Life After Flannel

Seven Mary Three scored with the grunge hit "Cumbersome." Now what?

There are plenty of reasons why the members of Seven Mary Three are drinking in the middle of the afternoon. Aside from the fact that they have the day off, this once-promising Florida group has fallen on bad times. It wasn't too long ago that they were hailed as the next up-and-coming rock band, riding the wave of the alternative radio hit "Cumbersome."

But that wave dried up. So now what?
Seven Mary Three is on the road opening for Aerosmith, with some idle time between two gigs in Minnesota. For Seven Mary Three guitarist Jason Pollock, this means an afternoon filled with phone interviews, Budweiser, and Jack Daniel's. By the time it's Scene's turn on the phone, happy hour is well under way.

"Where do you think we're going?" Pollock snaps, turning around one of the interview's first questions, regarding the band's plans for the evening. "There's never a question." Pollock is referring to the longstanding, male rock band tradition of frequenting adult entertainment clubs. "We're going to this place Mum's the Word. The night before last, we went in Minneapolis, and it was pretty good. I don't know how it's going to be in Mankato, Minnesota."

Polite enough not to slur in his altered state, Pollock takes his time, attempting to answer each question with a well-thought-out, educated reply. It takes only the mention of Matchbox 20 for the crudeness to set back in.

"Those guys are fags," Pollock says of the fellow Florida band that shares the same acoustic guitar-heavy sound Seven Mary Three explored on its latest disc, Orange Ave. Presumably, they've also shared a fan base, which may explain Pollock's bitterness.

"I wouldn't put us in the same group as that," he contends. "We just record the songs how they come out. There's no master plan to sell it. A lot of those bands come out of the same area we do. They're making their first record, and we're making our fourth. We just kind of let them flow where they go."

Pollock is quick to show his contempt for recent flavors, but he forgets that his own band was once one of those flavors. Seven Mary Three gained success on the tail end of the Seattle grunge sound, when record labels hunted musicians who wore flannel and hated their parents. But were Pollock and his bandmates ever part of a fad? "No, never" is his reply, of course.

Despite Pollock's stubbornness, it can't be disputed that the band's success--that any band's success--was due in part to timing. Seven Mary Three's major label debut, American Standard, was released in 1995, a year the biggest names in rock music--Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden--didn't release new albums. American Standard went platinum. Neither Rock Crown (1997) nor Orange Ave., however, has enjoyed near the same success.

"Actually, lately I haven't been paying too much attention to it," Pollock says. "Really because I don't care much, honestly. It's kind of a deadening of that emotion, so you don't have to face the ups and the downs." The only question may be, who deadens the worry better, Bud or Jack?

One problem for Seven Mary Three may be the change in the band's sound. While Pollock avoids the subject early on, he eventually admits that Seven Mary Three's music has evolved from the power-chord heavy "Cumbersome" to the friendlier confines of acoustic Southern rock. "Yeah, [the new songs] are definitely the lighter sound. We love to play the music as it came from here. This is where all rock and roll comes from, the South. So, there's the raw sound of the blues. We like to play a lot of that kind of music. It's just been part of our culture."

Despite their current role as music industry underdogs, Seven Mary Three landed the highly sought-after slot as Aerosmith's opening act. The gig has given them a dose of the good life their recent music may not have warranted. Still, Pollock is repeatedly unwilling to ponder the brink of one-hit-wonder status, but ask him to talk about the groupies the band attracts when traveling with Aerosmith and he spews, "They're bigger and better. Actually, it's about the same, which is pretty good. But now that we're playing with Aerosmith, we get the laminate on, go out and walk the concourse, and see what we can drag up." Rarely has the American dream sounded less glamorous.

The laminates could dry up if Seven Mary Three's next record doesn't perform well. "I honestly don't know how it's going to turn out," Pollock says. "We've been writing a lot of hard-rocking tunes lately, so it may go in that direction. We're going to make a really, really hard record and put everybody to shame. The only question is whether or not it will be too late."

Seven Mary Three, opening for Aerosmith. Tuesday, December 15, Gund Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza, $32.50, Ticketmaster 216-241-5555.

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