by Peter Crigler
Back in the early 2000's when rap rock was all the rage, a band came out trying to be different and made a bit of difference. The band was Audiovent and at the time they were best known as being led by the brothers of Incubus leaders Brandon Boyd and Mike Einziger. While the band were far from Incubus clones, they got lumped into a similar category. Signing with Atlantic, they released Dirty Sexy Knights in Paris in the spring of 2002. Aside from the really lame cover art, the album was a revelation. A hard rock tour de force seemingly smacking the face of Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park or Korn, the album barely dented the Billboard chart. The band did manage a top 10 radio hit with "The Energy," a song that still sounds great today. Despite a really strong record, the band ended up succumbing to creative tension and broke up within a year and a half. Einziger and bassist Paul Fried hooked back up in Agent Sparks, a band signed to Immortal Records a few years later. That project soon ended as well but everyone has stayed friendly with one another. In early 2017, Ben answered some questions I had about a band and one great record.
PSF: When did you first become interested in music?
Ben: I was incredibly fascinated by music and the magical world it created around me. My mom sang opera, and often played the piano and guitar around the house. I'd accompany her, or at least attempt to accompany her. Regarding my interest in starting a band, that all happened in 7th grade. I went to a Jr. High School dance, and saw a band of 8th graders playing cover songs. One of them being "Sweet Child of Mine." I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Shortly thereafter, my brother's band (Incubus) started up as well. At that time, I was playing classical music on the piano... which I loved... However, I was listening mostly to metal bands (Pantera, Metallica, Motley Crue), and really wanted to play those songs. I even purchased a music book, to play these songs on piano, but they sounded ridiculous and incorrect being played on the piano. Thus leading me to pick up the guitar.
PSF: Did you pick up a lot of influence from your brother and what he was doing?
Ben: Absolutely! He's the reason I got into heavy metal music. He showed me Metallica, Deicide, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, etc. I loved how aggressive metal/rock music sounded. Mike was much more fascinated with being a well-rounded guitarist than me. I simply wanted to be a good rhythm guitarist, and write songs. I probably would have benefited significantly had I been a more disciplined guitar student. I literally took 8 lessons and then taught myself everything else.
PSF: How did Audiovent come together?
Ben: In 8th grade, my step-brother Paul (bass player) had just began playing the bass, and was asked by Jason Boyd to come jam. I'd been playing guitar for about 2 weeks, and asked if I could come along. Jason was cool with the idea, so I joined the party. We started jamming, playing original four-chord rock songs. The first song we wrote was called "Why?" It was a blast! So loud and expressive. AND that's how it all started.
PSF: How did the band hook up with Atlantic Records and what are your memories of that time?
Ben: I think that was around 2001. We started having multiple record labels reaching out to us, due to the fact our phone number was printed on our self-released LP Papas Dojo. We'd been consistently selling out all the music venues in Hollywood (Roxy, Whisky, Troubadour, Key Club), and the word began to spread. We'd also received some radio play from the alternative radio station at the time in Santa Barbara (KHTY). We'd met with many labels - Capitol, Interscope, Maverick, Epic, Virgin, MCA, and Atlantic. We felt like Atlantic shared the same vision we had. It was certainly an exciting time. We'd worked so hard, for so many years, and it was all finally starting to happen for us.
PSF: Is it true that the band went to see a therapist like Metallica did to work out any issues within the band?
Ben: That is "Sad but true"... see what I did there?..haha. There were many interpersonal issues in our band. Which is why we couldn't make it past a first record once pressure and money were involved. Therapy helped us to not push everything under the rug, and build up constant resentment. However, the results were only temporary. As we became unglued rather quickly.
PSF: What was 'success' like and how did everyone deal with it?
Ben: I kinda liked it... I guess??. It felt nice to be appreciated. To be totally honest, I started getting really weird panic attacks and anxiety when we first started touring. The lack of sleep, the drinking, the stress from the label regarding album sales, and all the attention made me lose my mind a bit. I had to go on anti-anxiety medication for about 8 months to adjust.
PSF: Were there many comparisons to Incubus and how did it feel?
Ben: There were many comparisons to Incubus and I completely understand why. Speaking personally, I really admired their band, and was incredibly influenced by them. I still am with the songs I write today. I wasn't offended at all by the comparison, but I know a couple other band members didn't appreciate it much.
PSF: What happened with the aborted second record? Were any tracks fully completed?
