Guitarist Dan Yemin didn't want his old band Lifetime to reunite — period.
He just wasn't interested. He had moved on with his professional life and with his own music and figured resurrecting Lifetime, which disbanded in 1997, would be taking a massive step backward. But that didn't stop the organizers of Hellfest — the now-defunct annual festival that served as hardcore and heavy metal's answer to Lollapalooza — from pestering him for three straight years.
"They kept offering us a little more money each year, and we kept saying, 'No,' " Yemin said. "It didn't seem interesting and — at least the first year they approached us — I became involved in a dialogue with the guy behind Hellfest, and he was a real pain in the ass. He would not shut up. He would not leave me alone. I told him I wasn't interested, and he kept calling me and tried flattering me into changing my mind, which was not the way to go."
But the third time proved to be the charm. The Hellfest folks not only offered to pay the members of the New Jersey hardcore quintet — cited by bands like Taking Back Sunday, Saves the Day, Fall Out Boy and Thursday as a major influence — to play the gig, but promised to fork over $25,000 to the charity of the band's choosing. Finally, two years ago, Lifetime caved, and a check was cut to an organization that finds homes for retired racing greyhounds.
Still, Yemin — who, following Lifetime's split, played with erstwhile melodic hardcore outfit Kid Dynamite and earned his doctorate in psychology — wasn't so sure it was the right thing to do. He feared some would question the band's motives. "As much as I wish I could say I don't give a f--- what anybody thinks, that's just not true," he said. "It hurts me to think people might think we just did this for monetary gain, which was why I was so reluctant. But it never occurred to me that it would actually be fun" to get the band back together.
Alas, the 2005 edition of Hellfest never actually went off as planned (see "Three-Day Metal Hellfest Canceled Over Insurance Snag"), but the reunion was already in full swing, rolling ahead with all cylinders blasting. Yemin said the band plans to stay together for the foreseeable future, "as long as it still feels right." The band was practicing the old material here and there, and it felt good. Before long, Lifetime's reunion made its way to the stage, and the response to the band's live gigs was so overwhelming, the reunion was made official a little more than a year ago.
But Yemin and the rest of Lifetime — frontman Ari Katz, guitarist Pete Martin, bassist David Palaitis and drummer Scott Golley — didn't want to just play shows. "We decided pretty quickly that we were going to be a band, not a reunion spectacle," he said. "There's no longevity in that. It's really not classy. If you're a band, you make music. You don't just play songs that you wrote 12 years ago to make people happy. I love that people love those songs, and I love them too and love playing them. In order not to be a stagnant cover band, you need to keep creating."
Lifetime was eventually approached by one of their biggest fans, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, who convinced them to sign with his Decaydance imprint, vowing to let them make the record they wanted to make, the way they wanted to make it.
In March, Lifetime began writing new material and had 11 songs in the bag by the end of September. They booked studio time at Trax East in South River, New Jersey, enlisting longtime producer Steve Evetts (Dillinger Escape Plan, Hatebreed) to man the boards. The result — a self-titled LP and the band's first studio effort since 1997's Jersey's Best Dancers, considered Lifetime's crowning achievement — is due February 27 and includes the tracks "Airport Monday Morning," "Can't Think About It Now" and "Song for Mel."
"Some people are going to hold this record to an impossible standard, and that's just the way it is," said Yemin, who's also a member of hardcore punk act Paint It Black. "I think no matter how good the record is — and I think it's great — it's going to be compared to our last two albums, and you can't compete with that. I am so excited about how this record came out and just really excited we did this. It sounds amazing. I have so much faith in this record, and I just want people to listen to it with open, honest ears. It's faster and catchier than anything we ever did, and it still has a lot of pop sensibility."
Yemin said Lifetime plan to tour as much as possible in 2007, but with full-time, "real world" jobs and personal commitments at home (three of the members have children), he admits that will be tricky. The band is set to perform with Thursday and From Autumn to Ashes on December 27 in Sayreville, New Jersey, and just booked a free gig at New York's Cake Shop for December 17; footage captured during that show will be incorporated into the video for the album's first single. And early next year, Lifetime will be playing select dates on FOB's upcoming Friends or Enemies club tour, which will also feature New Found Glory, Permanent Me, and the Early November. That trek gets under way in San Francisco on January 4, with dates running through January 20 in Orlando, Florida. (see "Leak Was True: Fall Out Boy Announce Friends Or Enemies Tour Dates").
But does it disquiet Yemin that, on this upcoming Fall Out Boy run, his band will be playing to kids who aren't familiar with Lifetime or the band's legacy? He said he'd rather not think about it.
"The punk-music world, the underground-music world — whatever you want to call it — has changed so much in the last decade that when you start talking about exposing yourself to a new audience, it becomes really difficult not to start thinking about it as, like, a marketplace issue," he said. "It's so disillusioning to think of music in those terms. I really almost can't afford to think about it. We just do what we do, write good songs, memorable songs with heart and play hard."