Los Angeles five-piece The Calling established themselves with the radio friendly rock sound of Wherever You Will Go.
After a break of nearly three years, they’re back with their second album, II.
musicOMH spoke with lead singer Alex Band about his influences, the problems in recording the latest album and why his bandmate has chosen to stay at home.
Alex Band has every reason to be in a good mood. His band The Calling have just completed their mammoth European tour with a triumphant set at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. With a flight to his hometown Los Angeles just a day away, you could forgive him for being a little distracted, but he managed to put that to one side to talk to musicOMH.
“Last night was fantastic, a really good experience and a good end to the tour – we’ve been playing all over the UK and Europe but this one was to five thousand people, a great atmosphere.” Alex maintains, “the European audiences are better than America. Canada’s the worst, mind – the people there are the hardest, most lackadaisical, difficult to please!”
Alex is the touring front man of the band, a feat he performs without Aaron Kamin, his long time friend and musical partner in crime. “Aaron doesn’t do tours and stuff like that, he’s always wanted to stay in the background”. Reading Alex’s tour diary on the band’s website implies he gets up to plenty without him, with a fervent fan base in Korea, Japan and Brazil.
“Canadians are the hardest, most lackadaisical, difficult to please people!”
– Alex Band does his bit for US-Canadian relations…
He remains philosophical, however, saying “I think we get a taste of both worlds – one day we’re playing to fifteen, twenty people who don’t care, the next we’re surrounded by loads of bodyguards and screaming fans! The smaller experiences are a good thing though, a constant reminder that we’re anybody. Last night was probably up there though, great lights, great venue, brilliant crowd”.
It’s a minor miracle the duo have reached the heights they currently have – a tricky beginning meant they were signed long before the making of their first album Camino Palmero, which Alex says only took three weeks to record. “We were in limbo for five years and it was sheer perseverance that got us through. Sure, there were times when we thought we’d been stuck on a shelf but it was worth it in the end!”
After the easy spontaneity of the first album Alex admits to “feeling a lot of pressure before we started the second album. The guy who really helped us there was Clive Davis (BMG Chairman). We presented him with a CD of the new songs and he really liked them – if kind of eased the weight on us.” In fact he liked the material so much he wanted to input his own ideas, including “everything from songwriting to production. We wanted it to sound huge, a bigger sound than the first record. We spent two weeks just sorting out the drums!”
“We were in limbo for five years and it was sheer perseverance that got us through.”
– On the difficulties in following up The Calling’s successful debut album.
Like many people Alex was influenced by the music his parents listened to – Led Zeppelin and U2 (“I idolise Bono”). He also confesses to a strong liking for Pearl Jam. He’s happy to acknowledge the harmonic similarities the Calling have with U2, but maintains “we never try to sound like another band, it’s not like I sit down and consciously write in someone else’s style, it can only work if it’s straight from me”.
Alex also worked with Carlos Santana in the summer of 2003 on the US number one single Why Don’t You And I, but confesses the experience was “kinda confusing – they had me re-sing his single for the release, and then I did some stuff with him on his tour. It was amazing, just sitting there in the studio with him, watching him work out on his guitar – he’s a total legend.
There’s no doubting The Calling’s worldwide popularity – from soundtracks and TV programmes to sporting events, with Our Lives used in the Athens Olympics. Al the songs are written in the studio next door to Alex’s house in Los Angeles, here he is about to return after an absence of three months.
“We never try to sound like another band”
– Alex Band rejecting charges that The Calling are U2 copyists.
“I’m flying home tomorrow”, he says wistfully, “we’ve got an all American tour on now with loads of gigs and radio station stuff.” Does that mean he’s not been able to cast a presidential vote? And more importantly, where would that vote go? “I went for Kerry. It was a pretty easy choice in the end, although with someone new you never know what you’re gonna get. My wife sorted the voting stuff out for me.” Indeed – for somehow Alex managed to get marries two months prior, while on tour. “She doesn’t mind me being away, she totally supports my career and stuff. Mind you, at last I’ve got six days off before the whole thing starts again!”
Although admitting a dislike of radio PR and all it’s trimmings, it’s clear Alex is on a high and looking forward to more live stuff. And when he sings “things will go my way”, he can do so with more assurance than at any point in the band’s career.