For Extreme’s Gary Cherone, a second album by his other band, Hurtsmile, was imperative to prove that Hurtsmile is, well, a real band.
“If there was [only] one record it would seem like a Gary Cherone project, and this is truly a band,” Cherone, who releases Hurtsmile’s sophomore album, Retrogrenade, on Oct. 7 tells Billboard. He formed Hurtsmile with his brother Mark Cherone in 2011 and released the group’s self-titled debut later that year. “We toured the band after that first record, so it felt like a band. Joe (Pessia) the bass player was more involved. We were just looking to top the first record.”
Retrogrenade also takes a different path than its predecessor, according to Cherone. “We went in and it kind of wrote itself,” he explains. “We were in a different place. A lot of these songs are about relationships. It’s a lot more fun record than the first one — the first one was a little angry, more about what I was unhappy about that was going on in the world. This one has a little lighter fare.”
Emblematic of that is “Hello I Must Be Going,” which Cherone adapted from the Groucho Marx-sung feature in the 1930 film “Animal Crackers.” Listen to the track exclusively on Billboard.com below:
“That’s an idea and a title I’ve had in my head over 20 years, inspired by ‘Animal Crackers,’ ” says Cherone, who credits lyricists Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby on the album. “The Cherones grew up with the Marx Brothers. Even on the first record, inside there’s a skull with a Groucho nose on there. We just love ’em. The music is ours and the melody is Hurtsmile. To me it’s very Cheap Trick — it’s one big hook, and I think people get it right away. It’s almost like a fast food hook. And we didn’t have any trouble getting the rights, which is good. You don’t ever want to get a call five years from now that you’re getting sued.”
The rest of Retrogrenade is marked by its diversity, ranging from the Led Zeppelin-quoting “Rock & Roll Cliche” to stomping hard rockers such as “Anymore,” “Walk Away” and the set’s protest anthem “Big Government,” the punk attack of “Wonder What,” acoustic-tinged melodic fare like “Sing a Song,” “I Still Do” and the country-flavored “Good Bye,” and a faithful rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.”
“It’s not 10 songs that sound the same,” says Cherone. “I would hate to do 10 ‘Rock & Roll Cliches.’ The music we grew up on was diverse; Queen comes to mind, of course. I’ll get some reviews in some of the metal/hard rock media and they’ll throw out the baby with the bath water — ‘What the hell is this? We like the first song, then the rest of the record sucks.’ You get those meat-and-potato guys, but I’m not really that concerned with it at this point. If you cast a wide net, someone’s gonna like at least one of these songs.”
Cherone hopes to play some shows with Hurtsmile down the road both in the U.S. and Japan, but he acknowledges Extreme poses a formidable “hurdle.” That group is getting together in Los Angeles this month to work on a new album, a follow-up to 2008’s reunion set Saudades de Rock, and is also planning a “Pornograffitti” tour to showcase the group’s double-platinum 1990 album just as it did in Europe earlier this year.
“That was a lot of fun, better than I hoped it was going to be” Cherone reports. “It really revitalized the band. The band was so full of piss and vinegar it inspired us to make new music and then go back out there and do what we do. So we’ll definitely have some new music to play next year.”