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Members include Tommy Black (joined group, 2002), bass; Andy Blunda (joined group, 2000), guitar, keyboard; Steve Clark (left group, 2000), drums; James Grundler, lead singer, guitar; Jason Johnson (left group, 2002), guitar; Alex Parnell, bass; Florian Reinert (joined group, 2000), drums. Addresses: Record company--American Recordings, Island Def Jam Music Group, Worldwide Plaza, 825 8th Ave., New York, NY 10019. Website--Paloalto Official Website: http://www.americanrecordings.com/paloalto/.
In the cutthroat environment of today's music industry, it takes a formidable musical force to get listeners attention. Paloalto, a Los Angeles-based, Anglo-inspired band, has proven itself worthy of notice. First signed by star music producer Rick Rubin in 1999, Paloalto overcame a tumultuous turn early in its career to emerge as one of the music world's most talked-about groups.
Paloalto was founded by singer, guitarist, and songwriter James Grundler. He spent much of his youth writing music and playing in local bands, until he decided to form his own group in the mid-1990s. After Grundler spotted guitarist Jason Johnson during a performance at a local club, he persuaded Johnson to join him in his new endeavor. On another notable evening, Grundler was performing acoustic versions of Catherine Wheel and Swervedriver songs when he met fellow Catherine Wheel fan, bassist Alex Parnell, who also signed on. Joined by Steve Clark on drums, the four became Paloalto in 1998. (The group was named for Grundler's nursery school, not the northern California city.) As Grundler explained to Dazed and Confused, "I wanted a name that suggested a new beginning. And Paloalto was the first place it all began for me."
Paloalto began playing at a Los Angeles nightclub called the Mint on Pico Boulevard. Their first performance attracted only about ten people, most of them friends, but the group was invited back to perform and before long they had their own following and a demo circulating among record executives. It eventually reached American Recordings' Dino Paredes, who passed it onto producer Rick Rubin, known for producing groups like the Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other edgy rock and hip-hop acts. Rubin was impressed with Paloalto's songs and signed them almost immediately after he heard them play at Hollywood's infamous Viper Room. "I was really shocked," Grundler explained to Filter magazine, "but I guess he saw beyond the sonic ambiance of the music and just saw into the songs. I think he really responds to that. I mean, if you call him up, you're put on hold and it's the Beatles. That's what his music is. That's what he totally relates to."
Paloalto began recording their debut album in December of 1999, with Rubin as producer. They finished in March of 2000 and released the album in October of the same year. The record, which was expected to propel the group to celebrity status, brought change and challenge instead. In 2000 drummer Steve Clark was replaced by Florian Reinert, who aced out more than 40 contenders for the job. Additionally, keyboardist Andy Blunda--who'd helped out during a performance at the Viper Room--was brought on board during the recording. Blunda then decided he liked the band so much he wanted to join as a full-time member.
Paloalto, whose emotionally charged music is influenced by Pink Floyd and "shoegazer" groups like Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine, earned a great deal of praise from the music community. An unlikely fan, rocker Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, claimed in the group's biography in Hip Online that "Paloalto has made the record Radiohead should have made. The first brilliant American record of the millennium. A semblance of brilliance in a sea of sh**." An even more unlikely fan, the raucous frontman of Limp Bizkit, Fred Durst, exclaimed in the same biography, "Paloalto is a real band with a real sound and real songs! Make no mistake that this band has credibility and a definite career."
Although Paloalto embarked on a high-profile gig, opening for such groups like Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam, their luck quickly turned when American Recordings left parent company Sony for Universal Records. Their debut album was lost in the corporate shuffle. "We kind of got chewed up by the machine," Grundler told Hip Online. "There are so many politics involved. People lose their jobs at the label and quit and one of the chains in the link are broken, everything else just falls apart. It didn't get the proper attention it should have gotten."
Although many groups have chosen to disband and/or drop out of the public eye after disasters like this, Paloalto chose to regroup and move ahead. Jason Johnson left the band, Blunda took over guitar and keyboard duties, and bassist Tommy Black joined. Grundler put his frustrations into his songwriting, which proved a contributing factor in the group's next album: the insightful, critically acclaimed Heroes and Villains. "Yeah we felt a bit betrayed by our label," Blunda said to Guitar One. "That's where the whole concept for new album came from; once we had written the songs, we realized that's what it's all about. We had seen the 'heroes and villains' of the record of the industry."
The group's emotional baggage made for a successful sophomore effort as the melodic songs and empowered arrangements clearly pointed to a recharged group ready to steer a new course. Alternative Press described Heroes and Villains as "loaded with lilting melodies, powerfully introspective lyrics, swelling harmonies and an orchestral quality whose timelessness transcends trends."
In 2003 Paloalto toured with both Supergrass and Soundtrack of our Lives. That same year they landed on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, fueling speculation that they may be the one group that can live up to their hype.
by Nicole Elyse
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA, 1998; signed to Sony/American Recordings, 1999; released self-titled debut, 2000; released Heroes and Villains, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Paloalto , Sony/American, 2000.
- (Contributor) Shallow Hal (soundtrack), Universal, 2001.
- Fade Out/In (UK), Universal, 2003.
- Heroes and Villains American, 2003.
- Alternative Press, July 2003.
- Dazed and Confused, March 2003.
- Esquire, May 2003.
- Filter, May/June 2003.
- Guitar One, June 2003.
- Interview, April 2003.
- Kerrang!, February 25, 2003.
- Los Angeles Times, April 3, 2003.
- New Musical Express, February 4, 2003.
- Spin, March 2001.
- USA Today, July 22, 2003
- Vanity Fair, March 2003.
- "Paloalto," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 26, 2003).
- "Paloalto," Hip Online, http://www.hiponline.com (September 21, 2003).
- "Paloalto: Biography," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (September 20, 2003).
- "Paloalto: Only the Strong Survive" VH1, http://www.vh1.com (September 20, 2003).
- Additional information was obtained from American Recordings publicity materials, 2003
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