STS -- 34 days, 22 hours 59 minutes ago


When was the last time we heard of an unsigned rock band ballsy enough to record an entire album—or in the case of Orange County modern rockers 7k, a feisty six song EP/Live DVD package—that didn’t have one friggin’ whiny, self-pitying or angry love song? Who have the guts to unabashedly declare their new collection a “call to action” for several generations of spiritually and emotionally unfulfilled people?

Corey Manske, the band’s new drummer (who the three other members credit for driving 7k’s vibe to a new, higher level), says the whole point of Knick Knacks And Apparel is to inspire people to get up off their asses and do something with their lives. “Not only are we trying to inspire you to do something,” he explains, “but we’re warning you that if you just sit around, you’re wasting your life.”

Over the past few years, the band has been off their duffs quite a bit, doing hundreds of shows while building a loyal following that extends from famed OC clubs like Hogue Barmichael’s in Newport (where the DVD was shot) to L.A. hotspots like Key Club, The Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco and the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona.

They’ve also been championed by Dean Dinning, bassist for Toad The Wet Sprocket, who produced their early Eps The Glovebox EP (2003) and Ferocious Pop (2004). With Knick Knacks And Apparel, they’re becoming nationally known thanks to an aggressive college radio promotional campaign and a growing myspace fan base.

Don’t let lead singer and rhythm guitarist Jeff Garvin’s Flock of Seagulls-spiced blond and black mop of hair, eyeliner, leather pants and skeleton key and dragon tattoos on his arms fool you—his literate lyrics are just possibly this generation’s answer to Elvis Costello and his voice has always impressed guitarist David Neil Black (a Jimmy Page fanatic) as Robert Plantish in passion and intensity.

The charismatic co-founder of 7k (with bassist and old pal from L.A. County High School For The Arts Carlos Rivera) quips, “My function is to drive home the core message of the band, which is to electrify people to live the unlived life within them. There’s an epidemic of forfeited dreams in our generation – people who sell out their true self for more apparently pressing obligations – jobs, family, drugs, you name it. There’s always this tension between the person you’re supposed to be and the person you are being. Our songs address the reality that the more you can get those circles to overlap, the more positive impact you can have.”

That theme is driven home on two key 7k tracks that perfectly define the band’s riveting songwriting acumen. “Who Dies First?” from 2005’s Through The Windshield, their first full length album (which was produced by Black, enjoying his true “Jimmy Page” moment), was inspired by Garvin’s dark high school fantasy of an unnamed character who goes on a Columbine style shooting spree. The sequel to that song, “Suburban Desperado” from Knick Knacks and Apparel is a cautionary tale starring a man named Jim Vickers, who survives the attack but lives his whole life in fear—only to wake up one day to realize he wasted his life by not pursuing his dreams.

“The lyrics during the bridge depict Vickers standing over his wife with a gun, contemplating a horrible, desperate move,” says Manske. “It’s about subtle satisfaction and terrifying tension wrapped together. The song has a great arena anthem chorus, a progressive bass intro that typifies the eclectic genius Carlos brings to 7k, and a definite Police vibe in the middle. ‘Suburban Desperado’ really clues the listener in on who we are.”

Knick Knacks And Apparel also includes the blistering “Stark Raving Calm,” which was written about personal traumas in Garvin’s own life but, he says, “really applies to anyone who has experienced the mounting tension that can turn the mild mannered guy-next-door into a monster. It’s urging people to stop it before it gets that far, to express that frustration through creativity rather than violence or self-destructive behavior.” Brilliantly twisted story songs aside, 7k’s philosophy of life can be summed up in the chorus of “Make It Up”: “Make it up / put it out / that is what / this is about.” The singer adds, “Essentially, we’re saying, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t worry about success, just do what you were born to do.”

A lot of this heavy philosophizing came to Garvin when he read The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield (well known author of The Legend of Bagger Vance), who expounded upon the creative struggle and what stops people from doing the work they were born to do and achieving their dream. “His ideas resonated almost like a religious experience,” Garvin says, “and I wanted to share that message with everyone. Regardless of whether you’re a movie or rock star or a waitress, you have a duty to use your talent to create.”

But that doesn’t mean that 7k can’t take a breather from all that responsibility once in a while. When they’re on the bus heading for another gig, the foursome just want to have fun, sharing their geeky mutual appreciation for pop sci-fi stuff like Star Trek, Star Wars, Robotech and The Matrix. If you catch them talking in code phrases, just watch the first Star Wars movie. “We use lines by Han Solo like our own cultural shorthand,” Black laughs.

When you ask members of most indie bands about their day jobs, they tend to change the subject and pretend they’re too “almost famous” to still have them. But the 7k guys are all engaged in fascinating outside creative endeavors that not only speak of their versatility as creative artists but also help spur their intensity as a unit. Jeff Garvin grew up acting on TV shows and still does the occasional indie film (like the upcoming Young, Single & Angry) when he’s not working for Daisy Rock Guitars (a cool company devoted to making girl-friendly axes, in addition to masculine models like he plays) as their Director of Sales.

David Neil Black is a professional voice actor who is currently featured in the Cartoon Network series “Prince of Tennis” and is the voice of Marine #8 in the popular `Call` Of Duty 4 video game. He originally met Garvin in an acting class taught by acting guru Cameron Thor, and “hated him because he was funny, handsome and intelligent, like I wanted to be. But later we became friends and asked if I could audition for the band. I got the job!”

When he’s not teaching music to elementary school students for the Irvine Unified School District, Carlos Rivera is playing upright bass on jazz gigs or performing in the pit band in musical productions for the Fullerton Civic Light Opera and Cal State Fullerton. And Corey Manske, who joined the band in 2005 after encountering their want ad for a new drummer by mistake, used to work for OC Drums and Percussion, where he custom built drumsets for local and famous bands like No Doubt.

“We made great music before he came along, but Corey was the missing piece who turned everything on for us, like a generator,” says Rivera. “He plugged in and we started to become more focused both musically and emotionally. One of the greatest things we have is the way we communicate. It’s really an incredible experience playing with these guys.”

Garvin adds, “Starting a band after being an actor for so many years was so creatively liberating; it’s like playing the role of my life every day. I completely enjoy it for the simple fact that I can write and perform original material without anyone’s permission, but I’m most excited because these three guys are the brothers I never had. They constantly challenge me to become better at my craft, and I have a blast with them every moment we’re together.” -- STS

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