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WHAT HAPPENS when a bunch of guys who have been all over TV and radio just want to hang out and drink and jam in their spare time? And then what happens when those same guys, who have known each other for 25 years, finally decide to put out an album together?
That's the story of Maids of Honor. After years of private parties in a Santa Cruz studio, the group eventually whittled itself down to four dudes: former Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp, Survivor celebrity Lex van den Berghe, ex-Skycycle bassist Kelly Castro and John Barrett—all of whom have been around the block more than a few times.
The Maids write songs combining pop sensibilities and underground skate rock, commercial song structures and offbeat grooves. Booze anthems sit alongside syrupy love songs. In other words, it's rock music. For example, tunes on their new self-titled CD such as "Wonderin' Why" and "The Clown" are catchy sing-along gems, while another track, "Black & Blue," is a driving, spinning, racing vehicle about the Santa Cruz Derby Girls.
Above all else, however, the Maids are best described as an egalitarian group. Each musician plays an equal role, rather than one dude carrying the whole band and being the main focus.
As old friends, they began by getting hammered in the studio and playing covers but eventually migrated to originals. Camp and Castro wrote most of the songs that made it onto the CD, but everyone sings.
"We all just kinda started bringing music to the table," Camp recalls. "Whoever brought something would sing it. That's the coolest thing about our band, is that there's no one lead singer."
"It's one for all and all for one," says van den Berghe. "You'd be hard pressed to have a single spotlight on the stage. There'd have to be four."
When playing with his previous band, Camp felt he often had to write songs that were intended to be relevant for radio play. He says that isn't the case this time around.
"In the Maids of Honor, I think that's where the difference is. I think that everything that comes out of us—whether we're recording or playing live or just practicing—it's really coming from what we feel. It's coming from our hearts. If that sounds sappy, then that's what it is. That's why I really love playing in this band so much, other than some of other things that I've done, because it feels absolutely a hundred percent real."
Again, van den Berghe concurs: "If I could sum the band up in just one line, that would be it. This band is a hundred percent real, as real as it gets. ... The act of just the four of us playing together was enough. We didn't need anything else. We weren't trying to figure out 'the formula' or what people wanted to hear, or what's the recipe for success. We honestly never gave it a second thought."
Which is ironic, because most of the songs on the Maids of Honor CD are just as catchy and poppy as anything currently on the radio. In fact, a few will probably remain in your head for weeks. You cannot listen to their track "The Clown" without the tune lingering for quite awhile afterward.
But clearly the band didn't have some corporate vulture constantly breathing down its neck, demanding something suitable for radio. The creativity was organic, proving that if four old friends are allowed to simply have fun with a project, then maybe something genuine can actually happen.
As a result, without any effort whatsoever, the band is already being placed into television shows and commercials. For example, the NBC TV series Mercy used the Maids of Honor track "Wonderin' Why" during one scene last October. Another show, Dirty Sexy Money, also used one of the band's tracks.
"We didn't even know until the check showed up," van den Berghe said.