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Rock/Pop

Rockin' to the core

Royal Oak metalists armor its mojo with self-belief and hooks

Core Effect: (L-R) Athear Najor, Randy Riddle, John Keffalo and Joe Keough.
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Published 6/10/2009

By this time next year, Core Effect could potentially be working huge fests such as Ozzfest and even Lollapalooza. Their videos could be No. 1 on YouTube and on Headbanger's Ball. After all, the Royal Oak-based band already has its latest single in rotation on 101 WRIF, as well as on other Midwestern stations. They've been filling Motor City venues and buzzing up a dedicated local fanbase for the last several years.  

So it is that vocalist-bassist Randy Riddle is feeling rather optimistic: "I'd like to say the sky's the limit," he says. "But at this point, it really is just a matter of getting to the next level." 

Crusty clichés aside, the band is lucky. Hell, some combos don't make it past the first rehearsal. Then again, most bands don't know how to craft songs that are as full of seductive hooks as those these guys create. These conjure up the mojo, man.  

Core Effect's sound — a sort of gritty and anthemic post-grunge rumble — is such that "I Did It All," the single off the band's latest album, Armored Shades of Light, has become a kind of regional hit. The song, although not far removed from the sound of modern "rock," kicks out many of that genre's most annoying clichés; in fact, Riddle and guitarist John Keffalo's Nirvana-ish vocal interplay is downright hummable and can inspire the listener to sing along.

"The biggest compliment for me is when someone says something like, 'You know, I was mowing the lawn and I couldn't get your song outta my head,'" Riddle says. "I'm a big fan of songs with hooks."  

The quartet employs both critical and democratic songwriting, a process that includes guitarist Joe Keough and drummer Athear Najar. "We simply can't be half-assed," the bassist laughs. "It's has to be good. And whenever we think we've written our best song, we have to write a better one next time. We can't get comfortable because once you're comfortable, it's over." 

And it's that sort of ambition and attitude that has a few rock label bigwigs perked up, even in this sour economic time. "You know, they'll keep in contact with you," Riddle says, "but with all the independent competition nowadays, they still want you to really prove yourself." Thus, Core Effect will have to transform itself from a successful Detroit band to a successful U.S. band. 

"Yeah, we're selling out shows here," Riddle says, "but like I keep saying, labels want you to prove yourself. We gotta start selling out shows in Ohio, you know? Shows in Kentucky. Shows in New York." 

Since the group's inception five years ago, every band expense has come out of its members' pockets, with a little help from outside investors. "It pays for itself mostly," Riddle says, "since we do most of the work. The booking, the promotion — it's all done by us. So, essentially, this is our job." He pauses. "Most of us have been laid off from our day jobs anyway," he chuckles. 

The work has been paying off and the band has supported major headliners such as Seether, Saving Abel and Filter. 

"For us, it's a matter of building one fan at a time," Riddle says, revealing a side of promotional pragmatism. "It's almost a grassroots thing. We've got street teams doing promotion all around. You gotta look at it like a business.

"Right now, we're doing well, but this band ain't paying mortgages. Still, if I could just play music and live in the same house with the same car I have now, I'd be totally fine and content."

Really? Yup.   

"There's no other feeling better than being onstage and feeding energy to the crowd and having them feed it back to you. It's incredible."

In other words, Core Effect's rewards are directly proportionate to the work the band invests. Cue the pick-slide!

Kent Alexander is still a teenager. Don't let him fool you with big riffs and platforms. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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