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Music: No Complaints

Stephen Kellogg doesn't get taken seriously, which is just fine with him

By Alan Sculley · April 16th, 2008 · Music
  Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers are having the time of their lives and it shows on-stage.
Benj Gershman

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers are having the time of their lives and it shows on-stage.

When Stephen Kellogg talks about how the live shows he plays with The Sixers are the lifeblood of the band, he could simply be repeating one of the classic clich├ęs of Rock & Roll. Or he could be referring to the very real fact that the group makes much of its living on the road, playing 20-plus dates a year.

But what Kellogg is really getting at is that he feels the concerts are where he and the Sixers really shine and offer something genuinely unique to fans who have discovered the Massachusetts-based band.

"I think what we're doing that's unique is we're giving people music that's not silly music, but we're giving them a light evening," Kellogg says. "That is something that is, I think, very unique to our band. You get to go hear cool music, and kind of have a laugh. It's like getting a comedian and a cool artist at the same time. And I think that's unique, and I think that's special about our group of guys."

Kellogg has a point. Proudly displaying a sunny disposition, both musically and as people, is not exactly the hip thing to do in a Rock world that seems to value only groups that seem serious, agitated or downright suicidal. Kellogg says his unwillingness to play to that trend hasn't done the Sixers any favors as far as getting reviews or being viewed by the music press as a "cool" band.

"I mean, we walk into festivals and we're the top-selling merch act there, just selling a (boatload) of CDs," he says. "And that's not appealing. They don't want to write (about that), because we're up there just having the times of our lives, big goofy-ass smiles, cracking dumb jokes. We're not cool. We're not dark and we're not mysterious and we wear our hearts on our sleeves. I admire those artists. They're artistes, you know, and I listen to some of them and I respect them. I don't begrudge any of them their success. But it's not who I am. I can't do it.

"As long as my life is as good as it is, I have a hard time going there. I've got a great family, I'm healthy, a cool job, I get to work with some of my best friends in the world. How can I go and pretend to be a dark, morose character?"

Actually, there are those who feel that Kellogg, 30, could complain plenty about his lot in the Rock & Roll life. He has an extensive discography, beginning with a pair of pre-Sixers solo albums and followed by four releases with the Sixers.

It was a 2005 self-titled release that started to really garner some attention to the band. The first of the group's CDs to have major label distribution, the album got strong reviews and had quite a few critics predicting a commercial breakthrough.

It didn't happen. The self-titled album topped out at about 25,000 copies sold. And the group's latest album, Glassjaw Boxer, probably won't become a smash hit either, since it won't benefit from any more marketing muscle than the previous album. (Glassjaw Boxer is being released by Everfine Records -- O.A.R.'s original label -- with distribution through Atlantic.)

Yet Kellogg isn't complaining. He says he never lets himself get caught up in the Next Big Thing predictions, and he sees lots of progress when it comes to the band's career.

"People have sort of written about us (being) on the brink of success for years," he says. "And for some people it's like, 'Well that didn't happen and it's over.' But what's ironic to me about that is everything we've done has always moved forward. We haven't had a rocket ride up, but if it's a tortoise and hare thing.

"The truth is -- maybe this sounds terrible -- I really don't want to be the Next Big Thing at all," he says. "I do want to grow. I want to be a lot bigger than we are because then we can put on better shows. Theaters are always going to have better production than clubs. It's for practical reasons. It's so we don't have to struggle financially. That's why I want to be bigger. But I'm 30 years old. I have no interest in having the paparazzi hang out. I don't know what to say to young girls. That's not really me."

Kellogg is certainly right when he talks about the band's continued musical growth. Glassjaw is the strongest effort yet from Kellogg and his bandmates (drummer Brian "Boots" Factor, guitarist Chris Soucy and bassist Keith "Kit" Karlson). Like earlier albums, it's a straight-ahead Pop Rock record that tries to be timeless as opposed to trendy. It works because Kellogg has a genuine gift for hooks -- both in his vocals and the guitar/piano melodies that support his singing.

Kellogg, who can draw from 60 songs that are rehearsed and ready to play live, says showing fans a good time and making each show memorable are his top priorities when he and the Sixers take the stage. It's a lesson he said he took, surprisingly enough, from going to Heavy Metal shows when he was in his teens.

"One of the things that I really related to and wanted to bring to our show was I wanted it to be entertaining," Kellogg says. "The music is one thing, but then I want people to leave with the feeling that they had a real night out and that they couldn't have just stayed home and listened to the record and had the same experience."

STEPHEN KELLOGG AND THE SIXERS perform Thursday at the Madison Theater. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.



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