A Sound Salvation
Austin's Class of 2000
Sister 7: Reformed Jam Band Goes Pop, Never Again to Mix the Two
Sister 7's jam band days are officially over. The proof is the Austin quartet's pop-savvy sophomore Arista set, Wrestling Over Tiny Matters. "We used to find grooves and put songs around them," admits guitarist Wayne Sutton. "Now, lyrics and melody come first."
Truthfully, Sister 7's free-form days ended around the time of 1997's This the Trip, featuring "Know What You Mean," a genuine hit at adult alternative radio and a foot in the door at VH1. The single's success never managed to spark any significant album sales, but Sutton says it made both Arista and the band believe Sister 7 had a radio-driven future. To that end, Arista paired Sutton and and singer Patrice Pike with a series of collaborators that included Scott Cutler (Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn") and John Shanks, who came aboard as Wrestling's producer just after completing Melissa Etheridge's Breakdown.
"Originally, it was a struggle for them to get us out to write with these people," Sutton says, "but once we did, we starting getting songs we liked. It came down to, "How are we gonna get the best songs?' In the end, it helped us as writers and helped us simplify the writing process."
Arista plans to ship two of those simplified songs to radio in the coming months -- "Fallen Angel" to rock radio and "Under the Radar" to AAA. "We have four or five songs that we could eventually send to the Mix stations, but ideally, we'd like to to break as a rock band," says Sutton. "It's more of what we are. And last time, we kind of skipped AAA and regretted it.
"Most places you can forget AAA if the Mix station across town is playing you. We found out the hard way that the Mix stations we're used to here are nothing like the ones in the rest of the country. In Austin, there's room for folk/acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, while everywhere else we'd show up for the radio festivals and be the only band playing instruments. Sharing bills with track-acts got pretty depressing."
Of course, turning your back on the gal that brought you to the dance is a calculated risk. Sutton admits many of Sister 7's original fans preferred the more jam-oriented material to the new pop leanings. Ironically, one of Austin's most popular bands may have one of Austin's most commercially viable records on its hands and still be left to wonder about its fan base. Sutton believes the answer may lie where every reformed jam band knows best -- the road.
"Essentially, Plans A, B, and C are just to tour and spread everything as far and thick as possible."