Just because it took The Figgs four years to follow up 2006’s “Follow Jean Through the Sea” doesn’t mean the band has gotten lazy in its songwriting.
“I read a review of the new record where somebody said we’re not as prolific as we once were — he was obviously looking at the time between [records],” guitarist and vocalist Mike Gent said from his current home in Boston. “And I thought, ‘Oh, if you only knew just how many songs we’ve written and recorded.’”
The Saratoga Springs natives actually began recording “The Man Who Fights Himself” at the beginning of 2008, laying down the beginnings of about 14 songs in Los Angeles. Then they scrapped all but one of them. As the year wound on, the band began amassing more songs — so many that at one point, Gent contemplated making the record a double album a la 2004’s “Palais.”
In 2009, Gent recorded his self-titled third solo album, further delaying a new Figgs record. “The Man Who Fights Himself,” featuring 10 songs including one leftover from “Follow Jean,” finally appeared in May. The band will celebrate in the Capital Region with two release shows — one at The Linda in Albany on Friday night, and another in their hometown, at Putnam Den, Saturday night.
The Figgs CD release parties
-- 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6 — The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, 339 Central Ave., Albany. $12. 465-5233 ext. 145, www.wamcarts.org
-- 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7 — Putnam Den, 63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs. With The Charlie Watts Riots. $10. 584-8066, www.putnamden.com
“I wanted to maybe get something done and out by last year, but it just wasn’t — we had enough stuff to put out, but it just didn’t seem right,” Gent said. “I tried putting different songs together, compiling them on discs. Finally in January of this year, I thought, ‘We need to book more studio time to pull this record together,’ so that’s what we did.
“Now we have all this leftover stuff,” Gent continued. “We were toying with the idea of releasing them for the next record, but now we’re thinking we’re just going to start from scratch — we already have sessions booked for the week after the shows up here in Boston to start the next record.”
Combined with everything leftover from “Follow Jean” and even the double CD “Palais,” The Figgs have about 40 songs that haven’t been released. And that’s still only the tip of the iceberg — 2001’s six-song “Badger” EP is in the process of being re-released as a full album, and the group has 14 singles that were never released on CD. Plus there’s even more outtakes from the band’s ’90s albums.
“We always feel like, yeah, we should put out the old stuff, but I find myself wanting to concentrate more on new stuff,” Gent said. “Possibly in the future we’ll release the rarities stuff. A lot of it’s really cool — sometimes you listen to something and go, ‘Why didn’t we put that on the record? That was so stupid.’ Of course, some of our earlier records I’m thinking, ‘Why did we put that on the record?’”
The Figgs — Gent, bassist and vocalist Pete Donnelly and drummer Pete Hayes — are in no rush with any of their upcoming projects. The rocking power-pop band doesn’t even have a proper tour booked to support “The Man Who Fights Himself.” In fact, the self-released album wasn’t even released through a distributor — all sales have been online through iTunes, the band’s website www.thefiggs.net or at the band’s shows. At this point, after 23 years of playing together, The Figgs aren’t too concerned with marketing pushes or publicity.
“I’ve always had this old joke — somebody would ask what band I’m playing in, I’d tell them, and they either said, ‘Oh, I never heard of you guys,’ or, ‘Oh, you guys are still around?’” Gent said. “If you’re not constantly force-feeding people stuff by way of a publicist or a company that has money that’s getting your name out, people tend to forget pretty easily. My feeling with The Figgs is that if people want to find it, it’s there; we don’t necessarily want to be reminding people we exist all the time.”
It’s not like the band really needs to be constantly pushing itself anyway. Thanks to their short time on Imago and Capitol Records in the mid-’90s and the massive amount of touring under those labels, The Figgs have found fans spread out all over the country.
Back then, the group was a four-piece featuring lead guitarist Guy Lyons, who left after Capitol dropped the group following the release of “Banda Macho” in 1996. Looking back on the major label experience, Gent has no feelings of bitterness or regret.
“It’s funny, because the picture that got painted over the years was that we got kind of screwed by labels, but we really didn’t,” Gent said. “Really, looking back, it was just a little blip in our existence as a band, but it helped us by giving us kind of the means to go out and play.”
In a way, being dropped from Capitol was something of a relief to the band. Before that, the band had been going strong in the Capital Region for seven years without any label support, so the transition wasn’t difficult.
“Especially on Capitol, no one really knew at that label that we were even signed; it’s such a huge label,” Gent said. “The guy who signed us there loved the band, and maybe about four or five other people loved the band, but it wasn’t enough to do anything. We were really relieved when we were dropped from Capitol; it was like, now we can carry on and kind of do our thing.”
That included playing as the backup band for London singer-songwriter Graham Parker, formerly of new wave group Graham Parker & The Rumour. The band still plays with Parker — there are plans to hit the road with him in November to support his latest solo album, “Imaginary Television.”
“We did the Graham thing, which Capitol was super against,” Gent said. “They did not think it was a good idea to do that tour with Graham, and we thought, ‘You’re crazy, that’s a great opportunity.’”
Thanks to their shows with Graham, The Figgs were able to pick up an older audience.
“What’s cool about us is, throughout our career we’ve never really had one specific age group that liked the band,” Gent said. “We’ve had all these little spurts whenever we’ve toured with Graham where all the older fans get turned on to us, but they wouldn’t necessarily come back and see us.
“When we did this tour recently with Graham, we played this really beautiful theater somewhere in Connecticut and did an opening set, and the crowd loved it. I asked the crowd, ‘If we came back, would you come back and see us?’ Everybody cheered, and I was like, ‘You’re liars.’ It’s the same thing with Graham — if he’s off the radar, people forget about him.”
Of course, the band will always have its audience in the Capital Region. Gent describes shows here as something of a reunion for both the band and its fans.
“One cool thing too about being in this band for so long — when you’re traveling and doing shows, all of a sudden you’ll see somebody you haven’t seen in 15 years, and it’s like, I forgot about this person,” Gent said. “The older fans enjoy it, especially up in that area in our hometown — ‘Oh [crap], The Figgs are playing; I’m gonna go there and who am I gonna run into?’”