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Goes to eleven

Finger Eleven brings heavy sound to Common Ground

Finger Eleven vocalist Scott Anderson and his bandmates were deep in the heart of Texas on a 2007 summer tour, supporting the band’s “Them vs. You vs. Me” LP, when the guys received some good news.

The album’s first single, “Paralyzer,” hit No. 1 on Bill board’s Mainstream Rock chart. It was a momentous first for the Canadian-based outfit.

In celebration, the road veterans treated themselves to a meal at a greasy spoon before heading to the next city, a truly blue-collar gala for some hardworking musicians. Unlike some majorlabel bands, Finger Eleven’s rise to fame didn’t happen overnight.

When the four-piece group formed in Ontario back in 1989, some members were still in high school. While the band saw some success across Canada, the group’s big international break didn’t happen until its 2003 self-titled album struck gold with the melodic-rock ballad, “One Thing.”

Anderson, 40, said his band is lucky it got into the music biz when it did. The industry has changed, and so have the budgets.

“Our first couple records did practically nothing as far as sales and interest goes,” he said. “The label had to stick with us, that definitely doesn’t happen anymore. How can a label stick with a band for seven years without a hit? They can’t say, ‘That’s fine, you guys just keep going.’ Doing that today is bad business. It’s changed. Bands are less likely to have nurturing relationships.”

When MP3s took over, Anderson and his bandmates, like many other musicians, knew something had to change. But the major labels refused to move on CD prices.

“When the big change came over 10 years ago, we were still selling records for $20 and nobody wanted to budge,” Anderson said. “We’d had conversations with the labels. We’d say, ‘Look, nobody is buying music, can’t we sell our record for $9?’ We were given condescending pats on the head and were told we just don’t understand. Suddenly we’re here. I don’t know how to combat that, but I’m glad we’re able to survive.”

No matter what the state of the industry is, Finger Eleven will do what they’ve always done: keep working. The band’s new full-length, “Five Crooked Lines,” hits stores at the end of the month. The band performs Friday at Common Ground Music Festival.

Finger Eleven may be firmly in the mainstream, but Anderson said his lyrical inspirations go left of the FM dial.

“A couple songwriters I really admire are Jason Molina and Richard Buckner — I have no idea what they are talking about but what they evoke from me is beyond words,” he said. “Then there are real poets like Leonard Cohen, who just slays me. When I listen to that stuff I get depressed because I’m so affected by the music and because I think, ‘They’re so great. What the hell am I doing?’” As for the vibe on the band’s new album, the band was looking to bring a heavier sound this time around.

“We kind of go for big music, but this time around it’s not as polished and I think that’s by design,” Anderson said about the new disc. “Our producer, Dave Cobb, really wanted to capture the band’s live sound. That’s been missing from our records for a little while. It’s translated into a more exciting and raw sound.

“We left the ballads off and it’s pretty much all heavy rock music,” he added. “We afforded ourselves a choice as far as, ‘How do we want to shape that record?’ We’ve never done just a full-on heavy record — it may sound closest to our first couple records.”

And while it’s been five years since the band’s last album, Anderson said they haven’t been on vacation.

“I’m not sure where the time went,” he said. “It’s not like we took long breaks or anything. We always wrote, but a few things got in the way of real progress. We switched labels and had a drummer leave us. We just used the time and kept writing and writing. You can’t have too many songs.”

Music aside, Anderson is also prepping for another landmark life event.

“Talk about when it rains it pours,” he said. “I have an album out for the first time in five years and I’m getting married in October, as well.”

Anderson said his soon-to-be bride doesn’t care for the primitive tour-bus life he’s become accustomed to.

“She’s gone out on the road with me a few times, but that life doesn’t really agree with her,” he said. “When her nice clothes smell like diesel fuel 10 minutes in, the mystique wears off. There are a few things about bus life that are not appealing. Those truck stop hot dogs are not so appealing after a while.”

Finger Eleven at Common Ground Music Festival

6:30 P.M. - 7:15 p.m.

Friday, July 10 Adado Riverfront Park (877) 569-7767, commongroundfest.com


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