THE RELUCTANT ROCKER VERSUS THE MACHINE 


;"There's a lot of hurt, and a lot of bad feelings," says Travis Adams. "There's a lot about touring that still leaves a really sour taste in my mouth."

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;So, asks the reporter, when you talk about the sour taste in your mouth …

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;"Oh," says Adams, "so you want to go back to that now?"

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;"That" has been the white elephant in the room during the entirety of the interview. Although Adams' friendly demeanor and willingness to talk about every facet of his new band Inkwell is very much in line with his accessible personality, the dark twitch that is the memory of My Hotel Year lingers heavily in the room.

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;MHY was the band that was set to atone for many of Orlando's musical sins, with a powerful, melodic sound and a phenomenally impressive work ethic. In 2001, after just more than a year together, they were quickly sucked up and spit out by a fairly clueless major label looking for an "emo" band (which MHY were not). While this has been a fatal blow for many young bands, MHY redoubled their efforts, touring relentlessly and living together when not on the road in an effort to keep their focus squarely on the group.

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;That tight focus is what ultimately undid them.

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;"I was in Cincinnati on our last tour, probably about a week before I quit, and I just didn't know what to do," says Adams. "I was talking to my girlfriend, just going off about how I hated it, how I hated everything about playing. And she asked me, ‘Why do you play music? There are two options: You play music because you love it and it's all you know and you don't care who hears it. That's one. The other option is that you play music to sell records and play and have fun and please the kids. And that one's fine too. They're both fine ways of doing it, but you really can't have it both ways.'

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;"That was when I realized that I want to play music that's for me and from me and about who I am," he continues. "The last record that My Hotel Year did [The Curse] wasn't personal at all. I didn't care about any of those songs. I don't even own that record. I basically just shit on tape and was like, ‘Here, hope the kids like it.'

;;"That is not the way I want to make music. I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. Everything I started to do when I started the band, I had become the complete opposite of what I wanted to be."

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;But, even though we're going back to "that," this is not the story of what happened to My Hotel Year. Some other time, maybe, but not quite yet. Adams admits that the band's sudden demise led to a lot of acrimony, but the very awkwardness of the situation — and his move to Atlanta to avoid much of it — is what ultimately led to the genesis of Inkwell.

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;"I was just done playing music. I was over it, I hated it and I didn't want anything to do with it," he says. "Dave [Pierce, the other half of Inkwell and a longtime friend of Adams] lived in Tallahassee and we had always talked about doing some sort of side project together. He talked me into coming down for a weekend just to play some music for the sake of playing music together. I really didn't want to, but he talked me into it. We ended up making the first record [Chaos Reveals Rhyme] that weekend."

;;It took nearly a year for Chaos to see the light of day on Amateur Records, due mainly to Adams' hesitance to play it for anyone. Initially kept close to the vest, then played for a slowly widening circle of friends, it likely never would have been released unless one of those friends, Sandy Bitman of Park Ave CDs and Amateur, had encouraged Adams to do so.

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;"There was no pressure," says Adams, "he just liked the music and wanted other people to hear it."

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;Another early fan of the band was Brad Fischetti of Orlando-based One Eleven Records (Rory, Mashlin), who was one of the first and most frequent victims of Adams' post-MHY anti-ambition policy.

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;"When Dave and I decided to start actually sharing our music, we decided to put into effect a policy where we make the most ridiculous request of anyone asking anything of us," he laughs. "We're not gonna tour, unless we can't say no to it. We didn't want to sign to a record label unless there was no reason not to. I turned Brad down five times, and the fifth time was when he said, ‘What's it gonna take?' So we told him that we write our own stuff, record our own stuff, we don't turn in any demos, the label gets what it gets and we don't want any pressure to tour.

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;"We took all that to him and he said ‘Okay, let's do it.' And we were like, ‘Dammit!'"

;;The result of that lopsided deal is These Stars Are Monsters, a dozen tracks that push away from the experimental, Portastudio vibe of Chaos and hew closer to a rockist thrust. Both more forceful and more elegant, Stars still rises and falls on Adams' voice and melodic impulses. If it were possible for a grown-up to make a pop-punk record, it would probably sound something like this. Yet, despite the impressive dynamics and seeming thoughtfulness, this was not a disc that was belabored.

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;"We wrote that record two days before we recorded it," laughs Adams. "I went up to Tallahassee the week before we were supposed to record it. We were gonna write the whole week, but instead we ended up going out every night. Two days before we were supposed to record, we were like, ‘Oh shit, we've got to write a record.' So we did."

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;That ease has as much to do with Adams' relationship with his partner — "Dave lets me do everything I want … and he fixes my crappy songs" — as it does with a somewhat tentative level of comfort with the idea of being in a working band again.

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;"I know myself a lot better now and I'm able to let myself be creative. Before, I wasn't Travis that had a girlfriend and a dog and lived in Orlando and did other things," he says. "When I went downtown, I was ‘My Hotel Year Travis' and that's all I was.

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;"I didn't have a home, I didn't have a dog … there was just no possible way to have any of that. And now I have this whole normal world that makes me so happy. What I fear the most is losing that world to the machine."

; jferguson@orlandoweekly.com

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