Fans are surprised that your crusty chronicler hasn’t written about Fenix*TX yet. Truth is your favorite performer profiler has known about this group since before their MCA debut disc. Truth is, yours truly generally prefers to give priority to bands that don’t have names that make him look egotistical. Nevertheless, as per a personal request or two we will dedicate this edition of my column to none other than Fenix*TX. Enjoy, my faithful fans!
Fenix TX (spelled Fenix*TX) is an American pop-punk quartet. The band was formed in 1995 in Texas and originally named Riverfenix after the late actor River Phoenix. The founding members were: guitarists Will Salazar and Damon DeLaPaz and singer Carl Lockstedt.
Lockstedt would soon be out, however, after bringing in bassistAdam Lewis and drummerDonnie Reyes. Salazar would be left to sing lead. (Guitarist Tony Avitia would also be part of the group during 1995 as well.) They would hit the Texas pop punk scene playing at some of the same locales as the band Goldfinger.
They would gain a following significant enough to make them marketable. In fact, under their original name of Riverfenix they put out several recordings (starting in 1996): and EP titled G.B.O.H. (which they would tour to promote), and an the eponymous album , Riverfenix, on Drive-Thru Records (but would soon after received a cease and desist order from the estate of the dead actor).
DeLaPaz was dating the sister of Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus. Once Hoppus heard their music he got them a gig opening for his band on a tour. He would later become their manager. Riverfenix would also contribute a track, “Ordinary World”, to the 1997 compilation The Duran Duran Tribute Album.
Two years later, (1999) Hoppus had to stop managing the band because Blink-182 had become too successful and therefore too busy. Rick DeVoe, Blink-182’s manager, picked up where Hoppus had to leave off. Meanwhile, Salazar and company was getting a significant amount of airplay with their song “Speechless”.
In fact, it was this and Hoppus’ previous efforts to promote and manage the band that got the attention of Blink-182’s record label MCA. Riverfenix caved to the previously-mentioned legal threats and changed their moniker to Fenix*TX and were signed to MCA later that same year. Fenix TX went into the studio and re-recorded the bulk of their 1997 CD for their MCA debut Fenix TX, and released it that summer.
The 13-cut album premiered at number 115 on the Billboard 200and hit number three on Billboard‘s Top Heatseekers aswell. Their single “All My Fault” was a success for a number of reasons. The band made a cameo appearance in the 2000 TV movie Jailbait and the song was featured in the soundtrack. The network returned the favor as the song’s music video starred Alycia Purrottfrom the movie cast. The tune hit number 21 on the BillboardModern Rock charts too.
Unfortunately, their connection to Blink-182 was, at best, a mixed blessing. They were initially considerd by some critics to be “a Blink-182rip-off”. One publication, The Daily Athenaeum, for example, called the 1999 album “a very good Blink-182 album”.
In truth, although both bands stick to the same genre, they are not all that similar. Fenix TX uses two guitars. Their music, therefore, has a more complex accompaniment. Additionally, Fenix TX was incorporating brass (trumpet and trombone) and unique vocal techniques to their tracks at a time when Blink-182 was relying on their basic guitar/bass/drum arrangement.
Fenix TX broadened their musical horizons, touching upon other music genres such as hip hop and ska punk with such tunes as “Apple Pie Cowboy Toothpaste”and “Skinhead Jessie”. The former includes a rap which first appeared in the 1984 movie Revenge of the Nerds. Perhaps the Fenix TX signature sound, however, is simply a pop-friendly, energetic, distortion guitar-driven sound with melodic yet fast-paced vocal patterns.
The lyrics are generally a blend of personal, political and sometimes humorous subjects as in the cuts “Ben”, “Minimum Wage” and “Rooster Song” respectively. They followed up their MCA premiere with numerous tours to promote their music. Before the New Year the band would also contribute a Christmas carol, “Feliz Navidad” to the compilation KROQ’s Kevin and Beanpresent: The Real Slim Santa.
Unfortunately, before the end of the year Reyes left the band “to pursue other interests”. To fill the void, DeLaPaz took over drumming duties and they went hunting for a new guitarist. In a couple of months,they had found guitarist James Love. At the same 2001 press conference they also announced the name of their follow-up recording, Lechuza.
The band released Lechuzain May that same year. It debuted at number 87 on the Billboard 200 chart and their single “Threesome” hit number 66 on the UK Singles Chart. (“Katie W.” did not fare as well.) The 11-track disc contained music that some critics considered “more raucous and energetic” than those on the previous platter.
