On the title track of American Hi-Fi's The Art Of Losing, singer Stacy Jones captures the mood of the eternal Saturday night with a few simple lines: Suburbia is hot tonight, but nothing seems to feel alright/I don't want your sympathy, I just need a little therapy, at least that's what they say to me...."
Grabbing romantic failure by the privates while declaring the joys of adolescent indulgence, The Art Of Losing is a rock and roll blitzkrieg. Guitarist-singer Jones - former drummer for Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo - is joined on The Art Of Losing by guitarist Jamie Arentzen, bassist Drew Parsons, and drummer Brian Nolan. Written on the road amid a rabid touring schedule, The Art Of Losing proves that this Boston foursome is inspired, ingenious, and maybe a little insane.
American Hi-Fi's 2001 debut produced the single "Flavor Of The Weak," a massive critical and popular success. The Art Of Losing is one giant leap for American Hi-Fi and fans of raw power rock, Boston style. Produced by Nick Launay (Gang of Four, Girls Against Boys, Silverchair), The Art Of Losing cranks up the cacophony with songs that draw on classic rock fervor sandblasted by ferocious punk songcraft.
American Hi-Fi shot the video for "The Art Of Losing" in Hays, Kansas, filming at a house party with a cast of 500. Inspired by an all night after-show blowout in Hays this past September, Jones returned to the town to party again, this time on film. The homeowner invited friends, family, and foes, and the classic rock party video was captured in all its glory.
"The Art Of Losing" shouts "Knock me down, I'll keep on moving" over a thumping groove that recalls Adam Ant's "Ant Music." "Beautiful Disaster" charts romantic catastrophe through the eyes of codependency and shredding balls-to-the wall guitars. "The Breakup Song" is a smash single in waiting, with lopsided reggae rhythms buoyed by Ramones-worthy guitars. But American Hi-Fi aren't simply loud and lascivious. "Save Me" is a sprawling guitar epic, alternating between sweet acoustic verses and nail-biting choruses. "This Is The Sound" is even more bittersweet. The Art Of Losing is no one trick pony for sure, blasting through the Weezer-like spiel of "Nothing Left To Lose," and the Buzzcock-ian raveups, "The Gold Rush" and "Happy" (dig the "Taxman" guitar riffs). The Art Of Losing is quality entertainment for underdogs everywhere.
Having met during an endless road tour in 2001, Phantom Planet's Jason Schwartzman and American Hi-Fi's Stacy Jones became fast friends. The two spoke about The Art Of Losing.
JS: What does the title, The Art Of Losing, mean?
SJ: The Art Of Losing is just about people telling you what to do and that kind of bumming you out, but you just take it in stride and move on, regardless of what people tell you is best. And it's about taking all the negativity and turning it into something else, or just ignoring it, which is what I do quite often (laughs).
JS: Did most of the writing happen once you got back from tour?
SJ: Some of it. Half the record was written on the road. I wrote 40-plus songs for the record, and we narrowed it down to ultimately what we recorded, and then even a shorter list of eleven songs for the album.
JS: So that's more than half?
SJ: It is? I guess it isn't. I'm not sure. I was never much for learning math.
JS: Yeah, I didn't learn much either. But wait, the band formed basically in the studio as you wrote the songs, and then you went on tour?
JS: So how do you feel that touring changed the dynamic of the record?
SJ: A lot, I think. Yeah, if you're asking how it affected the music, I think the new record is totally the product of us becoming a band, playing 300 shows last year. Almost 300. I counted.
JS: Holy smokes!
SJ: The new record is definitely a product of us being on the road, relationships falling apart, getting new ones, the band becoming a tighter unit, and me standing out front rather then playing drums. We recorded it totally live, no Pro Tools, no editing. It was just like, bam!
JS: How long did it take to make the record?
SJ: We did two sessions, it just took a long time because we recorded for about two months, and then we went on the road. We had the opportunity to go out with Elvis Costello, we were just like freaking out every night getting to play with him.
JS: Were you shaking?
SJ: I was freaked out. We went on tour with Elvis, then we did the Warped Tour, then we went to Japan, after all that was said and done it was 2 ½ - 3 months right there. So then we came back, finished the record. I wrote two new songs in the interim, one of which is the first single.
JS: I like your band a lot. Did you always know at some point you wanted to step out from behind the drum chair?
SJ: Never even considered it, not for a second. I was on tour with a very big band and I was watching them, and I was like "F***, I could do that". So I went and bought a guitar. I bought a Mel Bay chord book, I taught myself how to play in the back of the bus.
SJ: Yeah, plus, I've been around a lot of really great musicians all my life. Like Aimee Mann, just watching her work, and Jon Brien, being able to play with them. I played a gig actually with him in Boston once. It was so amazing.
JS: What is the best part of playing drums, or how do you feel as a songwriter, and a singer?
SJ: As a singer you're writing words to say how you feel, um, writing music that expresses how you feel. I've always sort of had this pent up energy (laughs). As you can see I fidget. I can't sit still. I'm always doing something. God, I could always just beat the shit out of the drums, and that's pretty much how I feel most of the time.
JS: So you wanna get back in a band and play drums sometime?
SJ: Oh yeah, I would love to play with somebody like Tom Petty or Thurston Moore or Steven Malkmus. I would love that. But that will never happen. I'd be more likely to get a gig working the lounge band circuit at the Holiday Inn."