7M3 Mellows Out, Brings In New Fans

The Cavalier Daily, October 5, 1995.
University of Virginia

By Shawn Cox (sdc6g@faraday.clas.virginia.edu)
Cavalier Daily Staff Writer
picture: Atlantic Records' Digital Arena
English majors, rejoice: There still is a job or two available after graduation. At least one was for Jason Ross, a 1995 graduate of the College of William & Mary.

Ross, the lead singer of the up-and-coming band Seven Mary Three, had barely put down his diploma last summer when his group found a recording contract in its hands from Mammoth, a subdivision of Atlantic Records.

On Sept. 25, 7M3 began headlining its first full-length tour, a club schedule (500- to 1,000-seat venues) that will last until January.

"We're just trying to do the grass-roots thing right now, trying to stir up a fan base," Ross said in an exclusive interview with The Cavalier Daily. The tour "will cover pretty much the entire United States before January."

7M3 swung through Charlottesville Sept. 27, playing with local band Slackjaw at the packed Outback Lodge. That afternoon, Ross and lead guitarist Jason Pollock sat down to discuss "American Standard," the band's impressive Mammoth label debut, as well as life on the road.

"It's not roses every day," Ross said. "It's like being married to four guys and having to put up with their shit. But it's better than going to an office."

The band's first release was "Churn," an album it released independently in 1994. But after signing with Mammoth last summer, 7M3 rerecorded nine tracks on "Churn," plus two new ones, for "American Standard."

"The first time it was like, 'OK, we're in a studio ... let's dump as much crap on every tune, burn as many tracks per tune as we can," Ross said.

"On 'American Standard,' we brought [the songs] out, and they're barer, much rawer," Pollock said. "We tried to strip ['Churn'] down and make it easier for people to relate to."

Whatever the group did, it worked. "American Standard" provides hard evidence that rock is not dead. The album's blend of melodic, driving guitars with subtle yet powerful bass (Casey Daniel) and drums (Giti Khalsa) serves as a perfect vehicle for Ross' unique voice.

"Some people become priests, and they say they have a voice they can communicate with that no one really understands," Ross said. "I think in good bands, that exists. In our band, that exists, whether we're good or not."

That voice comes across strongly on several of the album's songs, particularly the haunting opening track, "Water's Edge," and the mysterious final track, "Favorite Dog."

"Water's Edge" relates shame about not doing more to prevent a killing: "It ain't no secret to me / how she got there down by the stream / I'd seen her a minute before the van pulled up and opened the door."

"Everything on the disc is true," Ross said. "The songs are more of a catalogue of experience than autobiographical," though.

Even with his English degree, Ross said he is against excessive, unnecessary literary references, although "Roderigo" is based on a character from Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

"I don't like to be meta-textual or have people finding themselves having to have read something to unlock whatever I'm talking about," Ross said.

Fans of 7M3 will have to have seen the early-'80s show "CHiPs" to unlock the secret of the band's name, however.

"It's Jon Baker's handle: Seven Mary Three," Pollock said. "There's no great significance or anything. We were just tired of trying to think of a cool name."

Go back a decade or two earlier, and you will find some of 7M3's musical influences.

"I'm influenced by a lot of what you could deem 'classic rock,' I guess," Pollock said. "Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Beatles, the Stones. Anything that has melody in it we really like - melody and good, loud guitars."

After listening to the musicianship on "American Standard," many people will be surprised to learn the band is only two years old and that Pollock and Ross have played guitar for only a couple of years.

"I think we all knew very young what we wanted to do, but Giti and Casey weren't afraid to pick up a bass or some drum sticks," Ross said. "I never thought I could be a rock star. I just didn't think it was something I could do."

Ross, Pollock and Khalsa all met as students at William & Mary. Ross went to high school with Daniel in Orlando, Fla., and when the other three asked Daniel to join the trio, he did.

After self-producing and self-distributing "Churn," 7M3 received what every fledgling band seeks: the break.

"One of our [friends] in Florida just took it to a radio station there, and they played the first song, ["Cumbersome"], and it got immediate response," Pollock said. "It went all the way to No. 2 on their 'A' play list."

"We were making trips down to Florida, four-day weekends, while we were in school, once a month to play shows," Ross said.

After graduation (Pollock majored in history, and Khalsa in psychology), 7M3 moved to Orlando and enjoyed local popularity. The band eventually auditioned for 10 labels but particularly caught the eye of Mammoth.

Mammoth "brought down their whole staff [to Orlando] and just showed an incredible interest in the band," Pollock said. "People bitch about 'corporate rock,' but that's what rock 'n' roll is. You have to be able to meld your creative elements with the business side of music, because it always will be like that."

The band recently shot its first video, choosing the single that was such a hit on Orlando's WJRR: the catchy, crowd-pleasing "Cumbersome." It began airing Monday on MTV.

"Most bands take a few weeks to shoot a video ... we did it in one day," Pollock said. ""We flew out and did it in a small bar in Los Angeles. Low dough, real straightforward - no gimmicks or anything."

The fan base was growing, however, long before MTV.

"You get 10-year-old kids who want you to sign their CD, and you get 45-year-old ladies who are like, 'Yeah, my life is cumbersome, too,' and they're dead serious," Pollock said.

The band did nothing to hurt its popularity during its show at the Outback Lodge. Opening with the driving, forceful "Headstrong," 7M3 played with intensity, performing all its songs from "American Standard."

The group also tried out a couple of new tunes, as well as the crowd-requested Neil Young number, "Rockin' in the Free World." Pollock also dedicated a hard-edged Creedence Clearwater Revival medley to his father.

"We started off kind of mellow, but now we're getting into a groove, a stage presence that we feel very comfortable with," Pollock said. The band's style is "aggressive, but not heavy metal aggressive,like the Stones or something, man - getting into it, working the crowd, but not being cheesy."

Despite the attempted turnabout from that mellow persona, the spirit still pulses through 7M3's show and the heart of "American Standard."

"We don't present ourselves as musicians who are like, 'Yeah, we're the fuckin' best! C'mon, girls!'" Pollock said. "We're like, 'Just come ... enjoy the show ... we appreciate it.'"

"A lot of people don't believe us," Pollock added. "But we just always try to express our gratitude to people for supporting us, listening to us, picking up a CD, or whatever."

If any glitches should arise through this transmission, just let me know and I'll try again. I actually met the band back in August last year because I live in Williamsburg and a friend of mine goes to W&M and is close with the band. The guys were staying the night in W'burg on their way to D.C. for a show the next evening, and my friend took me over to a deli where we sat at a table with the two Jasons and drank some beers. To be honest, I had never listened to their music before. Anyway, they seemed real laid-back, but you got the sense something exciting was getting ready to happen, a very real sense that stardom was around the corner. Anyway, when I got back to U.Va. a month later, the Arts and Entertainment editor received an advance promo copy of "American Standard" in the mail and knew I had met them. I then got to write the review (plus keep the CD for myself) although I was a sportswriter with no A&E experience. I soon found out they were playing in town the next week, so I arranged an interview with them, which made my article more of a feature than a review. We talked for 45 minutes or so, which made me wish I had more space to write than I did. But I was still pleased with the way the piece turned out and will always think of it as one of my most memorable collegiate journalism experiences. I also credit the experience as helping me land a summer internship next month in NYC with Sports Illustrated. This article was the only non-sports clip I sent with my application, but I think it might have helped distinguish me from the others who were all sportsSportsSPORTS. Anyway, it's time to snooze, for exam crunch is upon me. Thanks for this opportunity, and I look forward to seeing this on your web page soon.... Shawn

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