ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 9, 1995
By Steve Newton
As soon as I saw the title of Seven Mary Three’s debut release, American Standard, I felt an affinity for the Florida-based guitar-rock quintet. I’ve got a U.S.-made Stratocaster myself; no cheapjack Japanese copy for this kid. And none for 7M3 lead vocalist–guitarist Jason Ross, either, although his actual ownership of a made-in-America Strat wasn’t crucial to the titling of the CD.
“I think that the title has begun to take on all different kinds of originations,” says Ross, calling from a gas station in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Somebody said there’s a toilet manufacturer here in the States that’s American Standard, and then there’s the American Standard Stratocaster. I think we were just tryin’ to come up with something that kind of embodied the ethos of manifest destiny and all that. Kind of that 1800s, pushin’-out-on-the-frontier kind of vibe.”
Whatever its titular origin, it’s the gutsy, rough-hewn music on American Standard that’s fast making a name in North America for Seven Mary Three, which six months ago was just a struggling college band trying to flog its independent CD, Churn. WJJR—the influential station in Orlando, Florida, that helped break Collective Soul by playing the demo version of its breakthrough hit, “Shine”—began airing Seven Mary Three’s “Cumbersome”, and the phones lit up whenever it was played.
Mammoth Records—the home of such unique acts as Machines of Loving Grace, Frente!, and Juliana Hatfield—quickly signed the band, which rerecorded Churn and added two tracks to make American Standard.
“[Mammoth is] really into nurturing bands through different stages in development,” says Ross. “It’s such an eclectic group of bands on the roster that you don’t feel like you’re competing with the other bands for attention.”
Seven Mary Three’s short rise to fame began in ’92, when Ross met lead guitarist Jason Pollock at Virginia’s William and Mary College. At the time both were beginner guitarists, but they learned fast.
“Jason started playing when he was a sophomore in college,” says Ross, “so I guess he’s into his fourth year playing now. I had a dusty old guitar sitting in the closet, and I pretty much learned everything from him, so neither one of us has been playing very long.”
An English major, Ross earned half the credit for his college degree doing creative writing, mostly short stories and poetry, which he drew on heavily for the lyrical content of American Standard. So you could almost say that he got college credit for writing a rock album.
“Yeah, in a roundabout way,” he concedes. “But I’ve been writing since I was 18, so I stockpiled a bunch of stuff for college. I already had the material, so when an assignment was given out I just kinda had to pick something from the archives to turn in.”
Ross may have had a slack time of it in college, but the gruelling reality of life in a touring band is about to kick in for the 22-year-old upstart. His band travels to the Town Pump on Tuesday (November 14) for its first-ever Canadian gig.
“I hear it’s one of the most beautiful places on the North American continent,” says Ross of our town. “It’s probably gonna be a little bit chilly for us Florida boys, but I’m really looking forward to it. When we went to visit [Canadian distributor] Attic Records in Toronto, that’s the first I’d ever been to Canada.”
You call that Canada? Forget about it, young man. Just wait till you see Vancouver.
“Yeah,” Ross happily agrees, “that’s what they said.”