Three years after the breakout success of their debut album, the boys of FINCH aren’t fresh-faced teens anymore. Like it or not, they’ve matured-and they have the battle scars to prove it.

STORY: Scott Heisel

“Man, my neck is really fucked up right now.” These are the first words out of Finch guitarist Randy Strohmeyer’s mouth for his first AP interview in years. Strohmeyer, along with the rest of Finch-vocalist Nate Barcalow, guitarist Alex Linares, bassist Derek Doherty and drummer Marc Allen-is in the process of recovering from an intimate L.A. club show the night before, where the band were sandwiched rather haphazardly between Jimmy Eat World and the Explosion. “The show went okay, I guess,” Strohmeyer frets, before backpedaling slightly, saying, “Those are good bands, and it was a fun show. It was just weird for us, because we hadn’t played a show in a little while, and we’ve been doing this record for such a long time.”

“A long time” is almost an understatement. In the past three years since Finch released their debut full-length, What It Is To Burn, the Temecula, California, band have had their hand in enough drama to fill a season of The O.C.-without the juicy lesbian kisses, of course. The group have experienced the departure of a founding member (and the resulting lawsuit); a power-hungry producer; a bench-clearing brawl with some nü-metal mooks in front of thousands of people; and a horde of somewhere between 10 and 10 million copycat “screamo” bands, all biting their style hard enough to break skin. But as the old saying goes, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and Finch are living proof.

As the last chords of the band’s Underworld soundtrack single “Worms Of The Earth” drifted off your local radio station’s airwaves at the end of 2003, Finch were faced with a rather large problem: They wanted to shift musical directions, but then-drummer Alex Pappas didn’t. While the decision to let Pappas go seemed easy, the band are still paying for it now.

“Basically, [Alex] wanted to write another What It Is To Burn,” says Strohmeyer, “and we wanted to do the complete opposite of what everyone else was doing. We don’t want to be a band that’s stagnant.”

“It’s hard to break up with anybody,” says Doherty. “It’s rough, but sometimes it just has to be done. We had complete opposite opinions of what was good in music. In that sense, it was easy.”

After the firing-and the subsequent lawsuit from Pappas-the band set out in search of someone who could match their creative vision, time-change for time-change. Enter Marc Allen.

“Randy asked me to come up to Temecula and play some music with the band,” says Allen. “They didn’t mention any intentions of me trying out or anything. So I went up there, and we just started playing all these crazy-sounding songs, and I was like, ‘Is this a side project you guys are working on?’ and they said, ‘No, these are Finch songs.’ So, I was really surprised; it was stuff that was definitely going in a different direction.” Allen wasn’t the only one feeling the good vibes: “We wanted Marc to be in our band,” says Strohmeyer, “but he had to think about it, because it was a big decision.”

For the rest of the story, pick up AP 203 below…