Cruising after life in the fast lane 

The past year may have been a case of too-much-too-soon for The Denizens. The Orlando five-piece was flying high in a flurry of record-label interest, industry showcases, prestigious opening slots and media coverage. They got all the right attention from all the right people. But amid the hoopla and the expectations, The Denizens started to feel the pressure of the let's-get-signed sweepstakes.

Says vocalist/guitarist Chris Rice, "We found ourselves going, 'We need to get it done for these people'" -- instead of for themselves. So the band decided to "sit back and write our music and not sweat it."

The biggest hurdle The Denizens faced during its moment in the major-label race was a shortage of recorded material to give to labels. While the group's three-song demo is strong ("Awake" could fit into any rock radio format), labels won't sign a band with a mere trio of tracks. So the band continues to write and record with nearly 20 songs studio-ready.

And they spent a great deal of time defining their sound. What is that sound? Call it unpredictable. Base elements of rock are punctuated by loud guitars (years of listening to metal and punk bands will do that), topped by rich vocal harmonies. Touches of funk and reggae make their way into the mix.

"We don't want to put boundaries on the way that we write," says Scott Mabry. "We'd rather do what we feel."

Started by Rice and Mabry in 1992, The Denizens' current lineup (with bassist Aaron O'Riley, drummer Mat Schmeltzer and guitarist Dave Pender) has been together for more than a year, honing its craft on local stages. The group opened for The Honeyrods, Second Coming and Virgos Merlot (for whom they open again this weekend).

It was GumWrapper Curb manager and Axis publisher Sean Perry who initially helped The Denizens book the high-profile gigs that pushed them into the fast lane. The heavy-duty coverage in Axis plus airplay on WJRR-FM (101.1) was enough to drive the young band crazy. But now they've got things under control, for the most part.

"Every now and again we have an emotional breakdown where we kind of flip out -- just lose our minds for a while," says Rice.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, Mabry slathered suntan lotion on his head (and hair) and walked around downtown at night wearing oversized sunglasses, passing out fliers and refusing to talk.

The Denizens: definitely unpredictable.

More by Mark Padgett


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