It has been nearly two years since former Quicksand lead singer/guitarist Walter Schreifels began informal jam sessions with ex-Civ drummer Sammy Siegler and bassist Cache Tolman as Rival Schools. Arm

It has been nearly two years since former Quicksand lead singer/guitarist Walter Schreifels began informal jam sessions with ex-Civ drummer Sammy Siegler and bassist Cache Tolman as Rival Schools. Armed with an impressive debut, "United by Fate" (released Aug. 28 via Island), the band is ready to spread the music beyond an already fervent New York fanbase.

While his major-label peers were being dropped en masse after 1999's Universal merger, Schreifels was not only retained by Island but also given free reign to take his time in assembling a new band, in the wake of Quicksand's 1999 dissolution. That act's final set, "Manic Compression," reached No. 9 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in 1995.

"It was kind of a strange way to put together a band, because we already had a record deal," admits Schreifels, who was a principal in seminal New York underground groups Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits prior to Quicksand. "It's like, 'Your band's really great! I love you!' There was enthusiasm really based on the idea that it would be good. So we had to make it good."

After months of jamming as a trio on new songs and revamped demos, the group gelled with the addition of second guitarist Ian Love. Regular live shows in the New York area introduced an infectious, groove-rooted rock attack that is potently bottled on "United by Fate," produced by Luke Ebbin (Bon Jovi) and recorded primarily at Bearsville Studios in upstate New York.

Despite the disparate origins of its 13 songs, "United by Fate" is a remarkably cohesive musical statement. Sure to delight fans of Quicksand's intense hardcore sound, such cuts as "Used for Glue," "The Switch," and "Everything Has Its Point" unleash Rival Schools' highly melodic, no-nonsense rock power. Elsewhere, the irony-free declaration of positivity "Good Things" and the slow-burning "Undercovers On" demonstrate Schreifels' continuing evolution as a songwriter.

"I don't know if we'd do it the same way next time, but there's an element of that progression and that era of almost two years of getting our music together encapsulated on this album," says Schreifels.

Rival Schools spent most of June on the road in North America and kicked off a six-week tour Aug. 16 with Washington, D.C.-based underground rock staples Burning Airlines. After that, Island product manager Paul Resta says he hopes to land the band a support slot with a high-profile rock act.

Along with distributing a sampler featuring two album cuts and two non-album B-sides, Island set up a giveaway of the disc tied into the purchase of Weezer's current hit Interscope/Geffen release at select retail outlets.

Meanwhile, along with efforts linking music fans to the band's rivalschoolsunite.com Web site, the label is also working with online music sites to offer a co-branded Rival Schools audio player that streams album tracks and also features live concert videos and photos. MTV.com, RollingStone.com, and CDnow.com are among the sites hosting the player.

As a precursor to "United by Fate," Rival Schools released a split CD in late July with indie-rock outfit Onelinedrawing on New York independent label Some Records, which Schreifels co-founded. The six-song album includes some of Rival Schools' earliest recordings, such as "Green Is Good" and "Contraire," and was one of the most-added releases at college radio the week of Aug. 7.

With a wealth of new material already appearing in its live sets, Schreifels says he and his bandmates are itching to kick into high gear. "We've been in this kind of cocoon for a while," he says. "We were the only people that knew our music and had any opinion of it. Now, there's a reaching-out. Something is getting through. It's fun to get into that process."

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