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— by Chris Harris

These days in the realm of heavy rock, it seems that every subgenre is punctuated with a requisite "core." Today's bands can be classified as hardcore, emocore, mathcore, even popcore — the list goes on and on. It's all so confusing for those outside a particular scene, even if it makes perfect sense to those entrenched in it.

Enter Virginia rockers Far-Less, who've come along to further complicate matters. The five-piece, which formed in 2001, isn't quite sure how you'd classify its sound. So drummer Ray Felts has come up with his own pet term to describe Far-Less' style: "hy-rock."

Take '80s pop band Huey Lewis & the News, add a singer with something to scream about and a burning desire to escape small-town bowling-alley gigs, and you get Far-Less.

"Like hybrid rock," he explained. "We're alternative, we're rock, we've got metal, we've got scream, we've got progressive [elements]. We've got [varying] time signatures, we've got little swing-jazz parts. We're just all over the place, and that's the one complaint people have had about our record [Everyone Is Out to Get Us]. But you know, that's what we like to do."

And with influences as varied as Pantera, Cave In, Soundgarden, R.E.M., the Smashing Pumpkins and even Huey Lewis & the News, it's no wonder Far-Less defy classification, something the bandmembers claim is a point of pride. But still — what's up, exactly, with Huey?

"Huey Lewis & the News are my favorite band ever," guitarist Jordan Powers said. "They write the best pop songs I've ever heard. Huey looks like a movie star, but he sings like an angel." Added Jordan's brother, bassist Joseph: "We're a heavy band, but we pride ourselves on our melodies, and Huey Lewis writes great melodies."

Far-Less began in the small, secluded town of Marion, Virginia. "It's boring, absolutely boring, and there's nothing to do," frontman Brandon Welch lamented. "I mean, we can go hang out in the Wal-Mart parking lot, but that's about it."

With the lineup complete, Far-Less eventually hit the road, trying to make a name for themselves outside of Marion, where they had played some of their first gigs. "When we wanted to play shows, we had to do them in bowling alleys, car garages," Jordan said. "You could hear the bowlers and people fixing cars while we're doing shows. But it was cool. I'm not going to say we were the first band in our area, but we were definitely the first to get out of the Southwest Virginia scene."

After issuing a pair of independent releases and touring the country with Flyleaf, Mewithoutyou, Emery, Anberlin, He Is Legend and Relient K, Far-Less began attracting attention from numerous labels, both major and not-so-major. Far-Less eventually signed with Seattle's Tooth & Nail Records, which released Everyone Is Out to Get Us earlier this year.

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While Far-Less continue to criss-cross the country, as they have for the better part of the last four years, the bandmembers are striving to raise the social conscience of the band's loyal fanbase. Far-Less are involved in animal-rights activism, hunger issues and the development and use of alternative-fuel sources.

"We're really proud of what General Motors is doing now with this 'Live green, go yellow' campaign," Joseph said. "The thing is, there's another fuel opportunity, ethanol, and it's made from the fermentation of corn. Of course, corn is a renewable resource whereas petroleum isn't, and their whole campaign, which is the same target market we share [as ours], is trying to get the younger car buyers in America to buy these new flex-fuel vehicles which can run off formal gasoline, which you can get now, or ethanol, which you can get at over 500 gas stations in the country.

"We spend almost $100 or more on gas every day," he continued. "The money from every show we make goes to gas and that's it. If we had the option to not be in a gasoline vehicle, we would. Right now, General Motors doesn't produce flex-fuel vans, but once they do, we're going to get one."

But for Far-Less, the music has to come first. Making sure more people hear their music is the ultimate goal, in the interests of creative and financial fulfillment.

"We want to make a living from doing this, to be able to buy a house with money made from music," Joseph said. "We grew up our whole lives saying the money doesn't matter, that it's all about the music. But at a certain point, there has to be business involved. It's hard to come home from the road with no money and try to justify that to your family, to the relationships you're in."

"You have to try to maintain integrity, too," Jordan added. "But we're at a point where I guess we've got to be able to do it for a career and try to maintain integrity at the same time, and that's the fine line. That's where it's hard. When do you sell out? Hopefully we never will. That's what we're trying not to do."


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   Photo: Tooth and Nail