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"After college, I owned a recording studio for a couple of years," says Hancock. "And I lived in a cemetery. I was the caretaker. I got free rent. It was a four-bedroom house. The old mortuary was in the basement, and they didn't use it. So I bought some equipment and recorded bands. I recorded probably twenty, thirty bands out of there before I moved here."
He came to Denver to "start over," he says, and placed an ad at a local music store. Silver answered it, and the first incarnation of Rubber Planet started playing the coffeehouse circuit as a twosome. Two years later, the combo added Matt Morse on drums and soon released Just Visiting, an eleven-song affair that contains one of the act's most popular live songs, "Space Girl."
The 1999 debut, produced in conjunction with Bill Wilkinson, is a decent local release -- but it soundslocal. Though tuneful, it's more lighthearted and cheeky than the band's later efforts. Everything from the production and packaging -- which pictures a group of pubescent kids cloaked in makeshift, metallic robes like an extraterrestrial Polyphonic Spree, surrounded by aliens and astronauts -- fit the goofy name. (Contrary to popular myth, that name has nothing to do with prophylactics; Silver says it came to him in a dream.)
In the summer of 2000, Rubber's lineup was bolstered by the addition of Vita, who'd been playing in local outfits like Somebody's Sister and Pet the Monster, on second guitar. But the current version of the band didn't solidify until 2002. Morse left the act to devote more time to his family, and the group went through a slew of drummers before finding his replacement through Music Mates, a matchmaking service for musicians. At his audition, Leo 7, a native of Gomez, Mexico, who'd cut his teeth in cover bands across his homeland, already knew some of the band's material. By the second rehearsal, a week later, he knew all of it.
And he didn't just know the songs; he helped them come alive. By the time the act recorded Fun With Rubber, its sound -- a guitar-driven, retro-tinged, new-wave power pop -- had started to coalesce, with Leo's powerhouse timekeeping augmenting Silver's developing songwriting prowess. The dual guitar attack of Hancock and Vitamin G still shines on cuts like "Surprise" and "Super Glue."
Even though the band's members were happy with that record, they realized they'd have to step it up with the next. "We knew going into it that it had to be a good record," says Hancock. "You know, Love.45 was doing great things. Rexway was doing great things. Our last record kind of got ripped on a lot. So we hired Bill Thomas and we told him what our concerns were, and he kind of kept us in the mindset that we were making a whole record. And I think it helped out a lot. It was completely calculated. It's not just by chance that it's a better record. We worked really hard on it."
"We sat down," Vita chips in, "and we said, ŒIf we don't make a lot better record than we just made, you know, it would be the end.'"
"Yeah," Hancock confirms, "it would have been the death of our band."
Instead, Rubber Planet just released what may be the album of its career. The production is flawless, the melodies instantly memorable, the packaging top-notch. But most important, the music is far beyond anything the band's released to date. Songs like "Girl From Tomorrow," "Vortex" and "Mason Jars," with their cascading melodies and giant harmonies, are custom-made for screaming down the highway with the windows down.
Not only that, but the lyrics are smarter. "I have to owe a lot of my lyrics to Mr. Vita here," Silver confesses. "When we were doing Fun With Rubber, when he joined us, he was like, 'The best songs are about telling stories. If you can tell a story that people relate to, that's the coolest. That's going to stand up.' Because before, all I really cared about was melody. I had never thought I was really good at the lyrics."
"I saw him working harder on the lyrics," says Hancock. "He'd sit there and actually try to come up with different stuff."
"I think we all kind of busted his balls a little," adds Vita. "We all busted each other's balls, like, 'What are we going to do to make this better?' You know, like, ŒLet's make the best record we can.'"
Mission accomplished. Now on to more nights of drunken debauchery.
Well, maybe just debauchery. Silver is a confirmed teetotaler, which makes him feel "like a babysitter sometimes at three in the morning," he says. "I got drunk once and passed out on the street. I had a bad experience -- it wasn't fun for me at all. So I don't have the taste for alcohol; it kind of freaks me out to this day. I just never really picked it up.
"And I'm addicted to so many other things, like food and sex," he adds with a laugh, "that if I started drinking, it would just be really bad. I'd lose all sense of control."
At least he'd be in good company.