nick coyle – singer
aaron fink -guitarist
chris lightcap – drummer
mark james – bassist
tony kruskka (aka dj worm) – dj
listening over the thirteen tracks that make up lifer’s self-titled debut is like going on a serious headtrip into the darker side of reality. songs like “ugly,” “swallow” and “disbelief,” take you into overlooked far corners of the mind that are sometimes better left to the imagination. lead singer nick coyle’s unrelenting lyrics are laid over a thick bed of growling guitars, pounding rhythms, and turntable wizardry that walks the line between angry melodicism and monster riffs.
it’s been a strange journey for the pennsylvania fivesome now known as lifer. the band you hear today only began a little more than two years ago at the start of 1999, originally as a foursome. by halloween of that year they had added tony kruskka and the quintet was complete. though they were quietly amassing a wealth of original material, they were limited to playing mostly cover tunes under the name strangers with candy. so, when mtv came looking for talent for their “ultimate cover band contest,” the band signed up and soon found themselves sweeping the competition under the rug and snatching away the grand prize with a raucous cover of limp bizkit’s “nookie.” “our lives changed overnight,” coyle remembers. “our email boxes started blowing up and people from all over the states were writing us and saying ‘we saw you on mtv and we love you.’ it was kind of funny, a lot of young girls were in love with us for playing 45 seconds of another band’s song. we were just like ‘what are you talking about?'”
to capitalize on the momentum, the band released a 7-song ep of their own compositions entitled no need to sate fan demand and reverse anyone’s thoughts that they were nothing more than a glorified karaoke machine. though labels had already been calling, when the ep debuted at #4 in pennsylvania, republic came to do serious business. after signing on the dotted line, the band changed their name to lifer to avoid confusion with the sketch comedy show strangers with candy. “we would always make reference to people in the area where we grew up who got a job at a factory and stayed there forever. that’s what a lifer is,” explains coyle.
with a new name and more than ready to get into the studio to show the world their own atypical take on new metal, the band moved to begin recording their debut asap. they chose rush guitarist alex lifeson to helm the project after meeting him and being impressed with his down-to-earth demeanor and genuine eagerness. it was lifeson’s first production gig outside of rush, but neither he nor the band was intimidated by the task that lay before them. after a quick week of pre-production fleshing out the songs with lifeson’s input, the band holed themselves up at longview farms in rural massachusetts where creed, aerosmith, the rolling stones, and limp bizkit had all tracked albums. “it’s nice, because it’s out in the middle of nowhere so you don’t have any distractions,” finke said. “you get up in the morning and go downstairs and you’re in the studio.”
the band was comfortable with lifeson behind the board, trusting his knowledge and intuition. “alex was more of a musical mentor, whereas a lot of producers are babysitters” finke states. the band laid down 13 tracks that take their cues from across the metal spectrum, paying tribute to the influences of tool, godsmack, deftones, and faith no more. “i think our influences come from everything. not just music, but tv, movies, there’s music in everything,” coyle states. “whether you know it or not, you’re head’s always picking stuff up.”
the opening track to the collection “my room” was the first song the band wrote together and the second song they penned, “boring,” is their first single. coyle likes keeping the meaning of his songs vague and open to interpretation – even to himself, “the songs are general enough that different songs mean different things to me at different times,” he explains. sometimes, the song wasn’t intended to mean that much at all, it was just the vitriol that poured out of him at the moment he took the mic in his hands; “we’re not trying to change the world, they’re just rock ‘n’ roll songs. i don’t want to give you a pompous, crazy explanation for something that isn’t there.”
one song on lifer that stands out lyrically is the grinding anthem “blurred.” “it’s about my father, who I never met,” coyle reveals. “he came to one of our shows after we won the mtv contest. and i didn’t know what he looked like or anything. he came up to us after we finished playing and handed me a business card with his name on it and said to give him a call sometime. and I was like ‘screw you.’ that was my only contact with him.” musically, the song echoes its raging sentiments, “we tried to create a hollow feeling -this haunting ambiance to fit the lyrics,” finke explains. the song fades out to the sound of pouring rain as coyle moans over it all “i don’t care.”
if you’re looking for that voice in the darkness to lead the way, you’ve found it in lifer. the trip might leave you battered and bruised, but you’ll find that enlightenment you’ve been so desperately seeking.