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Home Grown

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'We like to keep changing our style and challenging our fans,'' says vocalist-bassist Adam Lohrbach. ''They're growing up with us, and you can'tkeep writing songs about how some girl broke your heart in high school. I have to sing about what's happening in my life now--although I'm still going to act like a goofball for the rest of my life.'' Maturity has never been an easy fit for punk bands--even for those who value hooks and heart over aggression and angst. In too many instances, talk of growing up signals the end of the fun and the beginning of the suck. Meet a rare exception. With ''Kings Of Pop'', Southern California's Home Grown has made its most thoughtful and fully realized album to date, without sacrificing the high-energy and irreverence that has always characterized its best work. Produced by Steve Evetts (Saves The Day, Snapcase), the band's third full-length album--and first for Drive-Thru Records--features bittersweet numbers like ''You're Not Alone'' that sit comfortably alongside ''love sucks'' shout-alongs like ''I Love You Not.'' It shouldn't work, but it does, thanks largely to the band's talent for pure melody that links every song. ''We explored everything we've always wanted to explore on this album-each song has its own character,'' says vocalist-guitarist John E. Trash. ''But we didn't slow down or get soft or turn into cheesy pop.''

Hence the album's title: ''We wanted a cocky name that was still funny,'' explains Adam. ''Someone suggested ''Kings Of Pop'', then we thought, 'Hmm, maybe ''Gods Of Pop''? Nah. Too much--that'll be the next album.'' So the trio's sense of humor is still in place, too. Truthfully, though, it's amazing they can laugh at all. In the past four years, the band has weathered enough turmoil for a juicy episode of ''Behind The Music''. To their credit, Adam and John never cue the dramatic music when discussing the setbacks--just the opposite. The more serious chapters of the band's career are addressed with resigned shrugs and/or fits of laughter. A few of the lowlights include numerous heartbreaks, nervous exhaustion, post-tour depression, a stint in legal limbo following the demise of their previous label, a revolving door of second guitarists (a position ultimately deemed unnecessary), and a drummer diagnosed with a brain tumor (Robert Herco was successfully treated, but has since bowed out of the group). Any one of those incidents could have shattered a lesser band. But as John and Adam repeatedly state, Home Grown isn't a band, it's a brotherhood. Sure, they may verbally antagonize each other onstage. And, yeah, they frequently drop the Playstation controls to physically batter each other during especially vicious games of Tekken Tag. But ultimately, Home Grown operates in complete harmony.

''We're such good friends that we hang out all the time even when we're at home--we play video games, surf, fish,'' says Adam of the three-piece line-up, rounded out by drummer Darren Reynolds. ''The chemistry we have now is great.'' That chemistry extends to the band's new home, as well. Richard and Stefanie Reines, the indie label's brother and sister team, were friends and fans of the band even before they had Drive-Thru up and running. That friendship now enters a new collaborative cycle.

''Finding a label that understands your music and scene is really difficult,'' says John. ''Fortunately we've been friends with Richard and Stefanie for ages.'' Today, Adam and John may not dwell on the negative, but they do visit it frequently for material. ''Music is therapy,'' admits Adam. ''You write when you need to say something and get it off your chest--or when you feel like ripping on some girl who broke your heart.'' In a generalized breakdown of the band's duties, Adam handles the former, while John specializes in the latter. Over the widescreen production of ''You're Not Alone,'' for instance, Adam sings, ''Just say goodbye, and close the door, turn off the light, and pick up the pieces if you need them. This world is cold, but just know you're not alone.'' Conversely, the first song John ever wrote was titled ''No Love For Broads.'' The trend continues on ''Kings Of Pop''. Over the breakneck chord changes of ''I Love You Not,'' he sings, ''Why don't you just build a bridge, so you get over it and me, girl? We're friends with benefits.'' In essence, you are alone.

''Yeah, I'm the angry, bitter guy--plus I suffer from minor schizophrenia and Attention Deficit Disorder,'' he says with a laugh. ''And I guess I got a little more sensitive and serious on this album,'' admits Adam. ''But John and I complement each other that way. John is a non-stop character, even though he's mellowed out a little--but just a little. He still gets wild every night.''''And Adam is a 12-year-old trapped in a 27-year-old's body,'' counters John. ''He'll pick up any video game he sees and start playing it.'' So much for growing up.

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