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Music Preview: Unwritten Law spent years on their latest pop-punk attack

Friday, March 01, 2002

By Scott Mervis, Weekend Editor, Post-Gazette

Unwritten Law's latest effort, "Elva," has all the components of the modern pop-punk record: chunky guitars, catchy choruses, the obligatory nods to ska-punk and hardcore, and the single that starts slow and moody and builds into a power-pop explosion.

Unwritten Law

WITH: Mest & Sugarcult.

WHERE: M, Strip.

WHEN: Tomorrow at 7 p.m.

TICKETS: $12.50. 412-323-1919.

OFFICIAL SITE: www.unwrittenlaw.com


But it didn't come easy. The San Diego band spent four years grooming its fourth record, and even went back once for a total redo.

"We didn't feel it was the record we needed to put out when we finished it the first time," says guitarist Rob Brewer. "We went back and worked with different producers and re-recorded some things and came up with songs we liked better. It took some time, but we're happy with it now."

Having been away for four years -- an eternity in the pop world -- Unwritten Law might seem like a new band to the latest generation of record buyers. Actually, they date back to the early '90s when they formed in San Diego's thriving skatepunk scene. The only original member from that period is drummer Wade Youman.

With each record, Unwritten Law has beefed up its sound to the point where now they're not even backing away from electronics. "Elva" starts with "Mean Girl," a sound that pulsates with a throbbing backing track you can't get from guitars.

"We weren't limiting ourselves to the basic rock guitar, bass and drums," Brewer says. "We were looking for things that would enhance our album, we were looking for almost anything. That was actually a computer virus, a program, that we thought sounded really good."

Bringing that on tour, though, wouldn't be in the spirit of Unwritten Law's thrashy live show.

"We have ways of doing it with our guitars with a toggle switch, instead," Brewer says. "I think it's cooler to have the guitars do it. It sounds more raw. You could have that master recording and play in time with a tape, so that way all the electronic parts fall into the house. But who wants to do that when you're playing a live show?"

The first single, the quiet-to-loud "Seein' Red," helped "Elva" debut at a respectable No. 73 on the charts, and there's plenty more where that came from for radio programmers looking for more tasty pop-punk in the vein of fellow San Diegoans Blink-182 or recent comers Sum 41.

"Fortunately, we happen to write songs that are radio-friendly," the guitarist says. "We're really stoked that the album has a lot of different potential for singles, if we want to go there. We notice a real change at the shows when we play ['Seein' Red'] in the set."

Is that a sign of new fans in the crowd?

"Or they're just excited to hear the single," he says. "Either way it can't be bad."

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