
they can do it without money," Kirkwood said, his pessimism returning.
"God bless our little hearts."