Unwritten Law

Unwritten Law Biography

So you say you want to write artist bios for record companies. Believe me, it's not as glamorous as you think. You don't get to frolic in debauched backstage scenes. You don't become buddies with the band. You do get to interview the artists and learn something about how they feel about what they're doing. That, at least, is standard practice-but not this time.

Unwritten Law, whose slamming, melodic, big-beat style has already rocked major houses from hometown San Diego to distant Atlantic shores, needs a bio to go with Elva, their new album. Sure, I tell the nice folks at Interscope, I'd be happy to write this one. Unwritten Law is one of the tightest, most passionate, and lyrically eloquent bands I've heard in recent years. Judging from what I've encountered in recent years from these guys, they're smart, they're dedicated to what they do, and I'm sure they've got a lot to say. And indeed they probably do … but they wouldn’t tell me.

Here's the deal. Unwritten Law doesn't want a regular bio. They want something different. How different? Well, first of all, they don't want to talk to the bio writer. I can live with that. In fact, when my copy of Elva shows up, I figure it's no problem. From the opening, overdriven guitar arpeggio on the first track, an intriguing and ambiguous paean to non-love titled "Mean Girl," this album burns with blazing beats and attitudinal narratives. Scott Russo's vocals, sometimes raw, sometimes plaintive, surf the bristling rhythms laid down by bassist Pat Kim and drummer Wade Youman, with Steve Morris and Rob Brewer laying down massive guitar washes that cut like waves of razors. Their range has grown terrifically on Elva: They nod toward reggae on the verses before slamming into a wall-of-sound chorus and fading to a wistful finale on "How You Feel. They harmonize like Gen-Y Everlys on "Sound Siren," and break Mach-One on the tempo meter with the explosive jump-jive "Blame It On Me."

Yeah, that's cool, but the guys don't really want the usual P.R. excess in this bio. They want something more minimal. How minimal? Well, is it possible to break the whole thing down to one word? And so here sits the bio writer, staring at a screen already crawling with hyperbole. Maybe that's just how hired-gun wordsmiths look at the world. If something hits us as hard as Elva, we've got to put it into words. How else can I let you know about the astonishing compact power of this band, how they're able to begin with hushed intimacy, build quickly to volcanic climaxes, take it back down again, and leave the listener exhilarated in less than four minutes of "Seein' Red." Or satirize social priorities with goofball finesse and a sing-along hook on "Actress, Model …" Or slash through the punk straitjacket that misguided observers locked on them through their friendship with Socal pals blink-182.

You can't really appreciate how far Unwritten Law has come even since their eponymous, chart-busting album three years ago unless somebody points out the tasty bits of synth that add sonic dimension to "Evolution," or the retro folk strum that drifts the listener into "Rest of My Life." But, of course, you and I both know that this is a lie. You don't need anyone to tell you how much these guys rawk. All you need is your copy of Elva. Put it on. Reach your own conclusions. As for that one word, what can the bio writer say? Consider it Unwritten. You can provide the second word yourself.

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