Personal finance

Below & Beyond Box Set
(Robotic Empire)

9 p.m. Friday, April 2
Common Grounds, Gainesville


When bands reunite after years of inactivity, the reasons given tend toward one of two narratives. The first, and most common, is that whatever acrimony led to the band's original demise have been paved over by maturity and a few productive sessions in therapy and/or rehab. The second is that the band's influence and legend has grown to the point that a reunion — "for the fans," of course — is a logical recognition of its rightful stature in the rock pantheon.

Both reasons are bullshit.

"I was kind of hurting for cash," laughs guitarist Steve Brooks when asked why Floor — the once-unknown, but now-legendary South Florida metal band — is reuniting for a handful of shows and the compilation of a career-spanning box set. "We were all kind of hurting for cash."

Brooks is one of the few artists with the wherewithal to speak the truth when it comes to the clichéd kabuki of "getting the band back together." Although he's found considerable success with his latest band, Torche, success in the world of independent metal bands is relative.

"We've been asked about doing a `Floor` discography for so long," he says, "and we were supposed to do one with No Idea `the Gainesville punk label that released Floor's only proper full-length album`, but we didn't really agree with the way they ran things and there were things that we weren't happy about with their label, so we wound up shelving it for a while.

"Andy `Low` from Robotic Empire `the label that's released or co-released most of Torche's music` kept asking me about it, and I just kept saying ‘No, no, no. It's gonna be a big headache.' There was just so much stuff we would have to do to make it right, and some of us just didn't have the time to do it. But I was telling him that I was hard up for cash and spending all my money touring and stuff, and he was like, ‘Well, you know, I can give you some money if you get that box set together for me.'"

That box set is finally coming together, in the form of Below & Beyond, a massive collection of everything — literally, everything — that Floor ever recorded during their decade of evolution from post-crust, sludge dealers into pre-Torche doom-pop. With 100 tracks spread across ten vinyl 12-inches and one 7-inch (with eight CDs thrown in for good measure), the box itself is a massive, cloth-bound, $250 limited-edition affair, complete with a 32-page book and the packaging and design touches that are hallmarks of Robotic Empire's releases.

"It took us a long time to put everything together. We're making a limited number, and it's pricey to make the sucker, but for everyone who's been asking for it, this is it,"
says Brooks.

One of the keys to the box's compilation — and the Floor reunion shows that are taking place this week in Miami, Gainesville and Atlanta — was Anthony Vialon, one of the co-founders of the group. It was the interplay of Brooks' and Vialon's low-end-high-end guitar and bass work that defined the sound of Floor … until Brooks kicked him out of the band under acrimonious circumstances.

"Me and Anthony started talking again," says Brooks, "and we're friends again. He has so much stuff I completely forgot about; he saved all those old tapes. I never thought I'd have to put something like this together."

But for a band that, like most metal bands, had its fair share of drummers over its existence, how would Vialon and Brooks decide which drummer to include for the reunion shows? Easy: all of them.

"We're gonna play with the three main drummers who were in the band, sort of the three different eras of the band," says Brooks. "We're definitely going to do `the sets` chronologically; Betty `Monteavaro, 1992-1993` will start off the set playing the early, early stuff, then Jeff `Sousa, 1994-1996` doing the mid-'90s stuff, then we're going to do the entire self-titled record with Henry `Wilson, 1997-2004`. I haven't played with Jeff or Betty for … god, like 15 years.

"But for us, this is it," says Brooks, clearing up any misconceptions about the future of this reunion. "Look at bands that have reformed and then put out records after they got back together, and then nobody gives a shit about 'em again.

"We used to play to pretty much no one; the best shows we did were in Gainesville, but that was about it. We tried touring, and that was a big headache. But this is gonna be a lot of fun, we're going to do a lot of things we've never done. We're gonna play songs we've never played live either `laughs`. First time and the last time."

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