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Inspired by the idea, the re-formed band started practicing covertly in the Get Up Kids' rehearsal space. Soon, however, Ellis bowed out, citing responsibilities to both his family (he recently became a father) and the Casket Lottery. Corey White, axman for the Esoteric, took his place.
"We gave him a CD of Coalesce tunes, and the next day he brought in a CD-R of him playing on top of all the riffs," Ingram recalls. "It was perfection."
Excited as he was about the new addition, Ingram wanted to keep Coalesce 2002 secret until he could make a formal statement. When he did so on the band's Web site last December 3, he thanked both KC and Lawrence music-scene insiders and the noted gossip mongers and critics at Buddyhead.com for keeping the cat snugly inside the knapsack. Asked if he's a Coalesce fan, Buddyhead co-kingpin Travis Keller opines, "Not a fan of the Cookie Monster voice."
Keller's comment demonstrates why Coalesce gets categorized as a hardcore metal, rather than heavy emo, outfit. Singers from bands such as Boy Sets Fire (with whom Coalesce has released a split single) can bark with the best of them, but they also make room for some sensitive crooning, often during the choruses. Ingram prefers all screams, all the time -- a credo that doesn't describe his leisure listening habits.
"I'm not metal," he admits. "When I'm driving out to Lawrence, I put in Lisa Loeb." Ingram remains open to actually singing on record if he "could figure out a way to do it without making it sound lame," he says. "It would give me a whole new way to illustrate the words. But we wouldn't just come out with Coalesce: The Emo Record. There'd have to be a really creative way to do it without alienating everyone, including ourselves."
In the past, Coalesce's members often found creative ways to alienate themselves. "If it wasn't money, it was ego," Ingram says. "If it wasn't ego, it was religion. If it wasn't religion, it was women. Coalesce has had every big problem, barring drugs and alcohol."
One of its most traumatic experiences occurred in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where a female fan suffered head injuries after pieces of Dewees' destroyed drum set were passed to the back of the room. "Kids had fits," Ingram recalls. "It was just really insane. People depicted an accident as a malicious intentional event. James offered to take the girl to the hospital, we offered to pay for whatever we had to, and she said she was fine, but everyone else had to give their two cents." As a result of the controversy that followed, Hilt quit the band.
Now that all has been forgotten and forgiven (Coalesce has even received recent offers to play again in Wilkes-Barre), Hilt has rejoined what Ingram describes as the most functional Coalesce lineup to date, one that plans to stay together after its reunion tour, which opens with a date Thursday, March 21, at the Bottleneck. "It's been fun," he reports. "That sounds cheesy, but with Coalesce, it's never been fun, so that's a really big thing coming from us."
Granted, some of that past turmoil resulted in great songs, such as "My Love for Extremes" and "What Happens on the Road Always Comes Home," but Ingram would rather search elsewhere for inspiration. "My only outlet about the band was through the band," he says. "Now, everybody's totally chill. We've all grown up a lot. When you think about it, three years is a really long time."