Editor's note: In its origins, the TASTE OF CHAOS tour was frequently deemed “Winter Warped” by both fans and organizers. The 2006 road show took place in the late winter and early spring, featuring lineups populated by some of the most diverse voices in the scene, including bands like My Chemical Romance, the Used, Underoath, Killswitch Engage, Deftones, Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold and 30 Seconds To Mars. For the next few weeks, we are going to go back in our time capsules to revisit some of the names that not only cemented TOC as a formidable adjunct to Warped Tour's summer mania, but as a festival of great merit curated on its own aesthetic terms.
As the reactivated TOC begins its next chapter with a touring lineup of Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin and many others, we'll be starting this weekly special “Taste Of Tuesday,” where we'll look back at the bands participating at the point of their original zeitgeist. This week, we’re setting the wayback machine to August 2006 (AP 217, to be precise), when THE EARLY NOVEMBER were getting ready to promote their epic three-disc opus, The Mother, The Mechanic And The Path, after a significant period of discord that had the band breaking up for a short time. The album is considered by many to be an ambitious statement from a band in a scene that has been frequently misaligned; here majordomo Ace Enders and his band navigate the psychic landmines that came along with the impressive release.
Ace Enders, the mastermind of THE EARLY NOVEMBER, felt that creating a three-disc concept album was a worthy challenge. Now, after 18 months of bitter in-fighting and several band members’ nervous breakdowns, it’s finally done. And they’re just getting started.
STORY: Brendan Manley /// PHOTOS: Jayme Thornton
Ace Enders, singer/guitarist/songwriter and fearless captain of the ship known as the Early November, sits parked in his car on a gray Monday outside a New Jersey jewelry store. He and his fiancée and girlfriend of seven years were about to pick out rings for their late-May wedding. Despite his obvious enthusiasm over the nuptials, when his attention turns to other subjects, primarily his band, a twinge of weariness creeps into Enders’ voice, and you can’t help but think that this is a 24-year-old who’s grown up fast—perhaps a bit too fast.
This month, the Early November—Enders, bassist Sergio Anello, drummer Jeff Kummer, and guitarists Joe Marro and Bill Lugg—are releasing their most ambitious effort to date: a sprawling three-disc concept album envisioned by Enders called The Mother, The Mechanic, And The Path, which includes a “story disc” with music and dialogue. By the sound of things, making it nearly killed them. Reflecting on the roughly 18-month ordeal behind the record, Enders says, “We had a lot of blowups at the studio; we had a lot of rough times. It was probably the most difficult part yet in my career.”
Tapping into the potential Enders hinted at with his eclectic side band, I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business, The Mother erratically jumps through genres and styles, focusing on more mellow, pop-flavored material on disc one (“The Mother”); and straight-ahead rock more typical of TEN on disc two (“The Mechanic”); before seemingly launching into outer space for disc three (“The Path”), which revolves around the concepts of money polluting the world and the perpetual cycle of kids hating their overbearing parents—then growing up to become the very same overbearing parents themselves—while utilizing musical idioms such as jazz and ragtime to accompany the disc’s story arc.
“I’m like, ‘All right, what kind of crazy thing is [Ace] coming up with now?’” explains Anello. “He sits us down at his dinner table at his house, and he pulls out these three huge poster boards—like a Ross Perot-type diagram, the whole deal. And Ace isn’t always the best at explaining things. Me, personally, I wasn’t sure what he was going for, but I figured we’d catch on eventually.”
The album’s core ideas are fairly autobiographical; the money themes are a partial outgrowth of Enders’ growing disillusionment with music/band business, while the parental themes hit even closer to home. His parents divorced while Enders was very young; his childhood wasn’t idyllic, and when music became his all-consuming passion, his family wasn’t as supportive as they are now.
“It was hard growing up until the day we got signed,” Enders explains. “When people learned that I actually could do something, then it was fine. The last day before we got signed, I was out of the house—kicked out. The next night, we got signed. I called my mom to tell her, and my stepdad picked up the phone, and he’s like, ‘We’ve got to have a serious talk,’ and I’m like, ‘Look, we got signed,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh.’ That was the last time anyone was negative again.”
For Enders, there’s obviously a lot at stake with this new album, both personally and financially—the band even agreed to reduced royalties with their label, Drive-Thru Records, so the three discs could be sold for normal single-disc prices. Enders also appears to have become a tad, shall we say, “eccentric” during its creation.
“When you’re in something so long, you start to hate it,” he says, laughing. “It was like a relationship I had with this thing—I loved it; I hated it; I couldn’t sleep at night because of it; I couldn’t eat because of it; I couldn’t function because of it; I couldn’t talk to people because of it. For a good year, I was in my own world, not sure if I hated or loved what I was doing.”
You can probably say much of the same for the rest of the group, who were all barely out of high school (in some cases, not even), and as green as they come when they signed with Drive-Thru, who issued their debut EP, For All Of This, in 2002. Joining the Drive-Thru family during what was an extremely strong period for the label, helped them sell a good amount of records—more than 300,000 in all, up through their 2003 full-length, The Room’s Too Cold—but it also instantly thrust the band into a world of stressful, near-constant van touring, heated business disagreements and perpetual inner-band strife. Within just a few years, TEN were headed for a major meltdown. The 2005 Take Action! Tour ended up being their own personal Chernobyl.
