By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
For a guy who is looking to carve out a spot for himself in the fishbowl world of rock and roll, the vocalist-guitarist for Fort Lauderdale's Green Eden is a surprisingly reticent individual. Although born with a perfectly acceptable surname, he prefers to go simply by Max, which places him in a phylum of one-name wonders that ranges from Melanie and Cher and Charo to Dion and Donovan and Sting. As for day jobs -- those inevitable if irritating necessities in the lives of the not-yet rich and famous -- Max prefers not to elaborate on his current career or on the careers of his three bandmates. And forget about finding out their ages: Max will say only that some members are in their twenties and others are in their thirties. Clearly, discussion of such details makes Max a little uneasy. The discomfort is palpable even over the telephone.
"I just don't think any of that would be relevant," Max says of the biographical particulars common to stories about musicians. As for background and history, he is only slightly more forthcoming: Green Eden has been together in some form or fashion since 1993, and, in addition to Max, includes Stephen Aaron Eisel (keyboards, guitar); Jason Vargo (bass); and Cie Haney (percussion). Although Max writes most of the band's songs, he stresses that the group is a collaborative unit. Before he formed Green Eden, Max was a founding member of the defunct Six Silver Spiders, a popular Fort Lauderdale outfit. Max will admit to having lived in at least four states, and to having been in the South Florida area off and on for about fourteen years.
Beyond those factual kernels, Max contends that all pertinent information concerning Green Eden can be found on Entrance to Green, the band's six-song CD released earlier this year on Appledorn Records, an independent label based in Coral Springs, in Broward County. The songs -- all originals -- were recorded in about four weeks by producer-engineer Dave Barton at the New River Studios in Fort Lauderdale. According to Max, the disc has garnered radio play on college stations across the nation, and sells well at Green Eden's Fort Lauderdale club shows. Not bad considering it was issued mainly as a promotional tool. "We're looking to get on a larger label so we can get more distribution and press," Max states. "[Entrance] is geared more toward those kinds of labels so they can see our diversity. It shows a more musical side of the band. It's a sound that's very fast and full, and kind of different than how we sound live. There's a song for everyone to like on it. We don't limit ourselves in writing a certain kind of music in a certain style."
Despite Max's reluctance to share many details of his life, some of the songs on Entrance are surprisingly forthright examples of the kind of acoustic-based, slightly eccentric pop that characterizes the oddball work of British popsters Television Personalities; at other times, Entrance sounds like the work of a mentally balanced, mainstream-minded version of acid-addled Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett. On "The Box" and on the wonderfully titled "Excuse Me, Do You Know the Way to Bakersville," chiming acoustic guitars glide around bubbly bass lines, like a distillation of early Eighties New Zealand pop -- Verlaines meet Able Tasmans, to be precise. Meanwhile, "The Picture Basket" and "Rainbows of Tomorrow" flirt with Beatles-esque pop psychedelia. Through it all, Max sings like a wide-eyed innocent, chirping in an affected British accent that would humble even acknowledged Anglophile and faux-Brit vocalist Robert Pollard of Dayton, Ohio's Guided By Voices.
"I don't know why my voice comes out like that," Max says in apologetic defense. "People always ask me about it, but I don't try to sing like that. It almost makes me not want to sing like that, but I can't help it. I don't know why." Maybe it's attributable to his exposure to Euro-Goth rockers such as Sisters of Mercy, who Max credits as the source of his early musical inspiration. Both he and Eisel share a passion for the gloomy sounds of Eighties mopes such as Modern English and Bauhaus, as well as the latter band's various spinoffs, including Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets. Moody industrialists Front 242 and Ministry were also an influence, Max notes, although he's quick to distinguish Green Eden's effervescent style from the angst and despair of the dance-and-drone set.
"The music was all very melancholy and I could identify with it," explains Max, referring to his youthful influences. "Our music, though, is fun; it's not very dark or melancholic at all. It's a very expansive sound. We have a wide range of sounds, and there's no one formula for our songs. They're written according to themselves: They come from a feeling and I translate that feeling to music. But we're not a very sad band at all. All the songs on Entrance are different. That's just how we write songs, with a lot of different emotions at play. 'My City My Star' and 'The Box' tend to be surf-oriented, and 'Rainbows of Tomorrow' is very ethereal. 'Excuse Me' is like, 'Off we go.'"