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Instead of all-night throwdowns in the studio, the four Foo Fighters competed in a beard-growing contest this spring while making "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace, And instead of boozing it up with record company execs, frontman Dave Grohl greeted guests for a recent album playback while swinging his baby daughter Violet in his arms. Drummer Taylor Hawkins admits he's in bed by 10 p.m. these days too. ("My wife and I watch a '48 Hours Mystery' and I never see the end," he says.)
  But if the Foo Fighters have dispensed with the rock'n'roll lifestyle offstage, they're more committed to the music's possibilities than ever on °Echoes," their sixth studio effort. The album finds the Foos once again teamed with producer Gil Norton, who was behind the boards for 1997's "The Colour and the Shape" (their best seller to date, at 2.13 million U.S. copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan).
  "We've been a band for 13 years. Album after album, we've tried to redesign what we do," Grohl says. °Not reinvent, but just make it all a little prettier. We wanted to experiment and go deeper melodically. The first record to me sounds like it could have been a garage hardcore band. The idea now is to step it up and make [the Zombies') 'Odessey and Oracle' ".
  The band's music began heading down a more nuanced route on 2004's "In Your Honor," which featured a disc each of rock and acoustic songs. Then in 2006, the Foos took an expanded band out on an acoustic tour, a jaunt chronicled on the live CD/DVD "Skin and Bones."
  Foo Fighters, Billboard, August 2007 "After that tour, I finally realized the melodic possibilities hidden in a lot °four songs," Groh! says. "We had been kind of caged by the fact we were just a four-piece band. With additional instrumentation, which we'd never really experimented with before the last album, we could take songs from ground level to soaring heights."
  As such, "Echoes" sports songs that shift from fingerpicked acoustic guitar intros to speaker-shredding rock riffs in a mat-ter of seconds. Hardcore Foo Fighters fans will feel most at home with explosive tracks like first single "The Pretender" and "Erase/Replace," which front-load the album. But what stands out most are the true departures, like the instrumental "Ballad of the Beaconsfield miners. (a guitar duet with Kaki King), the acoustic "Stranger Things Have Happened" (recorded in a hallway with a metronome audibly clicking in the back-ground) and the closer "Home" (primarily Grohl alone at the piano in the grand tradition of Freddie Mercury and Queen).
  "Gil is heavy on pre-production," Grohl says. "The first two weeks 1 just sat with him around the table and talked to him about arrangements, harmony and melody. Once we narrowed it down from 40 songs to 20. we went and sat in a rehearsal space for about four weeks. We got deep. We'd play a song a day, and I mean a song a day, from noon to midnight. By the time we got to tracking, we were like fucking Bad Brains—the tightest band in the world."
  Norton was also a crucial sounding board when Grohl needed help untangling his disparate song sections. "I came in with ideas that seemed totally discombobulated but he sat with me and helped me piece it together like a little LEGO firetruck," he says.
  Grohl's willingness to bare his feelings on record is an-other sign of his evolution as a songwriter, but at times he hit nerves a little too close to home.
  "'Stranger Things Have Happened,' I don't even listen to that song," Hawkins says. "I'm one of his best friends, and the last thing I want to do is read a love letter to his wife or who-ever it is. But at the same time, if it was someone I didn't know, I might internalize it deeply, and it might be part of my life and something that I think about when I think of my wife."
  Throughout the album, there are numerous left-field musical references to "Band on the Run"-era Paul McCartney, the Eagles and other softer-rocking relics of the '70s.
  "There will be times when you hear it and you'll go, 'Wait a second. Was that Bread?' It's a trip," Grohl says.
  "I don't mean to sound lame or pretentious, but it was so fun to go through these sort long musical journeys and incorporate all these different dynamics," Hawkins adds.
  And if you believe the band, the beard-growing was fun, too. "I kept mine, but I trimmed it down a little bit. I was looking like Dennis Wilson in his homeless period, hitch-hiking on the Pacific Coast Highway with a bottle of orange juice and vodka in his hand," Hawkins says. Grohl adds, "I look like Billy Gibbons now. My wife is a saint."

The Foos' embrace of complex songwriting . a far cry from the band's 1995 self-titled debut, which Grohl recorded completely by himself in the months after Kurt Cobain's suicide brought a sudden end to Nirvana. After surrounding himself with the former rhythm section of Sunny Day Real Estate as well as guitarist Pat Smear, he slowly returned to the live scene by opening for Mike Watt on a celebrated 1995 club tour.
