Fifteen years after the platinum breakthrough of "Villains" and its hit single "The Freshmen," the Verve Pipe may be giving fans something they've been wanting for years.
"We're talking about doing another rock record -- although that's a slow go," frontman Brian Vander Ark tells Billboard.com. It would be the Michigan group's first since "Underneath" in 2001, though Vander Ark says the Verve Pipe is also planning a follow-up to its well-received 2009 children-friendly "A Family Album."
Nevertheless, Vander Ark says that a more conventional Verve Pipe album in 2012 "will definitely be up. We've talked about doing another album like 'Villains,' although I think 'Villains' may be kind of dated with the grunge guitars." Instead he predicts that the music is more likely to follow the "more acoustic rock" path of "Underneath," which was released shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and, like many other albums, got lost in the wake of the tragedy even though the song "Colorful" had been featured in the film "Rock Star."
"Nobody heard that record," Vander Ark laments. "But I think it was a good record, and I think staying in that direction... is the way the band has gone. It makes more sense, too, than going back and trying to recapture those days of post-grunge." That said, Vander Ark also notes that, "I am hearing heavy guitars again, and I think people are shunning pop more and more and going for rock -- and I personally embrace that. For us it's always been just writing, and the songs will come through, hopefully." Vander Ark says he and drummer Donny Brown -- the two sole remaining members from the Verve Pipe's original lineup -- each have "a handful of songs for a rock record" and continue "to go back and forth on the direction we want to take."
For the next family album, meanwhile, Vander Ark says he's written "four, five songs," as has Brown. "Donny's been in control of the Verve Pipe for a little while," Vander Ark explains. "He produces the songs, so we kind of go at Donny's pace. He's got his way of demoing everything up to the point of, 'Everything's done, now let's go in the studio and re-record it.' That's the way it works for him, so that's why I have time to do other projects, frankly."
Vander Ark was busy with those in 2011, releasing a new solo album, "Magazine," a live "bootleg" and, recently a six-song holiday EP, "Wonderland," with his wife, Lux. And while there's been no formal celebration of "Villains' anniversary, Vander Ark remains well aware of the enduring impact it -- and particularly "The Freshmen" -- has enjoyed since 1996.
"Dude, how can I be anything but thankful," says Vander Ark. "The fact that it can stand the test of time and sustain this long is amazing to me. "So I'm nothing but thankful, and I'm fortunate that song came to me. I could have written 'I'm Too Sexy,' you know? That was a hit song as well, but would I want to go out and perform THAT song the rest of my life? I don't think so."