From the INXSusa site:
J.D. FORTUNE – VOCALS
ANDREW FARRISS – KEYBOARDS/GUITAR
TIM FARRISS – GUITAR
JON FARRISS – DRUMS
GARRY BEERS – BASS
KIRK PENGILLY – GUITAR/SAX/VOCALS
SWITCH is a fitting title for the new INXS album. After all, the band's 11th studio disc arrives on a new label, recorded by a new producer and features, most important of all, a new lead singer. "There's been so much change," says guitarist Andrew Farriss, "that it seemed appropriate to sum it up with just one word."
What hasn't changed is the band's knack for writing classic songs that mix modern rock and dance styles. That sound has made them one of the most popular bands on the planet, as proven by more than 30 million albums sold worldwide, 17 Billboard hits (7 of which were top 10), 23 UK hits, 33 Australian hits and 6 consecutive top ten UK and US albums. Over the course of their 25-year-career, the band has performed over 4,000 live shows for more than 25 million people in almost 50 countries.
They'll expand that base with the highly anticipated SWITCH, a crisp, smartly written album that brings the band to a whole new generation of fans. It's the group's first new release in eight years and first without original lead singer Michael Hutchence, who died tragically in 1997. "In addition to being a continuation of our recording career," says Farriss, "the album is also a big leap into the unknown—we're reintroducing INXS with a new singer."
By now, everyone knows how J.D. Fortune became the first new member of INXS: he was chosen from among 15 finalists (and thousands of contestants) on the hit television series "Rock Star: INXS." But that's just the prologue to an amazing story. J.D. calls joining INXS a dream come true and the greatest experience of his life. It's also something of a Cinderella story. The 31-year-old singer discovered INXS as a teen growing up in Canada. After catching one of their videos on television he begged his grandfather to buy him a guitar and quickly taught himself how to play "Devil Inside." Years of intense dues-paying followed, as Fortune cut his teeth working odd jobs by day and playing any hole-in-the-wall club that would have him by night. He was living out of his car when he heard that INXS was holding auditions for a new lead singer.
At the try-outs, he made a strong first impression on guitarist Tim Farriss and guitarist/saxophonist Kirk Pengillly. "There was something about him that captured what we wanted," remembers Tim. "He didn't have anyone to accompany him, but said he could sing an INXS song. Kirk got up on stage and played acoustic guitar with him on ‘Never Tear Us Apart.' When he was done, we looked at each other and said, ‘this guy has to be on the show."
"Not only was J.D. incredibly passionate about wanting the job," Andrew says, "but he has this enigmatic charisma. You're drawn to him. As an artist, he thinks outside the square and does things that are a little edgy. I like that. He's also a storyteller—and you recognize that in another songwriter." J.D. and drummer Jon Farriss collaborated on "Never Let You Go" and Andrew and J.D. co-wrote two songs for the album: "Devil's Party" and smash lead single "Pretty Vegas." The song debuted on Billboard's Top 100 at #37, the highest-charting single debut of the band's career. Following electrifying television performances on Ellen and Late Show with Craig Ferguson, the track was released exclusively to iTunes and rocketed to #4 on their "Top Singles" chart and #2 on their "Rock Singles" chart.
"It's an understatement to say that this is a dream come true," says Fortune. "Growing up, INXS albums like Shabooh Shoobah, Listen Like Thieves and Kick were a huge influence. I'd listen to those songs and wonder what it would be like to be in this band. That they chose me to be their new lead singer—and that the first single is a song I co-wrote— is just mind-blowing."
The band has also been impressed by Fortune's poise. "From his first day in the band," Andrew says, "he's realized the pressure we're under and came in ready to work." "I like having brothers and comrades-in-arms to fall back on," says Fortune. It's also been fun, Tim says, to watch a neophyte performer adjust to the life of a rock star. "You forget that it's his first album, his first video, first photo shoot. These are all things we've done for 30 years and it's all new to him.
J.D. brings a mix of innocence and knowingness into the process."
Truth be told, J.D. was thrown into a whirlwind. With only two months between the show's September 20th finale and SWITCH's November 29th release date, INXS recorded the album on a super-tight schedule. Working at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, a typical day would find the band recording basic tracks in one studio, while overdubs for another song were laid down across the hall and rough mixes were worked on in yet a third room. "It was a challenge that we responded to very well," says Tim.
"When you have 6 weeks to make a record," he says, "you just buckle down and do it." For Kirk, the schedule gives the sessions spontaneity. "In the past, you'd have time to listen to the songs and figure out what you're going to play." For SWITCH, he'd hear the song and have to make up his part on the fly. "It was exciting," says Andrew. "It's the way they used to do things in the ‘60s."
A good deal of the credit for keeping the sessions moving smoothly can be placed on the shoulders of producer Guy Chambers (Queen, Robbie Williams). Andrew originally got in touch with Guy to collaborate on songs for the album, but as they worked together, he realized that not only could they write well together, the two of them shared similar attitudes towards working in the studio. "We both look at the recording process the same way toward the end result," says Andrew. Tim echoes his brother's thoughts, comparing Guy to classic producers such as Chris Thomas. "Guy has a vision of the whole album. He doesn't get hung up on putting everything into each song. He sees how they all fit into the whole."
But until they had a lead singer, it was impossible for the band to figure out what that whole would be. It was tough to write songs without knowing who would be singing, especially when Hutchence always collaborated on the songs. For Andrew, this meant "opening my heart and mind to embrace a lot of change as a writer. With Michael's passing, I had to absorb the reality that I was alone as a songwriter. I had to brush up my game." Because he had no idea if the new singer was going to be male or female, Andrew collaborated with a wide range of songwriters, including old friends such as Suze DiMarchi and professional songwriters such as Lauren Christie and Desmond Child. He ended up with over 60 songs.
Andrew says that the 11 songs that made it onto SWITCH "strike an interesting balance between good trashy rock and songs that are incredibly introspective and adult, inasmuch as they address issues of faith and how to deal with loss." In the former category are "Pretty Vegas" and "Hot Girls" (the latter inspired by the strip clubs near the Santa Monica Boulevard studios), while songs such as "Us," a stirring anthem, and the tender, affecting "Afterglow," about the need to both respect and move on from the past, reflect the band's more adult concerns.
Tim describes the sound of the album as "classic INXS recorded in a modern way; it's both organic and contemporary." Songs such as "Devil's Party" meld the hip-shaking rhythms of Memphis soul with J.D.'s intense, brooding vocals; "Hungry" has the intriguing dark-hued thump of new wave. For Andrew, SWITCH is a chance to "reclaim sounds and ideas that INXS did years ago." A lot of INXS hits, he says, sound current. "You can hear their influence on current hitmakers such as The Killers, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. After years where radio station formats were strictly segregated," he says "people today are beginning to wake up that you can meld different types of music. And that's what INXS has always been about."
But there's nothing nostalgic or backward-looking about SWITCH. "They're coming back to claim what's theirs,' J.D. says of his bandmates. "They haven't finished being artists together in a band, and they haven't finished their journey. Now I'm a part of all of this, and I'm proud to be here."
For Andrew, SWITCH proves that INXS hasn't even come close to exhausting their creativity. "It's amazing," he says, "how you can do something for 30 years and still make it new."