a long hiatus from recording, Super 400 return with their
first album in six years, and find themselves with a growing
family of friends and supporters
By John Brodeu
Photo by: By
pick up where we left
off, shall we?
The last time we caught up with the members of Super 400
(at least in this publication), it was somewhere around
1998. Their self-titled debut CD had been licensed by a
subsidiary of Island Records (from local label Cacophone)
and was just about to see international release. Not too
shabby. They had quickly become one of the area’s most talked-about
bands, due in large part to a busy live-performance schedule
and a throwback sound that set them apart rather widely
from the power-pop that dominated the local music scene
at the time. Everything seemed to be falling into place
for the trio until . . .
fired everyone that was involved with signing us,” says
singer-guitarist Kenny Hohman.
was a great day,” quips drummer Joe Daley.
Through the modern miracle of the corporate merger, a company
better known for making wine coolers than CDs bought Island,
and Super 400 was, almost simultaneously, once again an
couldn’t even get copies of our record,” continues bassist
Lori Friday. The band’s lawyer, Jonathan Horn, warned them
to contact the label to try and recoup the remainder of
their CDs, but they quickly found that, as label politics
go, that is all but impossible.
wanted to charge us full price for our albums,” says Hohman,
still more than a little incredulous at the process. “They
ended up in bins,” adds Friday. “We get e-mails from all
over the world from people saying ‘I just bought your record
for 50 cents.’ ”
The loss of a record deal has been the death knell for many
a rock band, and understandably so. While it doesn’t necessarily
mean going back to the proverbial square one, it does require
a lot of focus and persistence, not to mention a certain
amount of goal reassessment. For Super 400, having the corporate
rug pulled out from under them turned out to be a hard-but-necessary
lesson, if not a blessing in disguise. While Friday admits
to a short period of uncertainty—“What would anyone do if
that happened to them? We just made this record that we
really like, but what do you do?”—as it turns out, the conditions
of a major-label-contract dissolution worked to their favor.
had a pay-or-play clause for our second record which helped
out a little bit for a while,” says Hohman. That means the
band was able to keep the monetary advance from their now-former
label, which enabled them to upgrade their gear and purchase
a van—well, a converted moving truck, actually. “That thing
was a lemon,” Daley says. “It broke down, like, 14 times,”
adds Hohman. (They’ve since moved on to a more conventional
So what exactly have they been up to for the last six years?
Anyone up to speed on the local club scene would recognize
that the band has continued to play out with some amount
of regularity, but to an outsider, the absence of a new
album might have cast some doubt on the band’s future. Needless
to say, they’re still here, and they’ve kept busy.
just carried on and did a lot of side projects in the meantime,”
explains Hohman. “Besides doing our own thing, we did a
lot of backup work for singers in London and here.” Among
those singers was British pop singer Jamie Benson, whose
record was produced by Joe Daley’s older brother, Jack.
The elder Daley also hooked Hohman up with a particularly
high-profile gig—a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part
of Lenny Kravitz’s backing band for his performance on Saturday
Night Live. (Daley is, in addition to being a sought-after
studio bassist and producer, a longtime member of Kravitz’s
comes in and goes ‘play’ and looks at you like, ‘Who the
fuck are you, punk? Are you gonna fuck me over on TV; are
you gonna get nervous?’ and you’re like ‘No,’ but you are,”
While such seemingly big-time opportunities might leave
some players starstruck, ready to pack their bags and ditch
town in hopes of pursuing “the dream,” Friday stresses that
this band comes first for them, no matter what. “We turn
everything down that comes our way if it conflicts [with
the band’s schedule]. . . . Our priority has always been
for the three of us to stay together. If one of us gets
offered a session, we’re always like, ‘Do you need a bass
player? Do you need a drummer? I know this guy, he’s really
why it’s good that we did all these other side projects
and cover bands over the last four years—it makes doing
something like [the Kravitz project] a lot easier, ’cause
we’re so used to learning songs. It’s so easy to go in and
do something when you’ve been playing Zeppelin with Tommy
Grier [the band performed with vocalist Grier as the Blue
Machine for two-or-so years], or whatever. We would just
get together and do our thing, make it kind of like us.”
