To get to Candyland Studio, one must navigate the slippery, newly bleached floor of Puppy Camp, a doggie daycare. Tucked behind the canine retreat, the studio strangely appears.
On the walls: skateboards, Jesus the trucker, Johnny Cash flipping the bird. Red-black, loose curtains surround the room. Dark drapes. Quirky vampires could live inside.
Alone at 3AM chills in the back room. Here's a band that takes Punk and Classic Rock, stirs it all up and spins out a unique, kickin', raspy Roots sound. Take John Cougar and give him a careful Mohawk.
First, meet vocalist/guitarist Max Fender. Yes, that's his real name. Wearing black-rimmed glasses, the down to earth Fender leans back when he speaks.
"I just always had an interest in creating music," he says. "This has always been my little project. It's like being married to four other people."
Wearing black and white Vans, the smiley-eyed jokester in the corner is Joey Beck. Beck first picked up drums, later switching to bass.
Beck describes his spare time like this: "I just change my daughter's diapers all day."
Clay Cason (guitar) resembles a young Mike McCready. Starting with Metal and Punk bands, he reminisces about touring days when he looked 12 years old and got served booze anyhow.
In 1999, the band was born when Fender and Cason played a spontaneous party gig. Fender says, "We were like, this is it, we always have to play together."
Then Beck came in -- the three went to high school together. Skated and did the Punk deal until 2002.
"We actually got out of our basement," Cason says.
Enter Tim Colina (drums), who proves my theory that the drummer is always late. Early on, Colina played in Ska and Punk bands, but he likes to hunt and fish.
"I'm kind of a hillbilly," he says, grinning.
Sarah Davis (keyboard, backing vocals) is the newbee. With red hair, and a septum piercing, she smirks and keeps up with the guys. Davis made her stage debut with Barnyard Burlesque.
Recently, Alone at 3AM released City Out of Luck, their first full-length CD. Recorded at Candyland with Mike Montgomery (Ampline/thistle), Fender says the process was "grueling. We'd be here by seven and leave at three in the morning. Me and Clay are complete opposites. Clay likes to think it over and I'm like, let's keep it at a bare minimum."
For the CD release, they booked the entire Southgate House. Fender says, "We either had to believe in the music or find something else to do. It was really uplifting. There were over 400 there."
"Whiskey and Gin" reveals the band's taste for Punk Rock turned Americana. "Catch Me If You Can" pays homage to the working man's sound, a streaming, highway-friendly ballad that rolls out like Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. But with "Mexico," it gets harder. Tom Petty has lunch with Green Day. Relationships, rent, struggling and drinking -- Fender's throaty vocals punch it home.
Fender explains, "With this album, we pretty much stopped trying to sound like other bands. We decided to do it exactly how we wanted."
From here, they'll focus on out of town gigs, including a tour with Virginia's The Wading Girl. And they hope to hit Europe next year.
Pizza, drinks, loose conversation in a low lit room. This easy-going bunch walks me out, but I bet when I'm gone, they'll start the real party. And none of them will be alone at 3 a.m.
ALONE AT 3AM (myspace.com/aloneat3am) plays as a trio at Taza coffee shop in Corryville on Saturday with Rodeo Ruby Love and Chris Haubner.