A soft spot for hard rock

The Baltimore Sun

It's hard to resurrect the party-all-the-time vibe of yesterday's rock 'n' roll if you're feeling lightheaded and can barely make it to the stage.

But Michael Grant, the swaggering front man of the metal-pop band Endeverafter, found the energy somewhere. The first part of the band's national tour this month was especially tough for him.

"I was sick for about a week and a half - the flu," Grant says. "I was throwing up, could hardly stand. But other than that, the crowds have been great. You know what they say, man: The show must go on."

Feeling much better now, the singer-guitarist is fully back to rocking hard with his band mates: bassist Tommi Andrews, guitarist Kristan Mallory and drummer Eric Humbert. The guys are on the road promoting Kiss or Kill, the group's energetic debut for Razor & Tie, released in October. Endeverafter plays the Recher Theatre on Wednesday night.

On the new album, the band from Sacramento, Calif., concocts a sound that's unabashedly reminiscent of '80s hair metal.

"We try to take the cheese out of it," says Grant, Endeverafter's chief songwriter. "We wanted whatever we did to be epic, to be done on a grand scale. We wanted things to be in the vein of the bands we look up to, like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Metallica, Pantera - every band that we seem to love that made an impact."

Kiss or Kill goes for the freewheeling arena sound that evokes images of rockers with colossal spiky hair and skintight leather pants. The album, peppered with showy instrumental solos, starts off strong. The first single is the nervy "I Wanna Be Your Man," and it opens the CD. That song is followed by the explosive, blues-tinged "Baby Baby Baby." But after the rollicking "Gotta Get Out," the songs largely become more streamlined and melodic, a sound ideal for commercial rock radio.

The approach - as heard on cuts such as the power ballad "Next Best Thing" and the angst-ridden "From the Ashes of Sin" - drifts into formulaic territory and sounds more like Fall Out Boy than Motley Crue.

"Whatever we did was definitely not geared toward radio," says Grant, who last week was at a tour stop in Houston. "'I Wanna Be Your Man' is a less obvious single. It's very brash. But in the end, it made the charts. There's a demand for what we're doing."

Wanting to bring the fun back to hard rock, Grant formed Endeverafter in 2004. He had honed his skills in several bands around Sacramento and had grown tired of the depression modern rock had seemingly fallen into.

"Everything we heard on the radio was cut-your-wrists songs," Grant says. "We're about having a good time. Leave your worries at the door with your ticket stub. A lot of bands try to be so hard. They don't focus on the heart of music."

Endeverafter, whose name was picked during a rushed brainstorming session right before a gig, signed with Epic/Sony Records in 2005. But nothing came of the deal. The lone album the band recorded for the label was never released. Frustrated, the guys opted for an indie contract.

"We're the only rock band at Razor & Tie, so we're a priority," Grant says. "We get way more attention there than we did at Sony, where you're lumped in with, like, 20 other bands."

But going the independent route meant that the group was largely responsible for recording Kiss or Kill.

"The title is like make or break, the beginning of an era or the end of something," the performer says. "We put everything we had in this album. Some of us lost our homes. You're stealing napkins from restaurants for toilet paper. I mean, we put everything we had in this."

The payoff has been steady as the band's profile continues to rise. The first single did well in several markets in the Midwest and on the West Coast. And Kiss or Kill was mostly well-received in the rock and metal press.

"We like to make recordings that people wouldn't think we could pull off live," Grant says. "On stage, we jam. Some sections are longer, the intros more dramatic. However, most of the shows are jams with something extra. It's all a spectacle."

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

See Endeverafter with Airbourne at the Recher Theatre, 512 York Road in Towson, at 7 Wednesday night. Tickets are $10 and are available through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-7328 or going to ticketmaster.com.

Hear clips of Endeverafter's music at baltimoresun.com/listeningpost

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