This kind of solidarity is a rare find in a rock band. It’s
clear when speaking with the band that they are close friends,
first and foremost—a family, of sorts. Friday has been a
part of the band since 1996; she and Hohman have shared
a gear-cluttered home in Poestenkill for the last two years,
and the house serves as the band’s homebase for rehearsing
and recording. Hohman and Daley have been playing together
since high school.
The chemistry that the three members share socially holds
true when it comes to their music. Despite the potential
misconception that Hohman is the band’s “leader,” the trio
actually have a one-for-all, all-for-one approach to songwriting.
us it’s very even—everybody writes, everybody has a hand
in every song, and the publishing is even with our records
since everybody is equal,” says Hohman. “Sometimes we do
it that way on purpose. . . . Everybody’s emotionally involved
in the song. I think that’s why we’re still together. I
think when one person writes and everybody else just kind
of falls in line . . . they don’t have any emotional involvement,
so there’s no real ties to the material and they just get
Friday adds, smiling, “Plus we’re still together because
we just can’t get enough of each other.”
Hohman continues, “I get a chord change and go, ‘I know
this is cool but I have nothing to talk about.’ I’ll give
it to Joe, he’ll take it home and stare at a piece of paper
. . . for five days, rubbing his forehead, agonizing for
something to talk about.” The lyric writing is “actually
fairly even on the record,” Daley confirms.
The “record” they speak of is their long-awaited second
release, Blast the Message, which will be released
this weekend. Nearly two years in the making, the album
finds the band taking the no-frills riff-rock of their eponymous
debut and building on it in some very ambitious ways. That’s
not to say they didn’t have it in them before:
first album would have sounded a lot more textured if we
had the time,” Friday points out, referring to a late-season
snowstorm that caused a lengthy power outage at the studio
where they were recording, forcing them to record the entire
album in less than a week. Needless to say, they took a
little more time recording the new one.
the Message was recorded and mixed by Jack Daley. “He
basically assembled a studio and brought it here . . . and
built it in the house. We recorded all the rhythm tracks
here. He had to do all the setup stuff and figure out how
to run it. He had just gotten ProTools and didn’t really
know how to use it yet, and he got it together like that,”
Hohman beams, snapping his fingers to emphasize the point.
he brought it home and obsessed over it for a while,” Joe
The album was clearly a labor of love for Jack Daley, who
saw this as an opportunity to assemble his own studio and
get more into producing records for other artists. And where
better to start than with your kid brother’s band? His enthusiasm
for making the final product sound as good as possible was
evident in some of his recording and production techniques.
Daley essentially tricked Hohman into recording the uncharacteristically
mellow “I Wonder,” a song that Hohman initially was resistant
to including on the album.
was just trying to trick me into having a naked moment or
something,” says Hohman. “That’s exactly what I didn’t want.
But then we added the drums and bass—and I didn’t record
it with a click because I wasn’t even considering it being
a track, I just played the acoustic guitar—and he was like,
‘This is great. I’m putting strings on it.’ ”
If Hohman ever felt the slightest bit undermined by such,
er, treachery, he
doesn’t show it. “It helps make the record more broad sounding.
George Laks (also of the Lenny Kravitz band) did a really
nice job with those keyboard parts, and,” he adds, gesturing
to his bandmates, “these guys did a good job putting drums
on an acoustic guitar track with no click after the fact.
Must be my superb timing,” he kids.
It’s not all introspective balladry, of course. For the
most part, it sounds like a band that has found its stride,
as both a unit and as individual players and songwriters.
