In recent months, I’ve found myself going back through old albums I used to listen to in high school – which, for this senior citizen, was close to a decade ago – and have been amazed at how many I still enjoy and had forgotten about. Looking closely, I realized many of the bands were on or associated with Tooth & Nail Records, the home of a nearly-endless number of great acts over the years – Anberlin, Emery, Underoath, Waking Ashland, As Cities Burn and Mae, just to name a couple. So in order to squeeze some productivity from this bout of nostalgia, let’s take a journey through the past and look at five former T&N bands that deserved to explode in popularity but, for various reasons, never did.
5. Holland (on T&N in 2003)
Holland was, quite simply, that band you never realized was on Tooth & Nail’s roster in the first place. I only found them many years ago by being bored and browsing a list of the label’s alumni. The only album they released, titled Photographs & Tidalwaves, is an engaging blend of alternative rock and pop-rock anthems led by brothers Will and Josiah Holland on vocals and Timothy “Yogi” Watts (who since 2004 has been in a band you may know called Demon Hunter) on drums.
Due to legal reasons, they were forced to change their name (and decided to change their sound as well) shortly after the album’s release and thus became The Lonely Hearts, making Photographs & Tidalwaves a bit of a collector’s item if you can find a copy.
4. Secret & Whisper (on T&N from 2007-2011)
A later entry on T&N’s expansive roster, this post-hardcore quintet was formed after the members of Stutterfly lost their lead vocalist and decided to change their name once Charles Furney joined the band. Their absolutely infectious debut single “XOXOXO” immediately got fans on board and for all the world, it looked like they were ready to grab the post-hardcore torch from Saosin and run with it.
Unfortunately, they never quite took off on a larger scale and after releasing their sophomore album Teenage Fantasy in 2010, they were silent for a long while before finally deciding to go on hiatus and pursue other projects. Both of their albums are very good but you got the sense there was so much more unfulfilled potential in them. Perhaps they’ll come back some day?
3. Dead Poetic (on T&N from 2002-2007)
I know what you’re thinking: “But they were popular!” To a point, yes, but they never scaled the heights that brilliant songs like “New Medicines” and “Glass in the Trees” suggested they would. Looking back on their discography, you get the feeling they were never fully comfortable with any one sound. Starting on T&N’s sister label Solid State, they released their heavy emo/hardcore debut Four Wall Blackmail before they really shined with the 2004 post-hardcore beauty New Medicines. That second album should have launched them to the forefront of post-hardcore with the likes of Finch and Thursday. However…
Later that same year, internal disagreements led Dead Poetic to lose three of its members, leaving only vocalist Brandon Rike and guitarist Zach Miles. Regardless, they brought in some new members and crafted one final album: 2006’s mildly received yet underrated Vices. The band changed its sound yet again, going full-on rock n’ roll as Rike did away with his screamed vocals completely. A combination of problems and other commitments led the band to stop touring in 2007, although a few times they’ve insisted they will make one more album. Sadly, don’t hold your breath.
2. Far-Less (on T&N from 2004-2009)
The best Tooth & Nail band that never got off the ground in terms of popularity. The band’s Facebook page lists them as alternative rock, while their Wikipedia page bills them as post-hardcore. The problem? Neither of those is accurate, because they were so much more. Under T&N they released an EP and two full-lengths, with the first album Everyone Is Out to Get Us being the one that grabbed my attention. It’s a sensational mix of many genres: post-hardcore, melodic hardcore, punk, alternative rock, bits of metal and even progressive rock. Such an eclectic mix should be a complete mess, but instead it nearly always works.
And I believe that diversity – despite being a highlight for fans – consequently held them back in terms of marketing, as the label never knew quite how to promote them or even which target audience to promote them to. It’s a shame, as they softened and expanded their sound on their sophomore album A Toast to Bad Taste before calling it a day in August 2009.
1. The Juliana Theory (on T&N from 1999-2001)
If ever there was a band that had endless bad luck with record labels, it was The Juliana Theory. Tooth & Nail would have been the perfect home for the Pennsylvania emo rockers (remember the good old days when the term emo was met with excitement rather than scorn?), except for one problem: they arrived at the label too early. In the late 1990s, T&N was very much a label for Christian bands, and The Juliana Theory was not in that category. As a result, the label had no idea how to market the band’s first two full-lengths, Understand This Is a Dream and the now-cult followed Emotion Is Dead.
Unsurprisingly, the relationship never prospered and the band had little choice but to move on. They released the slightly heavier and criminally underrated Love via Epic Records before the final nail in the coffin came: signing to Abacus Recordings, a label best known for its death metal and thrash metal bands. Deadbeat Sweetheartbeat was released in 2005 (again with precious little marketing) before the band could no longer afford to go on tour and called it quits.
For all the label tragedy The Juliana Theory suffered, at least we’ll always have that moment when “We’re at the Top of the World” appeared in the classic Disney Channel movie Motocrossed.