Few bands that hail from the great state of Alabama have seen as much success as Pain. The eight-piece band–complete with horns and keyboards–formed in Tuscaloosa before going on to national fame with a series of popular records, constant coast-to-coast tours, a much-loved Cartoon Network video, and multiple videos featured on MTV. They had just released their album, “Full Speed Ahead”, in 1999 when the group went on an indefinite hiatus. The decision would end up being the final chapter of sorts of a beloved era for fans of Pain’s “eclectic punk-pop style with bossanova, country, swing, and other things like that” as guitarist-songwriter Adam Guthrie describes.
Pain is gone, it’s true– but nearly 20 years later, something similar arose from the ashes of this Magic City phenomenon. Things kicked back into gear when Pain’s lead singer and songwriter, Dan Lord, contacted the other members of the group to see if they’d be interested in creating some new songs. Everyone understandably found new respective life paths and communities after the sudden pause of Pain two decades prior, so it was a coin toss of a question. Many joined, but a few including co-founder Mark “Pose” Milewicz declined to partake in the reincarnation. It was clear that the name Pain was no longer appropriate, and soon the songs would make this even more apparent. The members of the former band loved the moments they created in the past, but something new was forming with this new venture.
The new group would be named Salvo, and they’ve hit the ground running. Their formation in 2019 started with a string of sold out shows and the release of a new record titled “Off the Charts”. The group’s been pushing ahead with the creation of new music while mostly recording in separate spaces due to the pandemic. Their most recent release is a brilliant 3-song EP titled “Never Been”. Upcoming shows include a headlining slot in the massive April installment of the Bham Punk Rock Art Show at Ghost Train Brewing, and there will be more music on the way.
Pain and Salvo co-founder Adam Guthrie says that much of the creation process behind songs has stayed the same, with the initial co-founders (absent Milewicz) usually coming up with and exchanging song ideas. They then take the mostly completed song to the horn section, who will make adjustments as their expertise sees fit. The talented brass musicians include New Orleans natives Christopher Johnson (saxophone) and Jack Pritchet (trumpet), Jason Reid (trombone), and the world-renowned euphonium player Demondrae Thurman. These legendary musicians join a rising collective of talent like Salvo’s bassist, Adrian Marmolejo, who remembers not being let into Pain shows with his sister as he was too young at the time. The group makes it a walk-in-the-park for songwriters to suggest a sound and end up with the perfect result.
The band has had a fun time getting back to creating as a collective–and it shows. The upbeat, unique audio adventures that are fondly remembered by Pain-lovers are back in full force. Adam jokes that he “brought everything but the kitchen sink into the studio including resonator guitars, pianos, harps, and mandolins.” He also played the balalaika on a few songs, and longtime friends of the bands at String Theory played viola and violin on select tracks.
The result is phenomenal, and it comes from a mentality that never left the band members. “We had songs that needed a seven-string guitar, so now I have a seven-string guitar. Whatever it takes for the sake of the song. It’s the same ethic. The same kind of model that we did from the beginning. We still strive to impress each other and play to the best of our ability.”
The band is currently having fun playing for themselves, but aims to uplift those who listen to their most recent tunes. “I feel like Buddy the Elf saying this, but we want to spread cheer. That’s kind of the idea,” shares Adam of the group’s re-energized efforts. They are already hard at work on another project, a concept album that Guthrie says, “It’s my favorite album we’ve done. I’m looking forward to it. We have about five songs to finish we think.”
The group is proud of their Alabama music beginnings, and happy to still feel so loved in the state many call home. “We never fit in anywhere it seemed until we fit in in small places. We fit in more now than we did then,” Guthrie lightheartedly reflects on the diversifying Birmingham music scene which now boasts national-ready acts like Boss Rush. They are thankful for “the unwavering support and the undying patience” from the state, and grateful to be back doing what they love with those they do it best with for those who appreciate it most. We can’t wait to see one of their famous party-like concerts in the upcoming year, and will be jamming to the tunes until then.
Photos by Jaysen Michael