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Call it group therapy

After an ex-bandmate's passing, Neil Finn gets a yearning to bring back Crowded House.

January 26, 2007|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

There's "Something So Strong" about New Zealand rock band Crowded House after all: The group that disbanded a decade ago is re-forming for a new album and tour that will begin at this year's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.

Although most of the headlines regarding the latest Coachella talent lineup announced Monday focused on the one-night-only reunion of rock-rap group Rage Against the Machine, fans have been buzzing worldwide about the resurrection of Crowded House.

After charting hits with Crowded House in the late '80s and '90s, including "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong," the group's lead singer and chief songwriter Neil Finn decided to retire the band so he could concentrate on a solo career and on sibling projects with his brother Tim Finn, who also joined Crowded House briefly. Both had previously been members of Australia's Split Enz, which did a reunion tour in 2006.

But after the suicide of Crowded House drummer Paul Hester in 2004, Finn says he slowly came to the realization that "I just wanted to be in a band again. And what other band could it be, really?"

Speaking from Auckland, New Zealand, where he's been finishing the new album with bassist Nick Seymour, Finn told The Times on Wednesday that he and Seymour came together again after Hester's death, and last year began working on new songs. They also spent time revisiting the band's past for "Farewell to the World," a 10th anniversary expanded DVD release of the film of their final concert at the Sydney Opera House, which came out earlier this month.

"It just feels like something good and true," Finn said. "We sought each other out in the shadow of Paul's passing. That helped us reconnect and gave me a reminder of what bands are and what they bring.... "

The new album, due in the spring, will be called "Time on Earth," signaling the fleeting nature of life, a theme that came into sharp focus for Finn and Seymour with the loss of Hester.

"In ways I can't really elaborate on, Paul's presence looms large on the record," Finn said. "I didn't want to make a record that was wallowing in anything.... We were moved to write and to do things that remembered him to some degree, to acknowledge what happened. It affected us both very deeply and it still resonates very strongly. I dream about him a lot, and it will always to some degree haunt me. But ultimately it's an act of free will and choice, and you have to recognize that too."

Keyboardist Mark Hart, who toured and recorded with Crowded House, also will be taking part in the reunion tour, but Finn said there were no plans for his older brother, who has a solo album due soon, to join in. Finn and Seymour have been holding auditions in New Zealand and Australia and will continue the search for a new drummer with additional tryouts in Los Angeles in the next couple of weeks.

"It's pointless trying to find another Paul, because there isn't another Paul," he said. "It will be different, but hopefully it will be something that can grow and develop."

Acknowledging rampant skepticism about the ever-rising tide of band reunions, Finn said, "There are people who may choose to see it in cynical ways, and I can't blame anybody -- they can look at it any way they want. I know what drives me, and I'm not doing it for the money. I've done very well and I've got a really great, loyal and significant community of people who follow what I do as a solo artist, with the Finn Brothers, and this is very exciting and has got me very fired up."

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