Marcy Playground Score With 'Sex And Candy'

Band gets a second life with their first radio hit.

It was the quickest cross-country drive that John Wozniak had ever taken. It was

also the most anxiety-ridden.

After a somewhat successful tour opening for Toad The Wet Sprocket ended in

Los Angeles last June, the Marcy Playground vocalist said he and his band

were planning on a leisurely week driving the 3,000 miles back to their homes

in New York.

However, the trip turned into 48 hours of sleepless nights and worry-

filled days for the young striving band, Wozniak said.

"That's when we found out we didn't have a record label anymore,"

said Wozniak, 27, now back in California after spending a week shooting

Marcy Playground's first video, for the radio-friendly single "Sex and Candy" (RealAudio excerpt).

Though EMI shut its doors on the band, Marcy Playground was picked up by a new label.

And "Sex and Candy" is currently getting airplay at some 30 active rock and modern rock

stations across the country -- with more expected to add it to their playlists.Though at times sad, with a definite Beatles-ish psychedelic swirl, "Sex And Candy " draws you in with sultry lyrics and a chillingly slow Nirvana-esque tempo. "And

then there she was/ In platform double suede," sings Wozniak. "Yeah there she was/ Like disco

lemonade."

"No one walks up to us out of the blue yet, because people don't know

what we look like," Wozniak said. "But everyone who sees us immediately

picks up on 'Sex and Candy.' People who see us after a show and hear

'Sex And Candy' and tell us they hear it on the radio all the time -- I

love it. That's the whole point. That's why we do this. Every time we go

up and we play, we want people to party, we want them to drink, we want

them to have fun. They sing along with the song, have a beer, and come

up to us afterwards and tell us how much they like that song. It's

killer."

The fact that "Sex And Candy" was the top

requested song on 99X in Atlanta "shocked the hell out of me," Wozniak

said, primarily because "we don't even have any friends in Atlanta.

"People have been hearing the song on the radio, and this whole miracle has

to do with the reaction of people requesting the song," he said. "People like it,

and radio plays it. That blows me away, yes."

Wozniak marvels that the band was able to turn bad luck into a hit. He still shivers when recalling the day the band learned that EMI had shut its doors. "We were just outside Chicago, and when we called our manager," Wozniak recalled, "he was like 'blah, blah blah,' you know -- talking about his day. And then he was

like, 'Oh, and by the way... EMI closed shop.' "

"It was so scary that we decided to stay up the whole time and get right

back to New York," Wozniak said.

Marcy Playground was one of a handful of bands that lost their record deals

when EMI closed shop five months ago. Artists such as

Patti Rothberg, Fun Lovin' Criminals and D'Angelo were suddenly out of a label.

For Wozniak, who said he and the other members of the band developed close

relationships with EMI employees, it meant that a lot of friends were out of jobs.

The idea, he said, was to get back to New York so they could comfort their

friends, and reassess their own career path. Marcy Playground, whose debut

single hadn't even reached its official "add date," were one of the youngest

bands on the EMI roster at the time the label closed in June after the U. K.-based parent company, Thorn-EMI, decided the label wasn't profitable

enough. What the band had hoped would be a bright beginning had turned

dark. As virtual no-names, Marcy Playground's chances of landing a deal with

another label seemed slim.

"When a major record label closes on you," Wozniak said, "you're

damaged goods. People think, 'you know, they were on EMI, and they

couldn't make it fly. They must not be good.' "

As a

favor, some of EMI's former employees continued to work the record even after

the label ceased operations.Sooner than not, other labels began to contact the

band for copies of its album. Five months later, Marcy Playground has a new deal at Capitol Records

(also owned by Thorn-EMI), the company headed by Gary Gersh, the exec who signed Nirvana and Everclear.

"Sex And

Candy" continues its assault on modern radio and Capitol has just re-released

Marcy Playground's self-titled debut album. The buzz on "Sex And Candy" has

some critics likening the band's sound to the early days of grunge, and there's

good reason for that, Wozniak said. In 1991, just as Nirvana broke nationwide,

the young singer was arriving in Olympia, Wash. for his freshman year of

college.

"I got influenced from the sounds around me, and the bands -- that whole

Seattle vibe," Wozniak said. "But in my opinion, the whole Seattle thing is a

fallacy. It wasn't Seattle -- it was all the surrounding areas, like Aberdeen,

Olympia, even Idaho. These bands migrated to Seattle because that was the

only major market to play in."

But the Seattle sound wasn't the only vibe he imported from the city -- the local

drug scene struck him as well. Songs such as "Poppies" and "Opium" on Marcy

Playground's debut document his addiction, though Wozniak said he's since

fought off those demons.

"Off and on, I've had battles with drugs. Yeah, I've had a lot of personal demons

to fight, just like everyone's had."

Marcy Playground --named after the school yard Wozniak used to stare at

through a classroom window during his years at Minneapolis' Marcy Open

School -- formed in 1994 after Wozniak and bassist Dylan Keefe were

introduced to each other by New York jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Coincidentally, Keefe had also attended the Marcy school as a child, although

he and Wozniak attended different programs at separate locations, and never

met until they moved to New York to pursue careers in music.

The pair recruited drummer Dan Reiser, who had performed with Keefe

during their college years in Boston in the late '80s. Reiser and Keefe

had been playing in backup bands for a number of New York singer/

songwriters at the time, but Wozniak felt it was time to get their own band together.

There are plans for the band to appear on an upcoming Capitol Christmas

compilation, according to Wozniak, who added that the band will embark on its

first festival circuit for radio station holiday shows in November.

"Looking back at it, it's all been just brilliant," he said. "Losing EMI was actually a good

thing -- they really weren't a rock label, they don't have that foundation as a rock

label. We didn't get the chance at radio that we're getting now, simply because

the record is being promoted. We've proven that even if you lose your label, you

can still make it happen."

Suddenly, that miserable drive home seems like years ago for Wozniak. [Tues., Oct.

14, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]