Powerhouse trio Super 400 has been a successful band for fifteen years and they are still going full speed ahead. The rock band layers intricate riffs under delicate vocals to create unforgettable and relevant songs. In the midst of a tour with Stockholm Syndrome, Super 400- Lori Friday (bass), Joe Daley (drums), and Kenny Hohman (guitar) – is currently in the mountains of Colorado, performing its way down to Denver this Friday. The band plays the Belly Up in Aspen tonight, then Cervantes in Denver on Friday, and then the Fox Theatre in Boulder on Saturday. I had the pleasure of talking with the kind, thoughtful Friday, who answered my questions about touring with boys, the importance of writing good lyrics, and a little town called Troy.
Since the band is in the midst of playing several dates in Colorado, I wonder what they think of our great state. “We started out in Colorado, in Boulder, and we developed a really good fanbase there mostly thanks to our friends Rose Hill Drive,” Friday explains. “We’ve been playing with those guys for a lot of years and they were kind enough to bring us through and give us some really great shows at the theaters up in Boulder. We realized that a lot of the people in the metropolitan areas of Colorado are so good-natured and so welcoming and wonderful. Everyone makes us feel at home.” I always love to hear that bands like coming to Colorado. “People do love to go there,” Friday says honestly. “We went to see a Rockies game two years ago and all the fans were really kind. Even the fans from the opposing team were really kind and we thought ‘Where are we?’ It’s such a good example to set for humanity- everyone’s being kind to one another.”
Super 400 hails from Troy, New York, a place I am not familiar with. I ask Friday to give me a feel for the town. “Troy is a really tough little town,” she says honestly. “It’s a very old town. Back in the days of water transport, merchants would use the Hudson River- which runs from New York City right up to Troy- as a major mode of transportation for goods and services. Troy developed into this really beautiful city, in fact in the late 1800’s it was voted ‘Best City in America’ because of the potential it had. Luckily, pretty much all of the original architecture from the 1800’s has been completely left the same or restored in the downtown area. So it’s got this sort of, really pristine Victorian vibe when you walk around the town, which is in stark contrast to the working class atmosphere.”
In talking about Troy and its people, one can’t help but tie that into the town’s music scene. “It’s definitely a hard town- people work hard for what they have,” Friday relays. “They don’t have a lot but they stick together and the music scene reflects that. I think that Troy is known as having the best hardcore metal scene in New England. They actually have a name, they call it ‘Troycore’. We’re not hardcore musicians or anything, but I really admire that spirit. They stick together, they get each other’s backs and I love that. Now there’s starting to be a younger and hipper environment in the Troy downtown where there’s more of an indie thing going on. Some people are trying to start recording studios down there and trying to host little open mic jams and things like that. That’s phenomenal for the younger kids who normally wouldn’t get a chance to stand up in front of a crowd of people. It’s something that we didn’t necessarily have when we were coming up so it’s good to see. But we’ve been together for fifteen years now so we’ve seen all this stuff evolve and change.”
Fifteen years is a long time for a band to exist, especially in today’s music world where bands come and go faster than we can say “Awesome”. I’m curious to know what Friday thinks is the magic behind Super 400’s staying power. “We’re very comfortable with one another,” she shares. “When I was really, really young I had ideas of finding a guitar player to start a band with. I walked into a club one night in 1996 and saw Kenny and Joe playing on a stage and from one hundred and fifty feet away I was completely drawn to them. Since that time we’ve been together every day and sharing our lives together as friends. We’re also a family. We’re one of the best families I can imagine being a part of because we can argue with one another, we can be honest with one another, but we also trust one another enough with our weaknesses and our ideas that we’re not always that confident with. There’s a real freedom in that.”
Super 400 is two guys and one girl. Though they get along splendidly, I wonder if there are times when gender differences cause controversy while on the road. “That’s awesome,” Friday says laughing. “We have rules. The first couple years I had to keep reminding them that there was a certain rule in the van about different bodily functions. It took them a while, but I don’t blame them because they’re not used to riding around in a van with girl. Usually rock and roll is a ‘No girls allowed until after the show’ type of endeavor. But really that’s the worst of it because we all share the same habits. We have our little cleanliness rules in the van. We’re all a bunch of nerds when it comes to not having garbage in the van. We’ve got a garbage bag that we have to use, we can’t just throw bottles on the floor. But that’s pretty much it. Those guys are so easy to be around. We always tell people we could go to a landfill with some sticks and stones and have a good time for an afternoon.”
