As the sole survivors of the original Drive-Thru Records Family, the guys of the Early November have become the heirs to one of the most successful independent record labels in music history. At the front of the Hammonton, NJ quintet is Ace Enders, perhaps the vastest well of original material since Conor Oberst, with a triple album coming out soon and his side project I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business still at work. On March 5th I was fortunate enough to have a one on one with the band’s lead singer/guitarist post-show at Tremont Music Hall.
Nestled away in the van as Matchbook Romance finished their set (buses cost $1000 a day, and TEN prefers hot showers and hotel rooms), wrapped in a parka, Enders hardly looks like the guy driving the most ambitious musical release since Speakerboxxx/The Love Below or I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning/Digital Ash In a Digital Urn. He might just be the kid that’s saving the genre at a time when bands that have never played a show before sign record contracts (Panic! at the Disco) or have never released more than an EP (hellogoodbye) are headlining sellout shows and goofing off on TRL. But for him, the segueing, three-disc-spanning opus is just the next natural progression, and it shows in his collected, laid back demeanor.
TEN’s mold-breaking second “full length” album isn’t the first time Enders has challenged the established system. Ace originally intended for I Can Make a Mess like Nobody’s Business’s debut, a solo album that came out at a time when TEN seemed to be anything but solid, to be given away or sold at the cost of materials. It’s easy to see how giving away the product would be a hard concept for record company to grasp, and in the end Ace had to settle for releasing the album with a standard $10 price tag.
Such open-mindedness can usually get a band booted from their label, as TEN’s old label mate the Starting Line found out when they were let go by Geffin for not fitting the mold the major thought they should. However, the Early November seems to be the exception. When the band was signed to Drive Thru in early 2002, they were the last band on the original roster of the self proclaimed “DTR Family.” “I think when we got on was right when the old family started to break up,” Enders analyzed.
New Found Glory, Something Corporate, and the Starting Line were optioned by now defunct MCA. Senses Fail defected to label rival Vagrant Records. Finch, Fenix TX, Home Grown, and the Movielife all broke up at different stages. Allister continues to float in limbo, with an ever changing line-up and little forward movement. Now the former new guys are OG. “We opened on the Drive Thru Invansion tour in 2003. Now we’d be the headliners. I think the family aspect is still there for the new guys like hellogoodbye, Houston Calls, and House of Fools,” Ace speculates. “We’re just not as close to those bands as we were with our friends a few years ago.”
There’s obviously something special about the band that can endure all of the tribulations that have caught their peers. Though Enders has been the only member of the band that hasn’t left at some point or another, the original line-up is back and stronger than ever. Drummer Jeff Kummer insists that the band is playing the best live shows of its career and everyone is more committed than ever before, including newly added guitarist Bill Lugg.
Guitarist Joe Marro said that every band wants to make it huge, including them. He sights the fact that the last album, 2003’s The Room’s Too Cold, didn’t have a single as the reason it wasn’t bigger and made sure to let me know that the new release will be sporting at least one highly marketable track.
Later, Ace has almost the opposite reaction. “We’re not doing a safe album right now. If I wanted to write the safe album I could have done it already and we’d be up on the TV screens and stuff, but that’s not what it’s about for me. All that people are looking at out there is money. That’s what’s driving this thing for them. I’m not in this for the money. Me, I feel like I’m lucky to be in this position that I’m in and getting to do what I’m doing... And I want to do this the best that I can, cause this is what I really love to do. I want to be proud of myself for this when I look in the mirror.”
This spring the Early November will be finishing up opening for Matchbook Romance on the Take Action Tour with Silverstein and Paramore. Their much awaited triple album should be out in May as announced by bassist Sergio Anello during the show. They’ll start out the summer supporting the release, headlining the Barbecue Across America tour, hitting up any cities they would miss before joining up with Warped Tour in Seattle to play the main stage. Tremont Music Hall will be one of those stops.