  Commercial success was nearly instantaneous, with the debut going platinum-plus and spawning three top 10 Modern Rock chart hits. But the band was constantly changing personnel and didn't settle on its present incarnation - Grohl, Hawkins, guitarist Chris Shiflett and bassist Nate Mendel—until 1999's "There Is Nothing Left to Lose."
  By then, the Foos were a juggernaut at retail and radio, and an arena-level draw in most territories. Their album sales have been almost scarily consistent with "Nothing Left having having sold 1.269 million, 2002's "One by One at 1.273 million and , Your Honor" even better at 1.34 million.
  The Foos are thus one of only five other bands in the Nielsen SoundScan era whose first five major-label studio albums have all exceeded platinum. (Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Green Day, System of a Down and Korn are the others ).
  And their song catalog features some of the most enduring recurrent at rock radio ("Everlong," "My Hero," "Learn to Fly," "All My Life," "Times Like These), where they've scored 13 top 10 hits and four No 1s.
  To top it off, the exceedingly good-nature. Groh! has become one of the most sought after pinch-hit drummers in the biz, filling the stool and boosting sales for projects by Nine lnch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Tenacious D and Killing Joke, among others. Even his metal-obsessed. side project, Probot, sold 142,000 copies of its self titled 2004 album for micro indie Southern Lord Records.
  "Sometimes people might take for granted the magnitude of having a frontman like Dave Grohl," RCA senior marketing director Brad Oldham says. "There's no stronger tool possible than someone so charismatic, funny and articulate helping present his own art to the world." At the aforementioned album playback, Grohl °literally hugged and greeted everybody who got off the bus. He's doing that in every single territory, and it's invaluable. People will work their asses off for this band."
  And although some might interpret the new album's "Cheer Up Boys, Your Make-Up Is Run-nine as a swipe at eyeliner-wearing emo bands, Hawkins insists Grohl really is as nice as everyone says he is, especially when in the company of other artists.
  "Dave will be the first one to have a beer and a shot backstage," he says. "You can like people, and not like their music. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Foo Fighters, Billboard, August 2007 FOO FOR ALL
Indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the industry who has a bad thing to say about the Foo Fighters, so it was no surprise "The Pretender'. was already winning PDs over well ahead of its Aug. 6 impact date. The track, which premiered Aug. 3 on ESPN's broadcast of the Summer X Games, debuts this week at No. 16 on the Modem Rock chart, the third-best opening frame of the Foos' career.
  "Not only have they evolved into a band that crosses all rock boundaries—considering they started out as an alt outfit with a frontman who was a drummer with a revolutionary band and thus had every card stacked against him—but they have every 'pop' sensibility without being a rock sellout," WHIG Mon-mouth-Ocean, N.J., PD Terrie Carr says.
  RCA's Oldham capitalized on radio's good will with a text-messaging initiative that began in late July. Fans were able to text "FF" and the call letters for more than 30 modem rock stations to a special short code that would text back a phone number. When called, the number played 40 seconds of "The Pretender" well ahead of the radio add date.
  "The stations are really digging this because it brands their stations with one of the biggest rock releases of the year," Oldham says. "Its the perfect way to market in the new mobile era."
  While the label finalizes promotions with iTunes and Target, the Foos are preparing to return to the road. After some one-off shows this summer in the United Kingdom, where the band has grown exponentially more popular in the past five years, the Foos will play U.S. gigs in September and October, followed by arenas in the United Kingdom in November and Australia in December. Another U.S. run is on tap for early Spring.
  On tour, the four extra musicians utilized for the "Skin and Bones" trek will be reprising their roles. "At first we decided to try everything with them and see what goes and what's needed and what's not really that necessary," Hawkins says. song like 'Come Alive,' we'll need all eight of us and it sounds really amazing. On some things we'll want to reproduce, [but] on others we'll just do the more conventional rock version.
  "On the first four records, there was an economic approach," he continues. "We didn't use any keyboards or any outside musicians. We never would have thought that we would have taken it this far. I mean, we all know we're not reinventing the wheel in anyway, shape or form. But we're definitely reinventing the wheel as far as the Foo Fighters go."
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