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Hurts So Good

Progressive headbangers eN~DoR~PHiN have weathered stints in the school choir, lineup changes—even Christian rock—in their mission to push the boundaries of nu metal

By Kate Sipher

And then there were three: (l-r) Shlyke, Masse, Wray. Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

EN~DoR~PHiN are proudly showing off their new rehearsal space. It’s behind a seemingly empty building next door to their former rehearsal digs on Broadway in Albany. They’ve apparently traded up: It’s roomier and better built, due to the fact that they finished it themselves with better quality materials, and it’s set off from their next-door neighbors—so it’s quieter.

Aaron Wray, the band’s drummer and resident carpenter, pulls out a prized possession from behind the amps and scattered instruments. It’s Jesus Ruxpin: a cuddly Teddy Ruxpin doll, but with the sign of the devil seemingly burned into his furry forehead, nailed to a cross. It was made for the band by a fan, and they bring it to all their shows. “I don’t know who’s more disturbed. Him for making it, or us for displaying it everywhere we go,” Wray laughs.

EN~DoR~PHiN began years ago in the Kinderhook basement of high-schooler Chris Masse. Sharing musical tastes that leaned toward the metal and hard-rock end of the spectrum, Wray and Masse would jam together after school on a daily basis, Wray hitting the skins—with abandon, no doubt, if his present form is any indication—and Masse playing guitar, keyboards and making other various sounds.

Growing up with a father who is a pastor, Wray’s early musical influences were of the Christian-rock variety—with heavy hitting rockers-for-God Stryper gracing his record collection. “I grew up being pretty musical. I always took some kind of music lessons,” Wray says, adding that for the most part he stuck to the brass in the beginning, and sang in the chorus. “I listened to a lot of Christian music for awhile, and then, I don’t know, somebody corrupted me.”

He moved on to Pantera, Sepultura and Biohazard (back when they were good, Wray prompts), and migrated to drums. His parents never really had to put up with his drumming habit, however, because he and his bud played at Masse’s house, which was father-free five days a week due to the fact that Masse’s dad worked as a salesman. “And my mother didn’t care,” Masse says. “We’d go right there after school, too, so she wouldn’t be home till 5:30, and we’d have played for a couple hours before then.”

The two would perform their own metal tunes for hours on end (they were never into playing covers), and eventually they formed the current incarnation of eN~DoR~PHiN. Bassist “Shlyke”—forced into a nickname because at one point the band included three members named Chris—rounded out the band.

A year and a half into the threesome, they hired another guitar player, Chris no. 3, “Bone”—who quit suddenly last winter. “He just said he didn’t enjoy playing anymore,” says Masse. But eN~DoR~PHiN soldiered on without missing a beat. “It’s actually been really cool getting back to a trio,” says Wray.

“Which we didn’t expect to happen, but it seemed to flow nicely,” adds Masse.

The name came after some weighty thought about their music. “I was thinking of something that would be representational of how I look at the band in general,” Masse says. “And obviously Aaron helped me with it. He pondered the dictionary definition of an endorphin, and that’s what music is to me,” he says. “Same idea.” (endorphins are proteins that offer analgesic qualities and occur naturally in the brain, so says Webster’s.)

The upper and lower case spelling of the name arose from Masse’s design background. He designs all things eN~DoR~PHiN, and lends his talent to other bands as well, including fellow Kinderhookians F-Timmi. When Masse is not playing, practicing or hanging out with his bandmates, he’s putting his graphic design degree to work at Media Logic.

Now, it’s not that Shlyke doesn’t speak at all, he just picks his words carefully, and uses them wisely: “I like all the crap and they like all the good stuff,” he says self-deprecatingly when asked about his musical interests (and he only speaks when spoken to). “They love Faith No More. I don’t,” he states.

“I like Mr. Bungle, and you don’t,” Masse points out to Shlyke.

“That’s good music,” the bassist admits, “but I don’t like it.”

What’s Shlyke’s first memory of a favorite band, you ask? “Anthrax,” he says without missing a beat. Masse and Wray share musical tastes, and are prone to listen to, along with the aforementioned Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, just about anything Mike Patton touches.

EN~DoR~PHiN finally got around to laying their heavy-yet-melodic metal sound down on CD last year, hooking up with the producer Neil Kernon, who has worked with Queensrÿche, Dokken, Hall & Oates and many others, and has earned a few platinum albums along the way. EN~DoR~PHiN hooked up with him through their friends, Boston-based Dropkick Jesus, who were preparing to go into the studio with Kernon. They suggested the boys of eN~DoR~PHiN do the same, so they sent him some songs, and Kernon signed on to their debut album The Fifth Season.

“He’s a real cool guy,” says Wray. “He was great, and it was a compliment that he liked it enough to work with us.” The album highlights the band’s writing skills and musical chops, with intense keyboard and guitar sounds mingling with the pounding complex rhythms coming from Shlyke and Wray. Bone offers some guitar on the release as well.

“We don’t try to be like anybody,” Wray says of the band’s sound.

“We try to not be like anybody,” adds Masse.

“But I guess in mainstream music, we’re probably going down the road of Tool or System of a Down, or something like that,” Wray offers. “Our songs are pretty bizarre. They’re not radio friendly.”

“Yeah,” Masse continues, “we actually don’t have any choruses. We have chorus-like parts, but nothing ever repeats. . . . Maybe it’s just a death sentence for being on the radio, but screw it, I guess.”

EN~DoR~PHiN’s songs are usually written music first, with Masse subsequently adding lyrics “We write pretty slow,” Masse admits. “I think a lot of it is because we write together.”

“We’re kind of picky about stuff,” Wray adds.

In the midst of their pattern of traveling out of town for gigs, and playing many a local show, eN~DoR~PHiN plan on releasing a five-song EP in the fall and shopping it around to those in the industry—with a short tour planned as well. “We’ve got kind of a good idea of the direction that we’re heading now, and I think it helped working with Neil Kernon on the last record,” says Wray. “Everyone kind of knows their place in the studio. . . . You can do a lot more in the studio with three guys—and a lot of crazy stuff—than you can live.”

“We’re just climbing our way up,” Wray concludes. “I know it sounds cliché, but we’ve really been all about the music.”

EN~DoR~PHiN will play Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) on Saturday (June 1). For more information, 432-6572.

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