Waymon Boone: Vocals, Guitar
James Cruz: Bass, Vocals
Jonathan Svec: Lead Guitar, Vocals
Marc Slutsky: Drums, Percussion
Its often been written that a band has its whole life to draw from on Album Number One, and only a sliver of time for the follow-up.What this doesnt tell you is that these few moments are far more compressed than the sprawl of years that came before. The period leading to Album Number Two--when so much is going on and so much is on the line--crackles with an electric energy thats unlike anything else in the life of an artist.So it is with SPLENDER. In the three years since their debut album Halfway Down the Sky?which produced the Top 20 modern rock song "Yeah, Whatever? and pop hit "I Think God Can Explain??the New York-based band has lived fast and played hard. Countless hours spent on the road and onstage tightened their music; their shows, always mesmerizing, grew even more so. All of which made the bond between singer WAYMON BOONE, bassist JAMES CRUZ, guitarist JONATHAN SVEC and drummer MARC SLUTSKY stronger still.Everyone knew this was leading somewhere. They could feel it, as the rush from their first album settled into a sense that something bigger was just around the next corner. That would prove to be To Whom It May Concern, a package of ten powerful and shimmering songs?including the first single "Save It For Later??whose enigmatic but undeniable passions would make this one of the strongest sophomore performances in recent memory.Portents of its power were everywhere. First, a new label: when Splenders trusted A&R man James Diener?"our fifth member," according to Boone?moved to J Records, the band didnt hesitate to follow. "At the time we signed with J, they hadnt put out an act or even set up an office," Boone says. "But with Clive Davis and James Diener over there, that was enough for us to make the switch."Then there were the songs. Somewhere on tour with Third Eye Blind, they started writing?Boone, as usual, worked on his own, but Cruz and Svec also began stockpiling rough ideas for songs. The process continued when their touring was over. Shaking off the road dust, Boone took time to concentrate on his writing and locked himself in the basement to write songs, which for the first time also included work on material sent to him by his bandmates."I think we put Fed Ex on the map," Svec laughs. "James and I were both sending demos to Waymon. Id send maybe nine or ten things, and a couple or three weeks later hed send three or four songs back from that, with lyric and melody ideas. It was a very nouveau way of writing, but it was amazing how well it worked for us."Eventually, more than 50 titles were finished?a tremendous accomplishment, especially given the bands exacting standards. But as the time drew near to begin the second album, greater challenges presented themselves as expectations climbed even higher."There was a lot more pressure," Cruz admits. "Because we were on Clive Davis new label, we had to be up to his standards as well as ours. We had tons of songs, but we hadnt tested any of them on gigs. We had to rely on our instincts in the studio to find which ones were the best and make them work."And so Splender mapped out a very different game plan for its second album. Halfway Down the Sky was essentially a live document, cut quickly and with minimal embellishment by producer Todd Rundgren. For To Whom It May Concern, they chose a different producer, with a radically different approach."We met Mark Endert (Fiona Apple, Tonic, Vertical Horizon, The Ours) when we re-recorded I Think God Can Explain a few months after doing the album version with Todd," Svec explains. "It was more of a pop single radio mix, and after that experience we were like, We should definitely keep this guy in mind for the next record.""Mark is a mad scientist," Boone says. "From day one we spent an enormous amount of time on every sound and every idea. That brought more out of us, but the setback was the amount of time it took. To focus that long in a studio is very difficult, because I always try to capture what a song meant to me at the moment it was written. To spend that much time examining every detail in the studio while still going for that kind of purity, that became a call to arms for me.""On the first record, nothing was scrutinized," adds Slutsky. "We didnt experiment that much. But with the new album, if I wanted to try out a different snare drum, it was like, Sure, lets do it. Mark is amazingly patient, so no stone was left unturned. The production on this record is huge, and there was this great sense of freedom.?Even with the details etched into high relief, To Whom It May Concern projects the same kind of urgency that fans have come to expect from Splender onstage. Adhering to the contours of each songs structure, the band finds myriad variations on the basic idea of rawk: just check out the opening track, "Happier This Way," from the swinging, Stones-like opening riff through its reflection in the drum part, which quickly powers up to a massive backbeat that slams through showers of muscular guitar. With each new section, the band adjusts, following the tension as it eases and cranks back up. This is classic rock band arrangement, confident, even swaggering, yet alert and responsive at the molecular level.Then there are the lyrics. Boone shares a gift with other great writers, in being able to speak personally yet universally through his songs, often with obscure images that nonetheless ring true. "Sometimes I will intentionally make certain things ambiguous," he explains. "When I present the song to the band, if their reaction is stronger than I expected, I might want to lose the meaning of the song and turn into something just to entertain. When that happens, Ill go back and mask some of its intentions, if I feel I may have gone too far."Even so, its easy to sense the emotions that Boone brings to his words. Above all, his writing is guided by honesty, whether delivering contradictory messages of self-disappointment and self-assertion, as on "Wide Awake"; or celebrating the existence of love in the world, even if absent from his life, on "High"; or expressing the live-for-now urgency of "Save It For Later.? He sings on "The Loneliest Person I Know" as he would speak to a friend, or to himself in moments of dark desperation on "No Big Deal." Everywhere the lines of meaning blur, as love, fury, fear, and affirmation flash past with searing clarity.To Whom It May Concern is, above all, a paradox: meaning and obscurity, studio finesse and live intensity, all in volatile juxtaposition. All that can be said in the end is that Splender has beaten its own expectations, and those of the world as well."Looking back, it was truly terrifying to make that leap into the new record," Boone sums up. "It was like going to war. We felt that we had to go into battle and win, on a personal level. To be honest, it was shocking, because I hadnt expected us to go as far as we did."And thats just the second step on their journey. To Whom It May Concern is a triumph?and a promise of more triumphs to come.