Somewhere in New York, Unwritten Law’s manager is booking a bunch of press junkets. An interview with the once Poway-based band has to be scheduled nearly two weeks in advance because the group has appearances slated for Fuse, MTV and “The Tonight Show.” After having been thrown back into the limelight following a two-year hiatus, drummer Tony Palermo still seems dazed from the media blitz.
In all fairness, the stunting news of Unwritten Law having jumped labels five times and nearly broken up leaves Palermo completely startled. After all, bands such as Fenix TX, Finch and Orgy, which have shared similar moves in the recording business, were once on-the-up before they burned out. Palermo, on the other hand, doesn’t like to take credit for keeping the band together and churning out Here’s To The Mourning, the band’s fifth studio release.
Much has changed with UL. Virtually everyone’s new to the quartet except vocalist Scott Russo and guitarist Rob Brewer. Even the sound has evolved, with the replacement of acoustic renditions in favor of electronic ear candy.
“Every record is different from the one before,” Palermo said. “When we played the first couple times together, it was cool not playing the same songs. The set that we do live is pretty diverse – you got your reggae songs, punk songs and rock songs.”
Despite this seeming reincarnation, UL is already fending off criticism, citing an undeniably successful recording history and a chart-moving single, “Save Me.”
“We didn’t want to come out with the poppy, typical ‘They wrote this for radio’ stuff,” Palermo said. “We thought there were some heavier tracks to slam people with. But it worked out that way; it’s getting a lot of feedback as far as people relating to it.”
Coming up with additional tracks wasn’t a stroll in the park either because Palermo wasn’t part of the permanent lineup yet. Former drummer Wade Youman, who rocked the SoCal scene with the band during the early 1990s, dropped last year. Palermo said Brooks Wackerman of Bad Religion initially called him to play with UL, since the band was shy of a drummer and needed one stat.
“It helped me knowing (Unwritten Law) and the material, because it was just easier for practice sessions,” Palermo said, referring back to when his former band opened for UL.
The rest of the album became a product of introspection.
“Before I jumped in, there were only a few songs that were written, and everybody was sort of like, ‘What’re we doing?’” he said. “They weren’t sure if they were going to continue, and Scott was just ready to call it quits.”
Essentially, the band poured its soul into the new album and, eventually, surfaced with “She Says,” a strong contender for the likes of “Up All Night.”
“It was a family relationship that went sour,” Palermo said about Russo’s inspiration for the lyrics. “It’s about his dad and his stepmom. Basically, the chorus says, ‘She said she doesn’t love you anymore.’ When he was younger, he heard that being said in an argument, and it pretty much stayed with him. It’s sort of an angry song, but it’s also something he lived through.”
Upon completion of the album, however, UL encountered another conflict. While playing a cancer benefit show as a promotional tactic, the band was taped on an episode of MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” a television series that featured two teenaged San Diegan girls’ over-the-top birthday celebration.
“On the show, it was weird,” Palermo said. “It looked like we just did it for the money. People were writing into our Web site and complaining about ‘those rich b**ches.’
“I just hope that, in the future, we don’t make ourselves vulnerable and get criticized for doing weird, cheesy things like that. It’s good exposure but, at the same time, you still have some integrity to uphold.”
Now he’s talking show biz.0 You Like?