Finch’s career trajectory could easily be portrayed as constantly peaking before the payoff. The 2001 album “What It Is to Burn” was one of the earliest exemplars of the post-hardcore genre–laden with phased guitars and alternately melodic and tortured, open-throated vocals–that would later be labeled as “screamo,” but came out too early to capitalize on the early-millennial emergence of emo in the mainstream. While the effort resulted in a jump to major label Geffen, peers like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday were earning outsize followings in addition to lucrative label offers. Then Finch didn’t release a follow-up until 2005. “Say Hello to Sunshine” bore noticeable influences from side projects–not least guitarist Randy Strohmeyer’s noise band Sounds of Animals Fighting–and alienated much of the old Finch fan base, while attracting scant attention for its ambitious pop experiments. Whatever joy the new release afforded the group, it was quickly eclipsed by internal tensions. Within a year, the band placed themselves on indefinite hiatus. “There were a lot of issues internally that we thought were not reparable,” the charismatic guitarist Strohmeyer says. “There were some issues with some people in the band at the time and everything about being in a band was like–there’s like a magic in being in a band, and it was not fucking cool anymore. I don’t want to shit-talk, but there was a reason [we broke up].”
Now Finch is re-emerging with renewed vigor. They got back together in late fall of last year, and are now beginning a new tour across the United States. Strohmeyer tells the story of the band’s reformation with infectious enthusiasm: “The last two years felt like five or six years and it felt like it fucking lasted forever. And–I don’t know–right around fall 2007, I went to hang out with Alex [Linares] and I said I really missed the band. I suggested we get back together. And he laughed at me! I said, ‘I’m dead serious. My life is decent, but I’m not as happy as I was with the band.’ I said, ‘I think we could be happy and…we can reform it without some kinks in it.’ He said, ‘That would be fucking amazing.’” Shortly thereafter, Strohmeyer and Linares called other members of the band. Only drummer Marc Allen didn’t want to come back.
The band’s current situation seems a bit odd. After all, while Finch never reached superstar status, it was still successful enough to outgrow Drive-Thru Records and earn a roster spot on Geffen. Now, after a frustrating last showing and a year and a half out of the limelight, the band is essentially starting from scratch. The band doesn’t even have a label: “We’re just indie. We don’t have any ties to anything. We’re not doing that because it’s fucking cool or whatever. There are no labels out there trying to sign us.” For Strohmeyer, the new start is not disconcerting, but refreshing: “I do want to say that we are currently stronger then ever. It’s not like we’re fucking writing what people want to hear. What we’re writing is coming from our hearts and reflects the times we find ourselves in.”
In these times, Finch may find new directions. For an upcoming record, still being written, audiences should expect one important change from records past. “I think that right now we just want to write songs that make us feel really good, or happy,” Strohmeyer says. “Something that doesn’t make me feel like a bum-out. I felt like a lot of our old songs–and I liked them–were too dark.” At this point in the new Finch saga, according to Strohmeyer, one thing is more important than all others: “Daniel [Wonacott] and Drew [Marcogliese]–they are in this band and I feel like we’re more connected than ever…It’s like a weird miracle for me personally. It just feels great and I want to pursue it as long as possible.”
Reggies Rock Club, 2109 S. State St. February 7. Thursday, 6pm. (312)949-0121. www.reggieslive.com