Sturm and Clang

Gentling also acknowledges -- again, reluctantly -- that the upcoming album is the one that Alias expects will break the band. Slated for release in September, the as-yet-untitled set will likely yank the band further from the domain of fanzines and cultists. As Gentling points out, that's actually already started to happen, thanks to the inclusion of a re-recorded version of "South Carolina" on last year's soundtrack for the ill-fated TV series My So-Called Life; the song brought the mainstream press sniffing around what they assumed was a new band -- the next Lisa Loeb, perhaps, or maybe Letters to Cleo.

Gentling laughs at the thought of being considered greenhorns. "There's that perception among some people, sure, but this didn't happen overnight," he contends. "We went for two years where we were touring so much that we could only hold part-time jobs at home. But we were still losing money on tour, so we'd have to rush back to Chapel Hill to make enough money to pay rent. We were always behind on bills, always in debt. Whichever house any of us was living in was pretty much packed, every room full of people just so we could afford rent."

These days the group doesn't have to worry so much about making the rent, and they've all quit their day jobs to clock miles in another "cozy" van. "It's getting easier for us," Gentling says of touring. "We aren't exactly raking in the cash, but it's like anything: The more you do it, the more little tricks you figure out to make it better, the more you figure out how to handle little problems that come up. We've figured out that it's best to ask people if we can sleep on their floor, but we can stay in hotels and motels about half the time now. We know our way around most cities, and we know it's better to take the Lincoln Tunnel into New York than the Holland Tunnel. Where we're at now, stuff like that really makes a difference.

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