Despite Calamities, Ivy Continues To Grow
It's something you don't hear every day, but Ivy's Andy Chase insists that being dropped from the rosters of Atlantic and 550 Music/Epic Records was the best thing that ever happened to the New York-bIt's something you don't hear every day, but Ivy's Andy Chase insists that being dropped from the rosters of Atlantic and 550 Music/Epic Records was the best thing that ever happened to the New York-based pop/rock trio. Rising from that tumultuous chapter in the Ivy story is "Long Distance," released in Japan last November by EastWest and finally arriving in the rest of the world July 10 via Nettwerk.
Indeed, Ivy's 10-year career has been full of calamities that range from the aforementioned label problems to studio fires and disastrous tours. But it took another rock cliche -- getting big in Japan while being ignored in the U.S. -- to help the band find the inspiration to carry on. Without worldwide support, "Long Distance" took off in the Far East. It also brought Ivy to Nettwerk's attention.
"Long Distance" was intended to be Ivy's first album for 550 Music/Epic, which had reissued 1997's "Apartment Life," the group's final Atlantic release before being dropped by that label. But 550 Music/Epic severed ties with the band before Long Distance was finished. To add insult to injury, the New York studio that Chase ran with Ivy's Adam Schlesinger and ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha burnt to the ground during the recording process. Chase and Ivy vocalist Dominique Durand were also expecting their first child.
"We took a little hiatus because of Dominique's pregnancy, and the first night of our little vacation, I get a call saying, 'You gotta come back! The whole building is on fire!,'" Chase recalls. "It took us two months to figure out where we were going to record."
The solution: Chase and Durand's apartment, a setup that afforded the latter the opportunity to literally "do some vocal takes while breast feeding." Although probably unintentional, the homespun intimacy of this setting seeped into the sound of "Long Distance," which wraps Ivy's melodic indie pop in inviting electronic textures far removed from the group's earlier, guitar-centric leanings.
"The first songs Ivy recorded were jangly and simple and straight-ahead," Schlesinger says. "We started gravitating toward the groovier, slightly more melancholy stuff. It works well with Dominique's voice."
Durand's sensual vocals are beguiling as ever on such regret-tinged love songs as "One More Last Kiss," "Disappointed," and "Worry About You." Among the other highlights are the trip-hop-infused "Edge of the Ocean" and "Blame It on Yourself," the chorus of which sports some unexpected distorted guitar blasts.
Both the band and the label believe the new arrangement will help Ivy transcend its bad luck. "What attracted us to Nettwerk right away is that their roster was similar to Ivy across the board," Schlesinger says.
"The success in Japan has already filtered through to the States to a certain extent," says Marie Scheibert, Nettwerk head of marketing. "['Long Distance'] is one of the top import releases on Amazon.com. I expect that when we do start getting ... exposure, the band will really stand out in people's minds."
The group's songs have already gained additional visibility via appearances in the film "Angel Eyes" and the WB Network TV show "Roswell." Also, "Disappointed" will appear on a Nettwerk sampler that will be distributed with the purchase of Levi's products in 850 Sears stores nationally, while "Edge of the Ocean" is included on a Nettwerk/Capitol sampler being given away throughout labelmate Coldplay's current North American tour.
According to Nettwerk head of promotion Tom Gates, the label is planning a multi-format push at radio for "Long Distance." A cover of the Blow Monkeys' "Digging Your Scene" went to modern rock in mid-June, while "Disappointed" and "Edge of the Ocean" were serviced to triple-A outlets. In May, Ivy played a special showcase in Louisville, Ky., for public radio stations, which have long been supporters. On July 13, the band will play live on KCRW Los Angeles' "Morning Becomes Eclectic" show, which has been spinning tracks from the set since it was released in Japan.
Acoustic performances are set for the week of release in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York, as are in-store gigs at Rhino Records in Los Angeles' Westwood area (July 14) and Sam Goody in New York's West Village (July 11). In early fall, the band will tour the U.S., as well as return to Japan, where Chase has recently produced albums by such native artists as Chara and Chocolate. The tour will coincide with Nettwerk's Sept. 18 reissue of "Apartment Life" and Ivy's 1995 debut, "Realistic."
Meanwhile, the members of Ivy are keeping busy with side projects. Schlesinger produced the Verve Pipe's forthcoming RCA album "One for You... Two for Me," while Chase will again be behind the boards for French pop/rock outfit Tahiti 80's next set. Schlesinger's Fountains of Wayne side project, which recorded two albums for Atlantic but is now without a label, will "make a new record over the summer if we can squeeze it in."