In 2006, Single File recorded a full-length album with Ed Rose (Motion City Soundtrack, The Get Up Kids), who had mixed My Best Defense. They eventually shelved the record, feeling it didn't represent their full potential, but released one song on their MySpace Page – "Zombies Ate My Neighbors," a surreal, garage rock anthem involving an ex-girlfriend. After wrapping up their second Warped tour, Anderson submitted "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" (a subsequent version of which appears on Common Struggles) as a lark to Denver hard rock station KBPI, which was having a contest for local bands. It caught the attention of KBPI's program director who, knowing it didn't fit his format, sent it on to a colleague at KTCL, the Clear Channel alternative station in Denver. The song, which takes its name from a Super Nintendo game Anderson played as a child, climbed to No. 1 at KTCL, where it stayed for four weeks. Indie and major labels took note, and in April 2007, Single File was signed to Reprise Records by Craig Aaronson, who had worked with many of their favorite bands (My Chemical Romance, Less Than Jake, Jimmy Eat World).
"We went in the studio right after we got signed and it was a little too soon," says Ginsberg. Working with producer Howard Benson, they laid down seven instrumental tracks, but lyrics proved elusive. "I just shut down," recalls Anderson. "I had the worst writer's block of my life." The sessions ended and they went out on the 2007 Vans Warped tour, followed by some dates with The Fray. The road offered ample opportunity to party – and thus evade the fear that they had blown their one big chance. "But eventually we pulled our heads out of our asses and decided, alright, we need to do this for real, we can't let fear stand in the way anymore," says Anderson. The trio holed up at a mountain cabin owned by Ginsberg's parents and wrote the bulk of the songs for Common Struggles, then headed back into the studio with Benson.
"Howard was really understanding of us and where we were coming from and the kind of record that we wanted to make," says Ginsberg. The result is an exuberant, adrenalin-fueled album that simultaneously celebrates and subverts classic pop songwriting, with a tip of the hat to musical forebears such as Tom Petty, Weezer and the Beatles. "We were really looking for a raw-sounding record, not necessarily a grunge thing but more that early 90s sound," says Depew, noting how instrumental mixer Tom Lord-Alge was in the process.
Album opener "Mannequin Loveseat" sets the tone – lighthearted on the surface but dark around the edges as its cheeky, self-absorbed narrator surrenders to social phobia. Bookended by the trio's cheery whistles, lead single "Girlfriends" details a cycle of self-loathing and self-medication while pleading "so what if I'm a burnout, baby, you don't gotta celebrate it."
While the "I don't care" attitude and euphoric pop-rock melodies of "Pizza Girl" and "Miss Cherry Lipgloss" mask an underlying pain, songs like "Airports" and "Don't Hate" confront it head on. "Three years is a long, long time to fly standby/And pillow-talk from a cellular phone isn't healthy--/Neither am I," confesses Anderson on the former, coming to terms with the ruins of a relationship.
"Loneliness and distance are probably the two biggest themes of the record," he says. Yet with "Blue Sky Happiness" and "Benson Shady Grove," Single File emerges on the other side, finding a sense of hope and resolve. Heady stuff for a bunch of songs that clock in at about three minutes each.
"Yeah, we're not messing around – none of those four or five minute long songs," Ginsberg jokes. "There's a lot in there, if you're looking for it. If you're not, there's still a lot in there – or you can just bob your head," says Anderson. "We were going for timeless. I don't know if we've got it or not, but damn it if we didn't try."
Catch the band on tour now playing shows with Plain White T's and Alkaline Trio
. Head over to http://singlefilerock.com
for more info.