"Why is the band called Hurt?" asks front man J. Loren with characteristic intensity. "Have you heard the CD? Does it seem applicable?
"I felt that was definitely the word," he continues. "It had to be called that."
Indeed, this young band and its ambitious debut album, certainly live up to the name. The LP veers between whispering and roaring, melody and brutality, crushing power chords and gentle acoustic moments. The convergence of those extremes -- delivered in irregular time signature with orchestration, no less -- define the "Hurt" sound. Yet just when it seems that it's all thunder and lightning, eight songs into the album the lighthearted "Danse Russe" comes soaring in like a break in the clouds, its cheerful melody and gentle acoustic guitars displaying a drastically different side of the band.
Traces of Tool, Nirvana, and mid-period Metallica flicker throughout the album, but Hurt have created a remarkably individual sound for a debut. It is mainstream enough to fit in on rock radio, yet unusual and edgy enough to appeal to the fringes -- and those extremes are echoed in the band's two core members.
The songs, singing and guitar playing emanate from one J. Loren -- the 24-year-old product of a strict home in rural Virginia, reared on a steady diet of religion, gospel and classical music and home schooling. He studied classical violin, can play virtually any stringed instrument and, as he puts it, "played many a hoedown," but rock was forbidden. He never even heard rock music properly until, one day in his teens, "I just happened to be at a friend's house and I heard Pearl Jam's 'Jeremy' on TV. It stopped me in my tracks. Classical was really the only music I had gotten into like that." He cites Vivaldi as his strongest influence.
The yin to J.'s yang is drummer Evan Johns, also 24, who was raised in Hollywood in just about the most rock environment possible: His dad is Andy Johns (who engineered or produced Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart, Free, Television, Cinderella, Van Halen and countless others), his uncle is Glyn Johns (ditto the Who, Stones, Kinks, Eagles, Clapton, Faces -- do we need to go on?) and his cousin is Ethan Johns (ditto Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon and Rufus Wainwright).
While that background evokes visions of young Evan doing homework in the middle of scenes from "Almost Famous," the reality was about half that. "A lot of my elementary years were spent hanging out with Cinderella or Van Halen -- we'd have them over for dinner or the holidays," he recalls. "And I was always hanging around the studio. The drums looked like the coolest thing, and I bugged my dad like crazy and finally, when I was about five, he bought me and my brother kid-size drums kits."
Getting J. to discuss the emotions and inspiration behind the songs is no easy feat. One passage from "Rapture" reads, "She swore she heard the voice of Jesus / Telling her 'It was wrong to keep it' / And one more thing, it looked like me"; one from "Falls Apart" goes "Our skin tears away as our memories fade with age / And we don't even know till it's gone ... Woe is me."
"I try to convey principles rather than trying to preach my own story, so that people can apply them to their own lives," he says. He allows that "Rapture" is about the "danger in setting yourself up as god," that "Danse Russe" was inspired by poet William Carlos Williams and "a two-day experience with a lovely person," and that "Losing" was written "after I saw Evan's ability on the drums. I was like [chuckles sinisterly], 'Hey buddy, I got somethin' for you!' "
And as for the intensity that runs through every thing his band does, J.Loren simply says, "If I'm not going to affect someone in some way, why do anything at all?"
Sick Puppies Bio
Aussie rock sensations Sick Puppies' upcoming summer tour in support of the July 14 release of their highly anticipated, sophomore Virgin/EMI Music album, Tri-Polar, will be sponsored by Samsung Mobile in a multi-leveled promotion that will include a gala launch party/showcase at the famed Capitol Tower on July 7. Dates for the Sick Puppiesâ€¦ Powered by Samsung Mobile tour dates have been announced and can be found at www.sickpuppies.net. The headlining and co-headlining concerts will include appearances at mid-size theatres and larger summer festivals, starting mid-July and lasting through September.
The July 7 record release/tour launch event, co-sponsored by Samsung along with Makers Mark, and Archie's Ice Cream (www.archiesicecream.com), will also feature a screening of Rock Prophecies, the film about the band's good friend, legendary rock photographer Robert M. Knight, who originally took the group under his wing when they came to America, introducing them to the people who helped kick-start their stateside career. Samsung will also sponsor showings of the film along the tour route, promoting their camera phone, under the banner, Samsung Memoir Presents Rock Prophecies. Rock Prophecies will have a theatrical release this fall.
The band's new single, "You're Going Down," which also served as the theme for WWE's Extreme Rules PPV broadcast last month, is currently Top 20 at both Active and Modern Rock, adding such Active Rock stations as WRIF Detroit, WIYY Baltimore, WCHZ Augusta, KLAQ El Paso and WHXR Portland and Modern Rockers outlets WSUN Tampa and WJRR Orlando. A video for the song has just been completed, while in-stores for week of album release are scheduled for Homers in Omaha (7/14) and Best Buy in Houston (7/18), with a date in Tulsa to be announced.
Sick Puppies are also currently featured on Joost.com's "Countdown to Release" feature with a series of webisodes that document the making of the album at www.joost.com.
Samsung's sponsorship of the tour will include several Sick Puppies' acoustic performances on site at T Mobile locations, a national radio promotion, as well as flat-screen and camera phone giveaways in designated markets as part of a "Roadie for a Day" promotion, with winners getting a chance to experience a day with the band, including tickets to the show in their city.
Sick Puppies will also offer thrice-weekly text and photo blogs shot with their Samsung Memoir camera phones at www.rockprophecies.com andwww.SickPuppies.net/SamsungMemoirMoments. In addition, Samsung will include insert cards in the first 60,000 units of the new album.
Sick Puppies relocated to Los Angeles four years ago, taking the world by storm with their song, "All The Same," used for a video shot in a Sydney shopping mall featuring their friend Juan Mann, who held up a hand-written placard offering "Free Hugs," a clip seen by more than 10 million viewers on YouTube alone, spurring six-figure sales of their Virgin/EMI Music major label debut, Dressed Up As Life.