Ben: All of the tracks we created for the second record were just demos. We literally became a totally different sounding band on our second record. We were smoking a lot of weed at that time, and weren't as influenced by the "in your face," hard-rock sound we were going after on DSKIP. Plus, we parted ways with Jamin, who was one of the primary writers in our band.
PSF: What caused Jamin to leave, was this before or after the 2nd record?
Ben: We were creatively on totally separate pages, which caused a lot of personal and creative turmoil. That's really all it was. When I was a kid, making music was simply fun and expressive. Once we got a record deal, everything became more serious, Writing songs became much more of struggle. Everyone used to accept each other's artistic offerings. But as the pressure grew pressure, each individual's artistic contribution was scrutinized under a magnifying glass. What initially was a safe place creatively, became a den of stress.
PSF: Did the band change their name to go in a new direction?
Ben: We just changed our name so we could practice our new songs in a live setting, with no one coming to see us.
PSF: Were you guys dropped by Atlantic; what happened with that?
Ben: Yep, as the record industry was collapsing, we were one of the bands that were hacked off with a machete. Basically, our initial A&R representative was let go, and we were given a totally new person. We didn't jive with him - he was jumping over creative boundaries as if he were part of our band. We weren't really down with that, and expressed that to him in a meeting. A week later, we were told Atlantic Records wasn't going to keep us on the roster.
PSF: What ultimately caused the breakup of the band? Are there any hard feelings as a result?
Ben: I think we were all exhausted and a bit sick of each other to be completely honest. Our fluidity was gone, and it stopped being fun. We met with a few other major record labels that were interested potentially signing us, but we threw in the towel.
PSF: How did Agent Sparks start and what was that project like?
Ben: I literally just started writing a ton of songs. I spent about a month writing by myself. Recording vocals, and music. My friend Steph Eitel was and is an exceptional singer. I initially asked her to be the lead singer for Agent Sparks, and she was more than happy to join. However, once I started singing the songs for her, she felt us singing them together would reflect the emotion more profoundly. I asked Paul Fried to join as bass player, along with my friend Ryland Steen, who'd been playing drums for Audiovent after we parted ways with Jamin. This project was a breath of fresh air. I was so jazzed and inspired by music again. I really had no idea how to sing, or to be a front man, but nonetheless was really stoked. After about 6 months of being a band, we signed a new record deal to Immortal Records, and hit the road.
PSF: What caused the breakup of that band?
Ben: In Audiovent, we went from touring in my Ford Ranger pickup truck, to a 15 passenger van, to a huge tour bus. We'd built our team of to finally having a tour manager, guitar tech, drum tech, and bus driver. When Agent Sparks started, we were back in a van, driving on average 8 hours a day to play tiny clubs, with sometimes 2-5 people there. I guess what I'm trying to say, is we went backwards, and had to rebuild. Which was a blast… for a while…. However, we had a difficult time finding bands that we fit to tour with. We were touring with lots of screamo, post-emo (did I just write that?... ugh) bands. Honestly the only band were toured with that made sense to me was Veruca Salt. Their band and their fans seemed to understand the art we were creating.
PSF: Do you guys still keep in touch and what is everyone up to?
Ben: Yeah, everyone's totally cool with each other now. We'll see one another from time to time. From what I know, everyone is still making music on their own, and really happy. Actually about 5 years ago, me, Jason, Paul, and Jamin went into a rehearsal room and played all of DKSIP. It was really fun! Who knows? Maybe we'll play a reunion show some day. I'm a Creative Director/Composer for Massive Music. We create original music and sound design for film and television. Paul is a lead salesman for a Chevrolet dealership. I know Jason is composing music and acting. But you'd have to ask him for a more detailed report. And Jamin is composing songs and scores for film , television, and his own personal albums.
PSF: What do you hope Audiovent's overall legacy will be?
Ben: I just hope our music helped some people. In any capacity.
PSF: Do you have any favorite stories from your time in the band?
Ben: One of my favorite times in Audiovent was opening for Incubus at the Bakersfield Centennial Garden. Prior to this show, we literally hadn't played a club larger than 700 seats. And now we were about to perform in front of 12k people. It was mind blowing!!! But honestly, the coolest part of the experience was having my brother on stage next to me, standing in as my guitar tech (while wearing a hooded sweatshirt over his head). No one knew it was him handing me all my guitars, and helping me fix my pedal board, when my sound cut out in the first song. I felt like I was playing to outer space. That's what playing a huge indoor venue of that magnitude feels like. Unreal!
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