“I See Tomorrow” has a pop-
fluent verse section that smacks of early Squeeze; “World
is Bright” sports a larger-than-life chorus that is simply
begging for a shot at commercial radio. “Say Goodbye” rides
an Abbey Road feel, right down to the solo, where
Hohman expertly channels George Harrison, or better yet,
Cream-era Clapton. Throughout, the band maintains the warts-and-all
live feel that makes them a favorite amongst area rock fans
and clubgoers. In fact, the basic tracks for 10 of the album’s
11 songs were recorded live in the studio.
Notwithstanding the quality of the album and the devotion
of their fanbase, a band without a support network might
as well be playing to an empty room on a nightly basis.
To this end, Super 400 have found themselves with a dedicated
group of supporters to help with some of the non-musical
aspects of being in a rock & roll band.
way independent music is right now, you end up having to
be everything. You have to be the songwriter, the player,
the promoter, the booking agent, the marketing person—everything,”
did it for a couple years and I started to lose my identity
as a member of the band,” adds Friday. “I don’t want to
be that person anymore. Luckily Jim and Charlie came in,
and I don’t know what we would do without them.”
She’s referring to Jim Meaney, the band’s promoter—“Jim
is responsible for 24-hour promotion of [our band],” she
exaggerates—and Charlie Monroe, who designed and continues
to maintain the band’s Web site, www.super400.com. (Word
has it a redesigned site will hit the ’net today, to coincide
with the record release.) Monroe is also a tireless follower
of the band who, at last check, has attended and recorded
every Super 400 show for the last two years—including the
band’s July performance in Nashville, Tenn.
The band expresses their gratitude for their newfound “family”
several times throughout the interview. “It’s a great team
of friends that help us out a lot,” says Hohman. “Most of
all Jack Daley, without him the record never would have
been made. . . . Jack was the one who basically built a
studio and said ‘I’m gonna record you.’ If he hadn’t have
done that, we’d have three or four albums worth of stuff
and one album out.”
The band’s musical family has also grown of late. The trio
has been performing with singer Mike Farris (of the Screamin’
Cheetah Wheelies) under the name Lester Fury since February.
Friday says, “That’s been great. He’s got a huge fanbase,
and he’s always been so generous with trying to hand those
people over to us as well, like, ‘Check these guys out,
too.’ Sometimes he’ll have us play a Super 400 set before
his shows—he doesn’t have to do that.” Hohman adds, “He’s
always talking us up and wearing our T-shirt around. . .
. He’s a tireless promoter of the band.”
A more recent addition is multi-
instrumentalist Finn O’Lochlainn. After speaking with him
at a show in New York City and sensing an instant chemistry,
the band invited O’Lochlainn to join them at the house and
see what might happen musically. It’s the first time the
band has performed with a fourth member and, after a handful
of live shows, the results have been quite positive. While
they’re obviously still figuring out how he fits into the
grand scheme of Super 400, the band, it’s clear that he’s
a perfect fit for Super 400, the family.
As for what lies ahead, the band is both enthusiastic and
focused. Hohman wants to “get more into just putting stuff
out there, now that we have a family of able people. . .
. We’re getting a little bit more savvy with having more
and more friends with more and more stuff, willing to help.”
Plus, clarifies Daley, Blast the Message has actually
been complete for several months. “We were just trying to
decide what we were going to do—put it out ourselves, or
try to get somebody to put it out.” According to their Web
site, the band has in excess of 50 songs in their repertoire,
which ostensibly leaves them with a lot of material yet
to be recorded.
ready to record the next one now,” says Friday. “One of
our philosophies now is to get our body of work documented
because all you have in your life is what you’ve done. There’s
no reason not to do it. We’ve got this beautiful place to
record and play and all be together and make music, and
we’re pretty happy about it. Every day keeps getting better
To celebrate the release of Blast the Message, Super 400
will play two shows this weekend—Friday (Oct. 1) at Lark
Tavern, 453 Madison Ave., Albany (10 PM, $5, 463-7875);
and Saturday (Oct. 2) at the Ale House, 680 River St., Troy
(10 PM, $5, 272-9740).