You know the old saying: “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing across eight CDs.”
Long-since defunct Floridian doomers Floor, from whose cranium sprang forth the mighty Torche the kids love so well, have taken the above maxim to heart with their new box set, Below and Beyond. Available through Robotic Empire either as 10LPs (and one 7″) or eight CDs, plus digital downloads, it is as huge a project as a band could take on. As bassist Anthony Vialon informs in his first interview since parting with the band in 2003, it was quite an undertaking.
Vialon was a founding member of Floor, alongside guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, and there is palpable emotion in his voice when he talks both about being kicked out of the band and about putting together Below and Beyond and the prospect of playing Floor‘s several upcoming reunion shows in Miami and Gainsville, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia. He remarked at several points during our discussion that he was nervous and, having removed himself completely from the music industry over the better part of the last decade, out of practice. Nonetheless, he was remarkably open about his experiences both positive and negative with Floor and genuine in his appreciation of the growing interest in his former outfit.
Floor‘s Below and Beyond is due out next month, and the live shows are set to encompass material with multiple drummers, including Henry Wilson (who was instrumental in putting the box set together and in the band from 1997 till their breakup in 2004), Jeff Sousa (1994-1996) and Betty Monteavaro (1992-1993). Vialon explains it all in his Q&A after the jump.
What was it that made you remove yourself from the music scene?
After I was kicked out of Floor, that was it. The end of it. It’s great that we were able to reconcile everything. This box set, bringing everything together. It was a blessing that Andy [Low, owner of Robotic Empire] wanted to do this. There was talk of us re-releasing the 7”s years ago, but that never turned into anything. We had all this material, I had all these tapes and stuff. There was a suitcase full of reels and stuff like that, sitting around. Actually, a lot of the stuff that’s going to be on the box set is from these tapes that I had that I kept.
It’s been a massive undertaking. It’s over six hours long (laughs). I’ve heard the responses and people were like, “Man, they only have 30 songs,” and it’s like, “Nah, there’s over 100!” Some of them are alternate takes, but most of it is stuff people have never heard, that was never released. I’m really looking forward to it. And the shows too. That’s something I never thought would happen, so I’m very excited about that.
It’s cool, because when the box set thing was first brought up, I was thinking to myself, man, it would be great to get together, do some shows and have the original drummers play the material they recorded. But I didn’t say anything to Steve, I didn’t want him to think I was trying to get the band back together. Everybody’s gone their own ways and all that. But some months back, he called and had the exact same idea. We’ve been on the same wavelength throughout this whole thing. That vibe is very cool, that it’s working out like that.
How was it for you revisiting those tapes, going back and being around that material again?
Oh man, it was a trip. I brought over this box of tapes to Henry’s, and this is the first time I’d seen Steve in about five years. We didn’t talk for that entire time, and prior to that we’d talked on the phone, and we met up in Winter Haven when I brought all this stuff. It was a blast. Having to go through it all, at first, some of the stuff, we were reticent to put it on the set, because the quality of some of it — not everything’s a gem, you know what I’m saying (laughs)?
Henry, thankfully, has been the one that, since he joined the band, has kept us anchored. Every time we decided, “We’re not gonna go with that,” he’d say, “Man, you’re fucking up. You need to put it out there. You need to put everything out there.” So we did. It was hours of sitting at the tape machine and the burner, having to go through everything, and reminiscing and remembering stuff. A lot of it was forgotten. Steve hadn’t heard this stuff in years, nor myself. To hear it again, after all that time, was like, “Oh man, I don’t remember doing this!” It was a lot of laughter. A lot of humor. It took about two days. The first sitting was 12 hours, of going through these songs. Between that and I forget however many hours the next day, it was a massive undertaking. Then what Henry had to do in the studio later, getting everything polished up the best he could, it’s just been a huge undertaking on everybody’s part.
I’m just really excited that it’s going to be out there and hopefully people will dig it. A lot of effort’s gone into it. A lot of time, a lot of effort. It’s 12 years of music that a lot of people haven’t heard. People that were fans of the band the first time, they’ve heard some of this stuff, so they’ll be able to follow the evolution of the band. We put some practice stuff on there, like the first time the new tuning was used, all the stuff like that. Again, as you listen to it, you’re following the evolution of the band, up until the self-titled album, which is the crowning achievement of the whole thing. There’s the early doom stuff, then over time, it becomes more pop (laughs).
It sounds like a different band throughout it. I heard some people — I’m hearing this secondhand — but some people didn’t think it was Steve singing. “I like the band with the singer before Steve.” Uh, Steve was always the singer (laughs). But his voice developed over time. I sing on a couple things, but Steve was always the singer. But it’s cool, you can hear his voice go from screaming, then on a couple tracks being melodic, then later on, full-on melodic.
Had you kept in touch with Henry?
Oh yeah. The whole time. Henry’s my best friend. After the falling out, things were a little raw for a little while there, but that was just immediate reaction to what had happened. We’ve always been tight ever since we met, before he even played in the band, we already had a bond. He’s been the one that really kept things going. He would anchor Steve and I, to keep us going in a direction, because we were all over the place. I think that’s why a lot of stuff didn’t get done. It’s just the way Steve and I are wired, I guess. Henry’s the business, you know what I’m saying? He was definitely a gift for the band (laughs). We would never do what we did without him.
Was it strange talking to Steve after all this time?
In a way, but what happened is, years had gone by, and I had to just get over it, basically. Think things through, and the first time we got back together to record all this stuff, he gave me a ride home and on that ride home, we had a chance to talk about everything. There were apologies and stuff.