When it comes to writing songs, Super 400 takes varying approaches. But no matter what, they put much time and effort into crafting the perfect lyrics. “Sometimes songs come quickly, and other times a song can take a month, or five months to finish,” Friday explains. “For us, the hardest thing about writing songs is not the music- it’s always the lyrics. We’re such big fans of the great lyricists of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. We always want to be honest. It’s really easy for a songwriter to write words that just sound good- you know, this rhymes with that, or this word sounds really good at the end of that phrase. But to combine that with meaning is a real challenge. We’ve written some words that we thought really meant a lot to us but when we sang them they were a little awkward or they didn’t sit quite right so we just abandoned them, We always wish that we had a Bob Dylan in the band so we could just write the music and collaborate on the lyrics. As for the process, one person will work a song and get to where they just can’t work on it anymore and then bring it to the other two in the band. Then we flush it out as a group.”
Though inspiration for music flows from life and everyday experiences, songs can sometimes originate from some unique places. “One group of lyrics that Joe wrote that I really love is from the perspective of a teenage rock and roll fan that just bought tickets to a show,” Friday reveals. “Because when we were kids, there was no internet. If you were a fan of a band, you really had to seek that band out. You had to wait every month for Cream magazine or Rolling Stone to come out and hope there was a photo of the bass player’s new hairstyle, or to catch a glimpse of what pedal the guitar player used. It wasn’t like now where you can follow all these guys around, probably into the Twilight Zone. So Joe wrote this song wherw this kid buys a ticket to this show because he saw on a poster at a record store that the band was coming to town.” Friday pauses to remember the good old days. “Remember that?” I most certainly do. “You’d go to a record store, where there were cassettes, and there’d be a poster of your favorite band and you were like ‘Where do I get the tickets?!?'” Friday continues laughing. “Then you’d wait and wait, you’d count down the days and then pick out what shirt you were going to wear. Joe remembered that and felt it really strongly so he wrote a song about it. It’s really cool. It’s a good message- hopeful and innocent too.”
When the current tour ends, Super 400 has no plans to stop working. “We’re writing songs,” Friday says. “We have a studio up here. We live in the country, out in a rural area in upstate New York. We kind of keep to ourselves when we’re not on the road and we write. We’re also involved in our community. I do volunteer work and Kenny and I teach music lessons. We’re actually going to be starting a music school in our town because we’ve been teaching private lessons for ten years. We want to have our own joint. So we want to do that in 2011 and also write another record.”
It warms my heart to hear bands speak of the charity work they perform. I’m of the opinion that everyone should lend a helping hand, but bands especially as they are in a unique position to reach so many people. “If you’re lucky enough to be able to stand on a stage and have anyone listen to what you have to say, you almost have an obligation to put something positive into that persons mind,” Friday says sincerely. “If you’re music isn’t particularly positive, maybe your actions can be. Every one of our local shows is aligned with a charity, whether it’s feeding the homeless or helping the local animal shelter, we always make that effort. But it’s really not an effort; it’s so easy to do. You just have to solicit some help locally, and everyone’s always into that.”
Super 400 is perfectly happy with the fans that they already have, but if Friday had to choose anyone to be the band’s biggest fan, who would it be? “A high school kid with a lot of friends,” she states. “I’d like to be a peer of a lot of famous figures or whatever you want to call them. But as far as wanting someone to be a fan of the band, I would want it to be someone that’s searching for who they are. Because that helps me figure out who I am too. Maybe we can all figure it out together.”
Don’t miss the chance to see Super 400 while they are in Colorado. Tickets for the February 25th show at Cervantes show are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. It is an all-ages show, doors open at 8:00pm and Super 400 goes on at 9:00pm so don’t be late!