“We were fighting that whole tour,” reflects Kummer, who quit the band twice between the release of The Room and now (first because of panic attacks experienced on the road, then due to the miserable Take Action! period) only to later return. “Everyone was at each other’s throats [so much], that it wasn’t fun. The band broke up, like, 50 times on that tour. Everybody in this band has been like, ‘Fuck this—I quit,’ at one time or another.”
One breakup was seemingly official—even Drive-Thru was informed—but tour promoters refused to let the band back out of the remaining dates. So TEN soldiered on, and then returned to New Jersey in limbo, uncertain if they had a future. They forced themselves into the studio shortly afterward, but admittedly went in largely unpracticed and with only basic song structures. Even after two and a half months spent tracking at Portrait Studio with producer/engineer Chris Badami (the Starting Line, Midtown), something was still noticeably missing. That’s when Enders had his own minor breakdown.
“It was just me in the studio,” Enders remembers, “and I looked at Chris, and I’m just like, ‘I can’t do this, man. I have to leave. I hate the record; I hate all the songs; I hate everything. In my head. I had all just reasons for hating everybody.” He laughs. “There was so much drama.”
Enders temporarily dropped out of sight, but returned soon after, recharged and with newfound clarity. Bandmates say he was in an introverted, savant-like state at the time, and something did “click.” One day, the singer excitedly called Kummer over to outline his now-completed conception.
“He had these boards all over his house,” Kummer recalls “Diagrams and pictures—really weird; like he looked like a fucking crazy person, like if you’ve ever seen A Beautiful Mind. Just like, fucking shit written all over the walls and stuff like that. Really, really weird stuff. He actually played the whole story CD through on acoustic guitar for me. When he showed me it, I was like, ‘This is what we want to go with. This is the right way.’ And he knew it was gonna be awesome.”
TEN finished recording the majority of the material in a month, and were feeling good again, but Drive-Thru reportedly panned an early version of the story disc that featured professional actors. Enders spent the next year furiously working on revisions, writing in hotel rooms and recording at home, providing all of the character voices himself. After roughly eight different versions, he finally put it to rest. It’s still too early for him to formulate an opinion on it.
“I love it because it’s got my heart in it, but as for how people are going to react to it? I’m not sure at all,” he says. “This was really hard to do, because I wanted to capture everything that you see in a movie visually, but just through sound and imagination. You really have to pull yourself out of everything and just listen to it with headphones and with your eyes closed. If you do, it’s cool. If not, it’s just gonna be stupid and it’s gonna sound cheesy.”
It’s not until later, when discussing TEN’s future, that you get a full sense of just how driven Enders is. Next summer, after spending this year promoting the new record, he plans to release one new album every month for an entire year, mostly as a solo artist, with each disc featuring 10 songs and different musical “themes” ranging from grunge to country. And the funny thing is, he doesn’t seem to think for a second that this seemingly Mount Everest-like challenge won’t be possible. The curving, rocky road of his career has taken him so far so fast, he’s already got his bow pointed toward the horizon. What lies there—and who will make the journey with him—still remains to be seen.
“I think that we’re all ready for another move,” Enders says. “The future, just seeing what’s next. I know I certainly am. I mean, I love being out with the band and doing all the stuff that we’re doing now, but I look forward to seeing what is next, too.” alt
Fire up the grill with Ace Enders
Ace Enders may be intense when it comes to his music, but when he and his wife are at home in New Jersey, kicking back and firing up the grill becomes a big part of the couple’s routine. “I barbecue,” says Enders. “That’s my favorite thing to do. In my backyard, with my rotten dog running around, eatin’ everything off the grill. Instead of Warped Tour [this summer], we were gonna do a barbecue across America, where we’d invite anybody who’d come to the show—or couldn’t get tickets to the show—just to come to the barbecue before the show. We would cook, and everybody would just hang out with all the kids. But that fell through, so we’re probably gonna do that next year.”
Enders has kindly furnished AP with his five essential elements for a successful ’cue, just in time for summer. But please, people: Don’t play with the lighter fluid.
1. Turkey Burgers
“I love the turkey burgers. The homemade turkey burgers—you gotta actually get your hands in the meat, all greasy and gross. What do I do? I can’t give away my secrets! I make ’em all fancy. Everybody always says they like ’em. I don’t know if people are being nice or what.”
2. A Dirty Gas Grill
“Forget charcoal. A really dirty gas grill. That’s what I like; that’s my favorite. A really gross one that you haven’t cleaned; all the stuff has been falling in there for like two years, that’s the best way to go. You get all that flavor from everything else you made for the past year. That’s what I’m talking about.”
3. Cold Beverages
“I like water, because everything else gives me heartburn. But if you’re having people over, you gotta have beer of some sort for your guests. Because most guests like to relax and have a good time, and that could be a good time—just sitting out on your lawn chair, with a burger, a beer, some fries. [Pauses.] No fries—you’re gonna go [with] potato salad.”
4. And About That Potato Salad…
“Well, I don’t make the potato salad, and my fiancée makes the macaroni salad. She does a good job with that. We usually buy the potato salad from a place here in town. It’s probably the best potato salad in the country. We’ve given it to plenty of people that have come over for barbecues that don’t live here, and they will agree, too. I think the way it looks has a lot to do with it. The right amount of potato skin with creaminess is definitely important. It can’t be too creamy-looking.”
5. Quality Tunes
“A very good record that we always put on when we barbecue is Ryan Adams’ Gold. That’s our barbecuing album. I don’t know why. We put it on the first time we barbecued, and we’ve been putting it on ever since. [Laughs.] It just goes good with it.”