GREETINGS FROM METZGERVILLE

 
As I started to practice more, I also quit drinking, which turned out to be a pretty big factor in my life. With the combination of not drinking and practicing all the time, my phone really started to ring. All the partying and stuff was ultimately slowing up my progress. As soon as I quit drinking, things started to get better miraculously.

-Scott Metzger

 
Scott Metzger

One good thing to come out of this second version of Amfibian was RANA's relationship with Harford. They started playing as his Band of Changes on and off for a year [one of these shows is up for free download on Harford's site]. As Ryan explains, "It was a real education for the band. Chris was more like an uncle to us and taught us how to rock and roll. He taught us how to stay behind the beat and really how to play." Harford remembers playing with Scott during those years, "I think I corrupted him by that first really loud amp. It was kind of horrifying for him. He sat in with us at John & Peters, and he wasn't quite used to that yet. Then I started soloing while he was soloing, and to him that was unheard of. He hadn't seen P-Funk yet, and it sort of shocked him." Scott also remembers that show, "I remember it was so loud that I felt the fluid in my ear move. I lost my balance midway through the show because my equilibrium got so fucked up. That was my first dose of the wasty rock-and-roll. I've grown to love it."


RANA backstage at The Wetlands
By Mike Mac
Around this time, RANA started playing regularly at the Wetlands in New York City. As its name implies, the club was swampy and dirty - the perfect spot for an evolving band. Widespread Panic, Phish, Dave Mathews Band, Ween, the Disco Biscuits, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Robert Randolph, Soulive, and many others played there early on in their careers. Disco Biscuits bass player, Marc Brownstein remembers, "They took Wetlands by storm. We played there 13 times before more than 100 people were coming to see us. We really built our crowds over a long period of time, but those guys just stormed right in." RANA ended up playing the club 28 times between 2000 and 2001 and sold it out three times in 2001.

By the time the Wetlands closed its doors in 2001, booker Jake Szufnarowski was managing the band. Scott even moved from Jersey to Harlem to share an apartment with him — an experience recounted in the song "Flaco." At that time, Jake recommended that Scott put together some projects with another seasoned Wetlands veteran, Fat Mama (and future Duo) drummer Joe Russo. Over the next six months, they put together three different bands that had regular gigs including Flacanticide, Hell Is For Children, and Pistons Fire @ 11, which had a regular gig at the Knitting Factory's Tap Room at the same time that The Duo was starting their Thursday night residency.

Though RANA left the Wetlands on a high note as the unofficial house band, they had trouble moving on to the next level. After Jake had taken them as far as he could, they changed management to Buck Williams at PGA Management who also managed Widespread Panic, REM, and (hilariously) Flock of Seagulls. PGA was able to get the band out on the national level, landing them some surreal gigs like playing the side-stage at a Panic show and opening an Avril Lavigne show to 14,000 screaming fans in Atlanta. Williams also hooked them up with a dream team of producer (and former REM drummer) Bill Berry and famed engineer and producer John Keane (Indigo Girls, Widespread Panic, REM, etc) to record an EP at Keane's Athens, Georgia studio to shop around to major labels. While the CD sounds great [some of it is available for free download on RANA's website], the band couldn't find any interested major labels.


Joe Russo and Scott Metzger by Eric Mohl
In 2004, after two years of working with Buck, the band decided that they needed a new approach and signed on with Hard Head management, run by Stefani Scamardo, Warren Haynes' wife and manager. Scott explains Hard Head's management approach as, "more about the live show and less about the record deal. [They feel that if you] just keep hitting the live show, the deal will come." It's a strategy that has worked well with Warren's projects and Gov't Mule. The band then headed to Virginia to record new tracks with producer David Lowery (Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven) for their most recent release, What It Is.

Around this time, RANA started developing some problems beyond label disinterest. Scott sums it up by saying, "I don't want to get too into it, but there were drug and alcohol issues and basically RANA ended up taking some time off." Scott was at a personal crossroads, "You invest so much in a band. And if the future of your band is in question, you don't really know what you're going to do with yourself and all your free time." Luckily, he had a lot of friends in the music business to talk to, "A lot of the people that I was lucky enough to cross paths with had been doing it for years in successful bands. So I called the guys from Ween, I called Warren, I called Tom Marshall, I called Dana Colley from Morphine, and I said, 'I'm freaking out. I need a little advice. What can you tell me?' And it was basically like: It's not a typical life. There are ups and downs in this life that you've chosen, and you need to get good at riding them out. You're going to have good months and bad months, everybody does. It was tough, but the answer for me was just to sink into practicing the guitar until things blew over and everybody's personal inventory was in check, so we could get to the business of making music again."


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