Steve went through a horrific episode afterwards, as did I. Separate things, but we had gone through a lot after this had happened. But that ride home, everything that was said, to hear him say some of the things that I was thinking, that I’d figured out over the years, justifying some of the reasons why things happened. It made things cool again. In a way, it didn’t miss a beat.
It’s like, what are we gonna do, revisit the past? Dig this stuff up? It’s done, everyone’s moved on. We have the opportunity to do this, let’s not screw it up by bringing stuff out of the past into the mix, because it’s gonna take away from it and there’s just no point. I’m extremely happy for him, what he’s been able to do with Torche. That’s what he wanted to do with Floor, and he’s doing really well with the band.
And Henry too. His band, House of Lightning, once he’s finished with their record, he’s onto something new, and when that hits, I’m going to be very excited about that as well, because it’s going to be something for people to hear. God bless both of them. But as far as where Steve and I are at, as far as how we work together, it didn’t miss a beat.
Andy, when he came to work on some of this stuff, he got to see how we work and the humor that’s involved and everything. It’s something I’ve missed over the years, but to be able to do it at this point in time, I’m very appreciative of it. The opportunity to be able to do this. As far as my music career — if you want to call it that — it’s done. I’m very, very happy to be able to do this right now. Everybody is. The fact that we’re getting Betty involved and Jeff involved. It’s special.
It sounds emotional for you.
It is. Very. Again, Steve and I had gone through a lot over the years, and after the band. I don’t want to get into it too much about the breakup, but it was extremely emotional. I can see where Steve was coming from, but it still was really, really rough. A rough time I had to go through to finally get over it. I guess I didn’t see it coming. I was blindsided by it. I don’t want to visit that too much. There’s no point. There were so many factors involved, that it was just things piled on top of things.
Imagine being in a relationship with somebody for years, and just a horrendous breakup. It’s akin to that. At the time, Henry was in the band and Andrew [Demaio, guitar] was in the band and of course they sided with Steve on the matter. I felt I was kind of left like, “Damn, all these years and for it to end like this.” It didn’t seem right. But as it was explained and as I later figured out, that’s the way it had to be done. And after that, they went on for a little while without me, but Henry told me, he said, “Man, it just wasn’t the same. What you brought to the band couldn’t be replaced.” The people Steve had join the band, Henry just didn’t get the same vibe from it all.
It’s a shame, because we had the self-titled record come out. Even though we had other full-length material that never got released before then, I felt at that time, we really found our niche. The style that we had been cultivating over the years. With that record, it was like, “This is it.” We’ve really opened up a door for ourselves and we can really start exploring new territory with it,” which Steve went on to do with Torche very well.
I thought things were fine. I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make. I didn’t realize it was as bad as it was. Being blindsided like that, it was a rough thing to get over. And I had, but then, when I got the call about the box set, it really made things great again. I wasn’t harboring any ill will towards Steve or anything, and then getting the call from them to do this, it wasn’t like a thing where there was bad blood going on, and then, “Okay, we’re doing this box set and we gotta get through this and start moving forward with it.” It wasn’t like that. I’d already gotten over it, and bonus, we get to do this now. I’m elated about this.
It’s the happy ending for Floor.
It is. Steve tells me that touring with Torche and everything, people hit him up. He’s doing this to really finally put it to bed. Again, the ending of the band was, with what Steve had gone through, was real tragic, and it shouldn’t have ended the way it did. This was a way to really put an exclamation point instead of an ellipsis (laughs).
Have you guys started rehearsing for the shows yet?
Not together. I’ve started practicing in my room, re-learning over 30 songs that I haven’t played, some of them since 1994, ’93, the stuff with Betty. Having to relearn that stuff and the stuff with Jeff and of course the stuff with Henry. I’ve been doing that on my own. Steve’s been doing stuff with Torche. I know they had to do some recording. Henry has been working on stuff on his own. Betty’s been in a band, so her drumming’s still there. Jeff has had a very successful life and career, but he’s as excited as I am to do this. We just haven’t gotten a chance to get together. Hopefully we’ll start in February, but it might be March.
How we’re gonna get together and do this, the logistics involved — that was another reason when I had the idea of doing this, and again, Steve did too — the reason I didn’t bring it up again was the logistics are immense. You have three different drummers living in three different parts of the Southeast, but the time and getting everyone together, it’s gonna be a huge effort on our part. But we want to do it so bad.
I hope people appreciate that, because there’s a lot of heart going into this. We could have just, “Okay, we’ll get together with Henry,” because people are more familiar with the self-titled stuff than anything. We could have done that, but including Jeff and Betty into it, man, I’m out of adjectives to describe how I feel about that. It just gives everyone a chance to really bring an ending to the band in a very special way. But as far as the actual practicing yet, everyone’s doing their thing on their own.
We haven’t been in the same room yet together, but that’ll be happening soon. And there’s a lot of it that has to go on. I haven’t touched a guitar in years. I don’t know if Jeff’s played drums. But everybody else, Henry, he’s still playing music. Of course Steve and Betty. There’s a lot of work that has to go on, but it’ll happen.
There’s the first show in Miami, then the Gainsville show — we included Gainsville because that was always the place we had our best shows at; a bunch of people would show up, and they were just into it, and it was like a party – and Atlanta. We never fared too well in Atlanta, but it’s a hub and people will travel to see shows in Atlanta. But we’re hearing the response has been so great they might have to add a second show.
To me, it’s mind-blowing, because when we were around, we didn’t have that many people coming to our shows. The band, from my understanding, grew because of Torche and the internet. We didn’t have this many people into us, as we do now. These are going to be the biggest shows we’ve played for, which is exciting, but at the same time, I’m nervous about it. But it’ll be fine.Floor, Florida, Robotic Empire, Torche