The back of a van isn't the ideal performance venue for many aspiring musicians. Just don't tell that to the four young chaps who make up the local band Foam, purveyors of alterna-metal guitar crunch from Hagerstown. After a show one night, frontman Jason Teach and lead guitarist Scott Fisher courted Epic Records general manager David Massey with some new material in the back of the group's van. He was so taken with their impromptu, unplugged performance that he made them an offer right then and there.
"The melodies were incredible," says Massey, "and all they had were acoustic guitars. At that moment I knew I had to sign this band."
Bolstered by the muscular rhythm section of bassist Keith Palmer and drummer Joel Weedy, Foam's first album with Epic, "Big Windshield, Little Mirror" emerges as an impressive clutch of songs characterized by loping guitar lines, sinewy melodies and catchy choruses. Released on March 3, "Big Windshield" has already begun garnering them consistent airplay on local rock stations. "I even heard we sold six in Hawaii," says Teach with a self-deprecating chuckle. The positive word-of-mouth has also landed them a high-profile gig playing outside Gate C at Camden Yards both before and after the Orioles-Tigers game tomorrow.
"I don't know how we got chosen, to be honest," says Teach of the performance sponsored by 98 Rock and the Orioles. "Our management just called up and asked us if we wanted to do it. I've always been a huge Orioles fan."
Teach, 23, seems similarly nonplused when asked about the solo rendition of the national anthem he's been asked to give in between Foam's two concourse sets. "It'll definitely be weird," he says, on the prospect of crooning one of the most bungled songs in history in front of thousands of expectant baseball fans. "But as far as being nervous or anything, . . . no."
Foam's members seem comfortable in the spotlight, and content that they are out of the studio and in the midst of an East Coast tour of small clubs, a tour that includes a stop at Washington's 9:30 Club on April 10.
"It's been a real roller-coaster ride," says Teach. "We spent a couple of years getting this record made, and it's great finally getting to tour. We're playing a lot of shows around Baltimore, Delaware, up through Pennsylvania. We're trying to create a buzz, get people to come out and see us. It probably takes a couple of listens to get into the CD, but if you come see the band live it's a completely different story."
Building a fan base was probably the furthest thing from Teach's mind when he first picked up a guitar at the relatively late age of 18. "I just woke up one day and wanted to learn how to play guitar," he says. "Music was never a big part of my life. I listened to some Motown and I was a big Doors fan, but when I first started out I was listening to and playing a lot of folk music. Then I got my first electric amp and that was it."
The other half of Foam's songwriting tandem, lead guitarist Fisher, has also diversified the band's sound with his own unique influences. Fisher comes from an impressive lineage of musical talent - both of his parents were accomplished bluegrass musicians and his Uncle Eddie was a founding member of the Country Gentleman - and he soldiered bravely through the usual assortment of amateurish high school bands.
"My head was into being a guitar player more than a song player," says Fisher. "But since hooking up with Jason it's become more important to play for the song than for myself. Everything was simplified, everything became more interesting. We thought, hey, we can do this - the music doesn't have to be so complicated and crazy."
Teach wouldn't have it any other way. To him, organic, unpretentious songwriting is the only kind that rings true. "We write about everyday life," he says, "All of these songs come from very special places in our hearts. To me, that's the great thing about this band, we aren't made up, we aren't contrived."
When: Tomorrow before and after the Orioles-Tigers game. The band will play for approximately one hour starting at 5:45 p.m., and again for about 45 minutes after the game. Lead singer Jason Teach will also sing the national anthem immediately before the evening's game.
Where: Gate C at Camden Yards
Sundial: To hear excerpts from Foam's current release, "Big Windshield, Little Mirror," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter code 6137. For other Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on page 2A.
Pub Date: 4/02/98