Further Finds A Front Man

The Florida Emo Band Has Weathered Its Share Of Personnel Changes

Although Van Halen did all right after the departure of David Lee Roth, losing a lead singer is the beginning of the end for most bands. Determined to leave a good-looking corpse, some acts--Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Sublime--do the honourable thing and disband after their front man has moved on. Others become sad, limping caricatures of what they once were; does anyone really want to see the Doors with Ian Astbury or the Stranglers with Paul Roberts?

Further Seems Forever knows what it's like to part ways with the man in front of the microphone. When the Florida-based emo act released its 2001 debut, The Moon Is Down, future tortured-teens heartthrob Chris Carrabba was in charge of vocal duties. After the female emo fans' favourite pinup boy left to form Dashboard Confessional, FSF hooked up with Jason Gleason, recording 2003's How to Start a Fire. That wasn't the only personnel change in the band; founding guitarist Nick Dominguez checked out before the recording of the album, at which point Derick Cordoba enlisted. As much as everything seemed to be going fine, the relationship with Gleason proved to be a short-lasting one. No one was more shocked when he suddenly walked away from the band than Cordoba. Carrabba's departure was by all accounts both expected and amicable. Gleason's was taken a little more personally.

in & out...

Derick Cordoba sounds off on the things that enquiring minds want to know.

On Chris Carrabba: "When Further Seems Forever did its first tour after Carrabba left, Chris was already starting to get some success with Dashboard Confessional. People would constantly ask about him. The band ended up posting something on the Web site [www.furtherseemsforever.com/] to explain that there are absolutely no hard feelings."

On what he did before joining FSF: "I played and taught jazz guitar. Originally I was just supposed to help out with a couple of shows, and somehow it's turned into four years."

On the spirituality of the group's members: "We are a rock band whose members happen to be Christians. But because there have been a lot of successful Christian acts--Evanescence and P.O.D.--over the past couple of years, people always want to know if we're a Christian band. We're not."

"We didn't see it coming at all," Cordoba says, on his cellphone from the band's tour van in Texas. "I lived with him for three years and he never said a word to me about what he was planning to do. It was a big disappointment, not only as far as the band went but also on a personal level. You hope that people you deal with, especially someone that you consider a friend, would be open and honest with you, not deceptive and selfish and all that kind of stuff. That whole experience really made us wonder about people. Luckily, we've been having a really good time with Jon."

The Jon he's referring to is Jon Bunch, best known for his 10-year stint as the vocalist for underground stalwarts Sense Field. When that act unplugged its amps for good last year, the singer immediately signed on with Further Seems Forever. The group's just-released third album, Hide Nothing, gives every indication that the matchup has been a positive one. The sound that made Cordoba, guitarist Josh Colbert, bassist Chad Neptune, and drummer Steve Kleisath respected members of the ever-expanding emo army remains largely untampered-with. The disc's 10 tracks blaze with short-circuit distortion and cobra-strike guitar fills, with Bunch's down-but-nowhere-close-to-being-out vocals holding everything together.

"I think you can definitely hear a progression from the last record," the guitarist says. "When I was helping out with How to Start a Fire, we were all kind of new to writing together. Now we've gotten to know each other a lot better. Even though we've had different singers, we've been together as a band for a while now, and you of course learn about writing the longer you're together."

The kids in the pit seem to agree.

"We're about a quarter-way through the tour we're doing now, and our fans seem genuinely happy to see us again," Cordoba says. "The record hasn't been out that long, and already everyone seems to know the words to all the songs."

As frustrated as the band members have got over the years with their personnel problems, Further Seems Forever has never thought of disbanding. Working with Bunch on Hide Nothing has convinced them more than ever that they made the right decision by sticking things out.

"We've had to prove ourselves all over again, but we're kind of used to it by this point," Cordoba says. "Touring with someone new is almost old hat now. What I think our fans know is that we'd never choose a singer who wasn't amazing, especially given the circumstances of Jon being our third one. If we didn't feel like he was the best singer that we've ever had, we wouldn't have stayed together."

What bodes well for Further Seems Forever today is that the scene that it helped build has never been more popular. From Yellowcard to Thursday to Taking Back Sunday, bands lumped under the banner of emo are breaking into the mainstream. And let's not even get started on the runaway popularity of Dashboard Confessional. FSF has been at it long enough to deserve a shot at something bigger. Even if that doesn't happen, Cordoba says that he'll have no regrets once it's all over.

"This tour and recording the record that we've just done have definitely been the highlights of my entire time in Further Seems Forever," he says. "Writing and recording the music was something that we had a really great time with this time out. And we've also got some stability. Jon feels like the singer that we've been looking for all along."

Further Seems Forever plays the Croatian Cultural Centre next Friday (September 17).