This one also included the occasional escape into heavy metal-like guitar distortionand almost screaming vocals. According to the band, they altered their style because Lewis and DeLaPaz didn’t seem to approve of the band’s other material. As Salazar would later reveal in an interview: “The guys were looking for a different direction so they wrote some songs that were way different, like ‘Something Bad’s Gonna Happen’ and ‘Pasture of Muppets’,and ‘Brandon Lovers’ just so that they could have some songs that they could, in their words,’ actually have fun playing onstage’.” One of these tracks, “Beating a Dead Horse”, explicitly focuses on the troubles that had arisen within the group.
The tunes certainly distinguished them from their peers regardless of the problems. Lechuza, in essence, was split into two sections: half of the songs were by Salazar and the other half by Lewis and DeLaPaz. This was obviously why the band appeared to have adopted a new musical attitude.
Salazr’s songs were a little edgier but generally along the lines of the band’s previous material. At times it was humorous. “Phoebe Cates”, for example was about actress Phoebe Catesand her legendary pool scene in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
There was also romantic material such as “A Song for Everyone” as well as positive themes such as in “Abba Zabba”. On the other hand, DeLapaz and Lewis’ songs were more hardcore and heavy metal-influenced and often included aggressive lyrics and gang vocals. The aforementioned “Something Bad Is Gonna Happen” is highlighted by a very sharp lead guitar as well as a high-pitched guitar solo by Love while the hardcore reminiscent “Beating a Dead Horse” in unique because it is the only number that is primarily sung by Lewis.
The project was not as successful as its predecessor. Some say this was due to the “stylistic disparity” in the music. Some critics specifically took issue with the group’s “attempt at composing a hardcore song” meaning “Beating a Dead Horse”. Even their live gigs brought the band criticism “for their leanings towards alternative metal” instead of their original pop punk style.
The two albums still sold a collective total of over 600,000 units before 2002. No doubt fan loyalty outweighed everything else. Evidence indicates that the next album—had there been one—would have been a harder rocking record. Although they would soon disband it would not happen before they would include the track “O’Bleek” on the compilation Welcome to the Family.
The following year, 2002, would find the band contributing what would be their final cut on a compilation album–“Get Outta My Dreams, (Get Into My Car)”–on NASCAR: Crank It Up. The rift between the two founding members and Salazar grew causing Love to quit the band after the release of the record. Dennis Hill of the Southern Californian pop punk band Leftywould be brought in to take his place temporarily to tour with the group.
Since Pivit’s Chris Lewis (unrelated to bassist Adam Lewis) would eventually be pursued as a permanent replacement, Hill would never become a legal member of the band. This loophole would lead to the downfall of the group. This would be what would allow the DeLaPaz and Adam Lewis to overrule Salazar in the decision to disband the band.
And so, in the middle of the writing process for the third Fenix TX CD, the official band break-up was announced in September of 2002 despite the fact that Salazar had hoped to keep the group together. After the break-up, the band members moved on to form two separate new bands. Chris lewis and Salazar formed the post-grunge band Denver Harbor while DeLaPaz and Adam Lewis (as well as ex-guitarist James Love) would start up the now defunct project Sing the Body Electric.
It would not be until two years later (2004) that the band would reform to play two reunion shows with their last active line-up: Salazar, Chris Lewis, Adam Lewis and DeLaPaz in Anaheim, California. Drive-Thru Records, the group’s old label, filmed both performances. Plans were made to put out a DVD and a live CD but to date the finished product has yet to see the light of day. (Somewhere in the new millennium mix Scott Hamilton also added his vocals and guitar work to the band’s performances as well.)
Exactly one year later (2005) the band reunited once again. This time they recorded the live disc titled Purple Reign in Blood – Live. They supported it with tours across the US and Japan.
Both were said to be “farewell tours”: the Before the Blackout, After the Breakup Tour in the US and the Drive-Thru Invasion Tour 2006 in Japan which went from late 2005 until 2006. Denver Harbor–Salazar’s and Chris Lewis’ other band– supported them on the states tour which had both of them playing two sets a night. This was one of the major reasons many of the tour dates were cancelled on the same day they were scheduled. Additionally, halfway through this tour DeLaPaz was fired and replaced by Ilan Rubin from Denver Harbor for the last half of the tour.
A month after the tours, the group gigged at three more places with No Use for a Name and then went on a two-week tour with Unwritten Law the following month. The band was supposed to tour Europe later that same year. Unfortunately, Salazar developed polypson his vocal folds and the tour was cancelled.
The tour cancellation was announced at the same time the band officially announced that Rubin replaced DeLaPaz on drums and that Fenix TX would finally record their follow-up to 2001’s Lechuza. (Rubin also signed on to play drums for Lostprophets and Nine Inch Nails. Three years later (2009) on the five year anniversary of the first Fenix*Tx reunion, the band announced via Fenix Tx’s Myspace page that the original RiverFenix line-up would reform to work on a new album they hoped to release sometime last year (2010). As this goes to press no further official information was available about the album but the band is reported to be presently scheduling live performances.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.