When Memphis-based band Saliva formed in 1996, they went about achieving their rock star dreams the old-fashioned way. They bought a crappy van and trailer, toured constantly, literally wherever anyone would book them, and sold their independent CD release, Saliva, out of the trunk of their car. They sold about 20,000 copies. “We paid our dues,” lead singer Josey Scott said. And it’s all paid off.
Scott, who spoke to The New Times from Tennessee where the band had just played a show on their HardDrive Live Spring Fling Tour, will bring Saliva to the Lost Horizon, 5863 Thompson Road, Wednesday, May 4, 7:30 p.m. Opening outfits include Emphatic, Madam Adam, Rev Theory and Seven Day Sonnet.
The band originally sported a lineup featuring Scott, bassist Dave Novotny, drummer Paul Crosby and guitarists Chris Dabaldo and Wayne Swinny. They all came from various Memphis bands and simply decided they wanted to do a project of their own. “We got together, started writing songs and made up the name Saliva,” Scott recalled.
The group maintained a relentless touring circuit and first gained the attention of local radio stations; major labels came sniffing around later. Saliva showcased “for every label out there,” according to Scott, but eventually made the decision to join Island/Def Jam, a label they’ve stayed with throughout their career.
Their first major-label album, Every Six Seconds in 2001, broke into the mainstream of rock-rap with the singles “Your Disease” and “Click Click Boom,” both aggressively catchy songs that allowed the hard-edgers to gain mass appeal. Throughout the next 10 years, Saliva released five more studio albums— Back into Your System (2002), Survival of the Sickest (2004), Blood Stained Love Story (2007), Cinco Diablo (2008), and their latest, Under Your Skin—plus 2010’s greatest-hits retrospective Moving Forward in Reverse.
Saliva members used to live near each other in Tennessee, often writing and collaborating together. Scott noted more recently, however, that he and Novotny, Crosby and Swinny tend to write 50 percent individually and 50 percent together, since the players now take separate residences in Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma. They began writing Under Your Skin during the tour for Blood Stained Love Story and finished work on the album in Los Angeles after the tour ended.
The group still tours as fiercely as in their pre-label days, notching nearly 300 dates a year. So what’s their secret to getting along after years of relentless traveling? “Comedy is a big part of it,” said Scott. “A lot of Saturday Night Live skits.”
Another component could be the enormous success the band has enjoyed. “We played a festival in Milwaukee to about 50,000 people and they screamed so loud we actually stopped playing and let them scream for like 20 minutes,” Scott said. “It was pretty incredible.”
But Scott and company can still handle the rush, even when it seems impossible. “When there’s screaming and fireworks going off and all these television cameras in your face,” he noted, “you’ve just got to bottle up your nervousness and the loudness of the rockets going off in your ears and actually play a song even when you can’t remember the words and millions of people are watching. It’s mindnumbing at first, but you keep your head down and push through it.”
Part of his determination as an artist comes from his family and from his lifelong drive to perform. Scott’s father, after all, was also a musician. As Scott grew up, so did his musical tastes, as he wanted to emulate acts such as The Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, N.W.A. and others. He even recalls bringing in a rock’n’roll record for show-and-tell as a child; while other classmates were sharing their dreams to be firemen and doctors, Scott decided, “I want to be this.”
Today, Scott knows he made the right choice. “I love being in the moment of the song with the fans and I’ll never really have to make myself keep it fresh,” he said. “I really do feel every moment of every song, every night and I revisit that feeling of when I wrote the lyrics of the song and I can share that with the fans. And when they repeat your lyrics back to you—it truly is a drug for me.”
Scott was also sure to note that for those who haven’t seen Saliva before, the Wednesday, May 4, show is the perfect opportunity to break the seal. “It’s going to be my birthday show,” Scott said, although that blessed event actually occurred yesterday, May 3. “So it’s gonna be one hellacious party.”
Admission to the Saliva show, sponsored by WAQX-FM 95.7 (95X), is $19.95. For Lost Horizon lowdown, call 446-1934.
Saliva: Rock rules and drools at the Lost Horizon on Wednesday, May 4.