Understandably, The Front didn't know what to expect on the evening of its comeback show. It had taken quite an extended vacation from its hard-rocking-metal-dispensing duties, and the scene had changed significantly. The Front's fans evidently are forgiving a lot, as singer Michael Franano reports the prodigal band was "completely taken by surprise and blown away by the support." Franano even witnessed some fans risking being designated as "that guy" by wearing old Front tour T-shirts.
These shirts actually date back more than seven years, as The Front already had moved on to another name by 1993. After starting its career in the mid-1980s by playing shows at the now-defunct Fool-killer and opening for The Romantics, Modern English, and even Richard Marx at Uptown Theater, the group released a self-titled album on Columbia Records in 1989 before jumping to Epic Records to release a second eponymous disc. Not as drained for ideas as other bands who have returned to the self-titled well (Duran Duran, Rancid), The Front became Baker's Pink on the second record. Baker's Pink was named for a color psychologists initially believed to have calming effects until chaos broke out when walls were painted this hue at prisons and insane asylums. Similarly, and appropriately, despite putting a fresh coat on its moniker, Baker's Pink was starting to go a bit stir crazy.
"It was a strange time, and obviously the music industry was changing quite a bit," Franano recalls. "Not that we were ever really part of the main line of what was happening at that time, the metal scene." Still, Baker's Pink ended up getting paired with dying dinosaurs on its tours, adding insult to injury after its completed album was held for eight months. "We said, 'Let's just get the thing out, so whatever, fine, we'll do it,' and we ended up on the road with Great White," Franano says. "About three months into that, it was like, 'Well, where are we going with this?' Really, the whole idea was just to slow it down for a minute and think about what we were doing and where we wanted to take it, because at that time it felt like it wasn't in our hands anymore."
That moment of contemplation lasted for seven years, until guitarist Mike Green contacted Franano, now living in New York, and sent him a CD of new material. After hearing the direction in which Green was moving, Franano deduced the time seemed right for a reunion, a possibility at which the group's members had previously balked.
"Every once in a while, someone would bring it up, and we were all kind of, 'Nah, we don't want to do it,' because we felt that until we had something new to say with it, we didn't really want to," Franano says. "He sent me that CD, and I was just so blown away by it. I was like, 'Okay, now this makes some sense.' On the first weekend that I came back, we went into the studio and cut three new tracks, which turned out way beyond our expectations. We just slid right back into it."
Even though the band has reverted to calling itself The Front, musically the band is picking up from the point at which it left off as Baker's Pink, resulting in a kinder, gentler sound than Front fans might remember. "If you listen to the Baker's Pink record, you can already see us getting away from the hard-rock thing," Franano says, before admitting that the band, at that point, could not write the type of songs it's recording now. "You have to catch up to your desire," he says. "I saw myself five years ago writing the kind of songs that I'm writing now, but I just don't think I was really ready, and I had to figure that out. Mike's playing is so tremendous, he's such a great player and we've just sort of grown together. The timing was just really right, and I think everyone is really loving what we're doing, so it's good. The whole band is really into it."
Tragically, the "whole band" isn't the same band it was in 1993. The late Randy Jordan's bass-playing duties are now handled by Mike Green's brother, Todd. "It's phenomenal to have him in that position because there's a huge gap left by not having Randy there," Franano says. "To have Todd there has made a big difference."
While Franano and company obviously are enthusiastic about The Front's new incarnation, the group plans to keep its schedule relatively stress-free for the time being, but it remains optimistic about its staying power. "We decided just to take it one day at a time and see what it feels like," Franano says. "We did the first show and it was so much fun that now we're going, 'Okay, maybe we should really boot up for this thing and make a push for it.' The idea was let's take it out and have fun with it, and as long as it's fun and it feels like we're moving forward, let's do it. So far, it's been fabulous."