Throughout the ’90s, Failure recorded three albums of edgy yet melodious indie rock which were lauded by critics and fans. However, grunge fever would obscure the group’s musical intent, with many in the press ignoring their jagged guitars and harmonious vocals—which bore a resemblance to bands like Quicksand and Hum—in favor of endless comparisons to bands like Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots, bands which they had nothing in common with musically.

Frustrated by a lack of mainstream success and the pressures of the music industry, Failure disbanded in 1997. But in 2013, the “classic” Failure line-up, featuring Greg Edwards, Ken Andrews, and Kelli Scott, reformed for a series of dates supporting long-time friends Tool, and two years later they released their first album in nearly 20 years, The Heart Is a Monster. They are now back with the impressive In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, which was first presented as a series of four EPs released between March and November of 2018.

I recently had a chance to chat with Greg Edwards about the making of the album, its commentary on modern technology, and his comfort with Failure’s artistic trajectory after being largely misunderstood for more than 25 years.

Greg, the new album is called In the Future Your Body Will Be the Closest Thing from Your Mind. Congratulations, it’s a great album.

Oh, thank you.

No problem. One of the really interesting things about this record is that it was initially released as four EPs, in real time, as you completed each batch of songs.

Yeah, at first it was just Ken and I deciding to get together again and start writing, and “Dark Speed” was the first thing we came up with…. Then we just decided ‘Let’s do an EP instead of having this gargantuan task of making a whole record right now’—for a variety of things having to do with scheduling, and other things that were going on personally. An EP just seemed like a manageable goal, and right around the time we released that EP, the idea came of doing a series of EPs culminating in a full album. The title was something that I had kicking around for probably ten years, and it just seemed to work well as a series of multiple EPs, especially because we could break it into phrases.

It was really cool, I dug how you did that. For the three EPs that followed, were the songs already written before you began to record and release them, or was it more a process of writing, recording, releasing, and then starting over again?

You know, once the first four songs were done, and we decided on the title and how we were going to release it, from that point, there was a theme that started developing that was inspired by that title, and lyrically I think it took on a cohesive focus, for me, as I was writing lyrics. A lot of last year I was on tour with A Perfect Circle, filling in for James Iha who was playing with Smashing Pumpkins, so we were working in between those slots when I was off tour. That’s what I really liked about this process, we were doing it as four EPs and we had very limited time, just a few weeks, to really write four songs each time. And I generally like to stretch time out—I will fill whatever vacuum of time that exists. So, I realized I really liked working with those deadlines. But it was absolutely a situation where we were like, ‘Here’s three weeks, we need four songs,” and with the exception of “Pennies,” which had existed even before Magnified (1994), everything was done on the run.

I was curious about whether or not that approach would prove to be challenging, but it doesn’t sound like it was, and it actually sounds like it was very rewarding.

Yeah, that’s the funny thing—it’s like when you’re in college and you procrastinate and procrastinate… you keep thinking you’re going to spend all this time on a paper, or whatever it is, but it ends up being the night before, and now you have to write it. You end up doing it, but a lot of times, arguably, it wouldn’t have been much better if you had worked on it a little bit each day for a month, rather than just putting all that focus into that one crazy night. So, yeah…. I learned a lot, and it really is the best way to work.

 

A lot of times I hear from artists that the most frustrating thing about making an album is, once it’s finished, sometimes there is a waiting period of a year or two before it comes out, because the business side of music needs to get sorted out. It must have been rewarding for Failure to be able to just release the music to the world upon completion without having to wait.

Yeah, it was. Luckily with all the Failure records, something that’s very important to me that’s always existed is that the emotional environment surrounding making a record be ripe with thematic and lyrical possibility… that drives the whole thing for me.

With that being said, what is the album title, in full, trying to communicate? I feel like half the record has a focus on personal relationships, but the other half speaks to modern technology a bit. Are those two themes interwoven?

Yeah, but it’s not an official thing, and for me, the title truly exists with a lot of ambiguity and multiple interpretations, and that’s why I like it so much. But, there is this crazy, relatively new situation in humanity where we pick up these little screens and essentially pour ourselves into them. I mean, more and more, they’ve become this surrogate brain for each individual. I just think in some ways it’s an amazing and incredible thing, but in other ways, it’s kind of terrifying, because we become less and less centered in what we actually are. The discourse that happens online, and the kind of discussions—people just exist in their own echo chambers, and if anybody says anything that doesn’t echo in the correct way, they’re ostracized. Even in interesting threads about philosophical issues or political issues, you rarely find compassionate discussions about anything. Everybody has their set idea and they’re just looking to ostracize anyone who even wants to have a real discussion. But meanwhile, everybody thinks this is such a great way of communicating.

That’s very true…. You know, I wanted to talk a little bit about the group’s history because Failure, I think—and I mean this in the most complimentary of ways—has always had a bit of a cult status. Critics and astute listeners were always applauding the group, but Failure didn’t gain a lot of play on commercial radio—which is odd, considering you emerged from a vibrant L.A. scene in the ‘90s where Tool, Rage Against the Machine, and others, were both contemporaries and collaborators. Stylistically, Failure was obviously very, very different from those groups, but looking back now—and not to imply you that you weren’t—but are you at peace with how the band never really gained traction in the mainstream?

Yeah. I mean, at the time, I of course wanted that to happen. We wanted to have a successful career at that point. But, more than that, I think we wanted to just do what we do, and drive towards the artistic goals that we had. I would say at this point I’m completely at peace with it because, having the feelings that I had about the records we made, I felt like they would be profound listening experiences for other people, and no matter how long it took, I feel that is the case now. None of our records have a high enough profile to please everybody, but there is a group of people who respond to it in exactly the way I would have wished. As an artist, I think that’s just pure satisfaction, and I’m especially happy that we’ve been able to pick up and carry it along with integrity, without really losing its sensibility.

Failure will be at the Theatre of The Living Arts in Philadelphia on March 24, Warsaw in Brooklyn on March 29, and the Stone Pony on March 30, with special guests Swervedriver in support.

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