Mike Gent says maybe the secret to The Figgs' long career is distance.
"You know we haven't lived in the same city for almost 20 years and that's probably helped our relationship," says Gent.
The members live in Boston (guitarist Gent), New York (drummer Pete Hayes) and Philadelphia (bassist Pete Donnelly).
He says early in the band's career the group members lived together, which was fine, but everyone recognized the need for individual space when they weren't on tour.
"Plus, this sort of gives us a base in three major cities," says Gent.
The Figgs, who recently released the two-disc album "The Day Gravity Stopped," retain the power pop/punk rock 'n' roll feel that they've had two decades ago — smart, short songs and plenty of enthusiasm. In addition the group's own albums, for 16 years, the band has also backed up legendary British singer-songwriter Graham Parker.
In one configuration or another they've played everywhere from basement house parties to arenas opening for U2.
The Figgs formed in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Gent and Guy Lyons, the group's original drummer, had been friends since they were 12. One day in high school they decided to jam with Lyons' older brother. When the brother was nowhere to be found, they called Lyons' buddy Pete Donnelly.
"I had been in a band before, but it was kind of a Doors thing — keyboards and no bass," says Gent. "I had never played with a bass player and I immediately fell in love with the sound Pete's playing with my guitar."
Gent says he and his band mates had been listening to a steady diet of punk and indie rock releases from SST Records.
"I was just eating up every band on that label. It was like the Stax (Records) of our generation," he says.
There was also a healthy Top 40 and college radio station in the area and Gent's dad had a collection of rock albums that included NRBQ and the Velvet Underground.
"So much cool stuff came out in the '80s," says Gent. "It was a real cool time to be a teenager. I'd be so happy and excited when a new album by a favorite band came out. I don't know if people still have that now."
Lyons left the band in 1989 and was replaced by Pete Hayes. Lyons returned shortly thereafter on guitar.
After recording two cassette releases on their own, the group signed with Imago Records, a subsidiary of RCA, in 1994. RCA folded the company, before the Figgs could release a follow-up, but they were immediately picked up by Capitol Records, which bought the group's contract.
Gent says his favorite memory of being with Capitol is visiting the tower office in Los Angeles and being able to raid the label's back catalog albums. He carried them out in a shopping bag.
Capitol dropped the band after one album (1996's "Banda Macho"), but Gent says it wasn't so bad.
"We didn't come crashing down to earth or anything because we were so used to doing things ourselves. And we didn't fall apart and I've seen that happen to a lot bands when they get dropped."
The group did lose Lyons in 1997, but he recently returned for a reunion show in Saratoga Springs.
The rarity of everyone remaining friends, says Gent, is not lost on him.
"It's very special. There's few guys who've been together so long that they still want to be with each other and hang out ... This past August was our official 25th anniversary of the band. You know, the 10-year anniversary just seemed like yesterday."
With: Mic Harrision & the High Score
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24
Where: The Well, 4620 Kingston Pike
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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