Using an oxymoron for your band name is a clever way to espouse your intelligence. With an ingenious play on words, just the right moniker can foreshadow the depth of the songwriting. In the case of the Successful Failures, said oxymoron-style stage name relays a comedic modesty that coyly attracts curiosity. With a keen eye on classic literature, one Mick Chorba found inspiration in a Jack London short story which planted the seeds for a rich saga thus far.
In 1998, Mick took a little time out from his New Jersey-bred powerpop powerhouse Dipsomaniacs to work on a composition titled “Hick Bars” for a compilation album. Since he was motoring in a solo fashion, Mick went the Five For Fighting route and credited the song to the Successful Failures (taken from the author of “White Fang” and “The Call Of the Wild”). Filed away in his mental Rolodex, Mick (an English teacher) put his lone wolf project on a bookshelf with Orwell, Steinbeck, Frost, et al, and kept on rockin’ with his full-time band.
In 2005, Mick decided to satisfy his side project hungerings by resurrecting the Successful Failures banner. With the creative wheels turning faster in his head than an IBM Mainframe, Mick stepped out of his Dipsomaniacs universe and began recruiting musicians. Making the decision to form a full band, Mick knighted bassist Ron Bechamps and drummer Rob Martin, and the trio rehearsed a collection of songs that would result in their self-titled debut. Successfully (well, it’s not a failure by any means) blending powerpop with Americana, it automatically generated buzz, and their first live appearance at the Dewey Beach Pop Fest in Delaware was well received. Later that year, guitarist John Williams joined the fold, and the quartet began working on their sophomore effort.
2007 proved to be an event-filled year, with the Successful ones taking their Big Star-meets-Drive-By Truckers sound down East Coast highways. In July of that year, they hit Knoxville, TN, to record with Independent Recorders engineer/Superdrag drummer Don Coffey. Following this productivity, they released the EP “Bridges Over Delaware”, and shortly thereafter, a full-length titled “Ripe For the Burning” for the New Jersey-based label FDR. In 2008, Mick and the crew released the digital-only EP “Time To Sell”, which featured a live recording of their cover of the Hank Williams classic “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. Two years later (after much touring that increased their fan base), their third album, “Three Nights”, was issued and it immediately garnered critical acclaim.
As the Successful Failures entered a new decade, Mick showed no signs of taking a break from his songwriting. “Three Nights” wasn’t even out a full year when the band dropped the digital-only single “Liar In the Room”. The majority of 2011 was spent working on new material that culminated in their 2012 album “Here I Am”. That next year, as a Valentine’s Day gift to the fans, they released a free download of a new tune titled “Sea Flowers”. Next, they contributed to the “FDR Tribute To NJ: My Hometown” compilation where they covered the Fountains Of Wayne with the song “Flair”. 2013 was musically brought to a close with a Christmas-themed split EP with indie rockers Taggart titled “Snow Day (Take It Easy)”.
2014 saw the Successful Failures (temporarily) revert back to being a trio when John left for other business ventures. By this time they were playing more acoustic shows which allowed them to fully embrace their Americana tendencies. This resulted in their wholly alt-country EP “Pine Hill”, which included future full-time member Pete Smith. Mick, Ron, and Rob then put the finishing touches on their next album, “Captains Of Industry, Captains Of War”, which included the single “Ghost Around Here” that saw consistent airplay on Sirius XM. The guys then took a much needed rest throughout 2015-16, placing the band on performance hiatus to work on their sixth full-length album.
“Ichor Of Nettle” (available October 20) is the next chapter in the saga of the Successful Failures. Mick again takes his expertise in literature, history, and lyricism to craft another unique collection of poetic rock ‘n’ roll. The opener, “The Ballad Of Julio Cuellar” (with its Springsteen honesty and alt-country leanings), tells the story of the titular character who’s an immigrant from El Salvador, and his tragic quest to enter the United States. “Into the Battle” follows, showcasing their Southern rock flirtations, proving that the Drive-By Truckers aren’t the only ones in this swampy sandbox. Refusing to be pigeonholed, “Misguiding Light” shows off their powerpop chops, and reminds the fans that this is exactly why we love this band so much. Unpredictability isn’t always easily pulled off, but the Successful Failures accomplish this with ease. With their albums, you don’t know what you’re going to get, you just know it’s going to be sublime, which makes this release (and their previous ones) such a gift. Another fine example: “Sam Houston”, a perfected formula where the guys combine their talents to meticulous detail resulting in Southern powerpop rock. They apply this magic to these other tracks: “Dear Ol’ Dad”, the title track, “All Rise”, “When Did Everybody Grow Up?”, and “All Wrapped Up”. Of course, no Successful Failures album would be complete without their Americana affections, which is measured up nicely with “Tennessee Boy” and “Baby Home Tonight”. Their alt-country credentials are also evident on “PA Fight Song”, “The Shit That Weighs You Down”, and “Low Resting Heart Beat”, completing what is surely a must have for eclectic rock ‘n’ roll lovers. With this immense gathering of elements that continues to impress, “Ichor Of Nettle” is proof positive that this band will always be successful, but never a failure.
“Ichor Of Nettle”:
“Into the Battle”:
To pre-order “Ichor Of Nettle” (and purchase previous Successful Failures releases), visit FDR’s page on Bandcamp.
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