FUTURE LEADERS OF THE WORLD
"LVL IV"-Level Four-the debut from the Buffalo quartet Future Leaders of the World, is a musical testament to the indomitable will of the group's front man, Phil Tayler.
Produced by GGGarth (Rage, Chevelle and Mudvayne), co-produced by Mike Flynn and mixed by Andy Wallace and Michael Barbiero, "LVL IV" describes Tayler's personal and spiritual journey through 10 songs that swing wildly between socially-conscious rants and restrained moments of melody that reveal the songwriter's vulnerability.
What makes the album even more remarkable is the poverty, homelessness and despair the 20-year-old artist endured to make his music a reality.
After graduation, Tayler left Buffalo to live with a relative in San Francisco, go to college and start a band. His experience, however, began on a sour note when the relative unexpectedly kicked Tayler out after a few days.
With nowhere to stay, Tayler was forced to sleep on rooftops, couches and in Haight-Ashbury Park for more than six months while he attended college classes and worked full-time.
"It was a hard way to start out, but I wouldn't change a thing," he says. "When I was living in the park, I met a lot of different kinds of people, hippies, gutterpunks, rappers, poets and artists-all lost kids trying to make their own way. That's when I started going to open mics and learned how to survive, which helped me develop my voice as songwriter."
The creative outburst coincided with Tayler's political awakening thanks in part to his job with the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), a public-interest advocacy group. "My job was to go door-to-door and ask people to sign petitions for different causes," he explains. "Looking back, I can see how that experience helped me as a songwriter because it forced me to get my point across quickly and argue intelligently."
Having saved enough money, Tayler left his homeless days behind, moved into an apartment with a friend and began writing songs in earnest. Tayler quickly realized his lyrical intensity needed more impact than his acoustic guitar could provide so he began looking for a band. "I know writing songs and then looking for the right band to play them is a bit backwards, but I didn't have the resources to form a band, pay for rehearsal space and equipment," he explains. "I knew that if I wrote good songs that everything else would fall into place."
After an unsuccessful year-long search for the right band in San Francisco, Tayler decided to move to Los Angeles where he continued working for non-profit, grassroots organizations and looking for the right sound.
Instead of a band, Tayler was going door-to-door when he met Sean Rivera, a member of the R&B/hip-hop group Az Yet and owner of Phillywood recording studio in downtown L.A. The two became friends and Rivera let Tayler record a demo, an acoustic version of the "LVL IV" track "Sued."
It was the break Tayler had been waiting for, but he feared it might have come too late. Running out of money, facing eviction, unable to put a band together and afraid that if something didn't change quickly he would be forced to move back to Buffalo, Tayler decided to spend his last $10 on a psychic reading. "I was ready to give up and I figured I didn't have anything to lose," he recalls. "I took a chance, went in looking for guidance and the pieces of the puzzle came together for me."
The psychic advised Tayler not to give up his dream of landing a record deal because the spiritual world was helping him. She also told him that April 16, 2001 would be the turning point in his career.
"I didn't think much of it at the time, but as I was walking home I kept seeing posters for Puddle of Mudd's show on April 16 at the Hollywood Palladium. I decided that I would go to the show, jump backstage and give Puddle of Mudd my tape, which is how they got signed-jumping backstage at a Limp Bizkit show. I figured it was up to me to make April 16 a big day."
Armed with one copy of his demo, and no ticket, Tayler headed out to the show.
By the backstage entrance, Tayler tried to finagle a free ticket and asked people going inside to give his demo to Puddle of Mudd singer and guitarist Wes Scantlin or Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. A stranger took the CD backstage, but Tayler wasn't satisfied. After scoring a ticket, he walked behind the stage, scaled a pile of old bleachers and jumped into the backstage area. While wandering around backstage trying to recover the demo so he could personally give it to Scatlin, Tayler bumped into Mike Flynn, who later became the manger for Future Leaders of the World. He talked to Flynn about his music, took his address and promised to send a demo to him.
Flynn liked what he heard and secured enough money for Tayler to record a three-song demo. Out of money, Tayler returned to Buffalo where he put a band together-drummer, Carl Messina and bassist, Bill Hershey. The trio drove cross-country to record its demo in L.A. After finishing the demo, the band asked Jake Stutevoss, their guitarist, who worked at the studio and helped record the demo, to join the band.
Epic Records signed Future Leaders of the World in 2003 and the quartet began writing and rehearsing songs destined for "LVL IV."
The writing sessions were grueling, Tayler recalls, but the intense experience quickly brought the new band together. "We pretty much locked ourselves in a room and didn't come out until we were sure we had enough music for the album. At times it felt like we were lab rats in some corporate science experiment waiting to see if we would make a great record, go crazy or both."
The Future Leaders of the World finished 17 tracks before heading to The Armoury in Vancouver to record "LVL IV" during the summer of 2003. What emerged is an album that delivers apoplectic fury against injustice at the hands of government and big business tempered by moments of sensitivity and openness.
"For Sale" and "Spotlight" are filled with Tayler's righteous indignation and powered by relentless rhythms that sound as if they're being pounded out by billy clubs and visceral guitar assaults that sting like mace. "I'm not trying to shove answers down people's throats, but I do believe what I'm saying is right. People can take it or leave it," Tayler says. "Ultimately, I want to create awareness about issues that are important to me like the environment, the war in Iraq and government and corporate hypocrisy."
"Kill Pop" aims to deflate the fabricated world of popular music from the inside by using playful sarcasm. "I thought it would funny to make a catchy pop song that mocked pop music and pop culture. This is our anti-pop, pop song."
The angry tone and tension dissipate on "House of Chains" and "Sued," where Tayler's thoughtful songwriting is matched with a heartfelt vocal performance. "Unite" is a song about choosing peace instead of war that articulates Tayler's thoughts on America's decision to invade Iraq. "I wrote this after staying up all night thinking about how wrong this war really is," he explains. "I started picking a classical guitar pattern on my acoustic and wrote the music to the images of the war and destruction that were flashing through my head. This song really wrote itself naturally."
Tayler says he hopes "LVL IV" takes the listener on an unpredictable trip. "To write this album, I drew on the music, people and experiences that have influenced me along my personal journey and helped bring me to this point in my life. The songs represent those defining moments when we decide to let the world happen to us or stand up and fight for what we believe is right."
--- from the official Future Leaders Of The World website