Music & Clubs

Hatchet Job

Mary Axe finally delivers their 'Straight Outta Campbell' album
ALL THEY DID WAS AXE: Campbell's Mary Axe play the 5th Quarter in San Jose on Saturday. Photograph by Felipe Buitrago

AFTER YEARS OF promising their debut album, South Bay rockers Mary Axe are finally releasing Straight Outta Campbell. The trio, consisting of Alex Pansoy on guitar and vocals, Dan Joesten on bass and vocals, and his brother Josh on drums, even posed in a funny send-up of NWA's famous first album for the cover.

"I must admit, I was against the album cover at first," Josh says, "But after I saw the final photo, I thought it was great."

Mary Axe has been around since 2002 but had fans of their live shows banging their heads in frustration at the repeated postponement of the record. With its members finishing school and working regular jobs, the band finally decided it was now or never.

"I give the credit to Alex for basically lighting the fire under everyone's asses," Josh says. "If he had left it up to Dan and I to do it, we probably would've lagged a little bit longer."

The three band members have from different backgrounds, and all add something unique to their sound. Josh comes from a metal place but is also a huge Mudhoney fan. One of Dan's favorite bands is Guns N' Roses. Alex is heavily influenced by Smashing Pumpkins. They're also huge hip-hop fans. Their music reflects the mix. Sometimes it's melodic and soft; other times, loud and booming. The lyrics typically revolve around personal experiences.

"Lots of love songs. There's also a song about my dad." Alex says.

"And spirituality," Dan adds. "There's a song about me being an atheist. I really can't name a type of music I hate or don't listen to. It helps with songwriting because we can bounce ideas off one another."

Josh says one of the songs, "Pale Blue Eyes," refers to his aunt, who passed away about six years ago: "It's about the chaos and confusion and the remembrance of her in our lives. The things Dan and Alex sing about are simplistic but very heavy and deep."

They went to Compound Recordings in Ben Lomond to record, their first time in a professional studio. "All I have to say is: Don't ever pull an all-nighter and have to drum the next day," Josh jokes.

Alex says now Mary Axe's main focus is to shop the album around and play more shows. "We want to see how the album does first, and then possibly start thinking of a small tour, maybe for a weekend," he says.

Josh realizes Mary Axe is "one of a gazillion bands out there. The trick is how you stand out among that."

Dan says they're surprised to find themselves elder statesmen on the scene, as thirtysomethings sometimes playing with bands in their teens. "So, sometimes, our influences are lost on them. We've played at Nickel City before with these other teenage bands and here we are ..."

"Fogeys!" finishes Alex.

"It was very humbling," Josh admits. "Because we thought, 'Oh, the kids are going to love us!' But the biggest difference is when I was a teenager and first started going to shows, my friends and I watched all the bands, I mean, you stuck around for the whole show. But now, bands bring a group of people, then take that group of people away with them. It just feels like there's a loss of community. I don't know. Maybe I am getting old and cynical."

But Josh is starting to see a return to the sound of the '90s, which is perfect timing for them. "This is 20 years after the birth of grunge. That nostalgia is back. I do believe there is another wave coming," he says. "This is a chance for the album to start paddling. When you've been in music this long, you see that it's cyclical."

Most of all, Mary Axe thrives on the camaraderie between the three of them. They want their music to make a lasting impression on their audience. "Music is a perfect expression of who you are," Josh further explains. "As a band, you want to create memories for people."


Saturday, Sept. 3

5th Quarter in San Jose, 9pm; free.

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