In 2005, when the Seattle-based, epic rock ‘n’ roll band, Acceptance, put out their debut studio LP, Phantoms, on Columbia Records, it seemed like the world was their collective, proverbial oyster. But, shortly thereafter, the group broke up. The band’s front man, Jason Vena, admits he was the “catalyst” for that breakup. In the ten years between, Vena says, he didn’t keep in contact with the members. There were rumors of arguments and rather unacceptable interpersonal behavior. But, in 2015, that changed.
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The band resolved and reunited in Asbury Park’s Skate & Surf venue, which was, serendipitously, the site of their last show a decade prior. Ever since that reunion, the band hasn’t stopped making music. Today, Acceptance is proud to debut the music video for their latest single, “Midnight.”
“We reunited and reconnected as a group,” Vena says. “It actually turned out to be a great reunion. We all became real friends as opposed to being friends who were on tour who had to be friends. We’ve chosen to rekindle those relationships later in life. Now, we’re already talking about making our next record.”
What sparked the reunion was a renewed demand for the band. There’d been a vinyl re-pressing of Phantoms a few years prior that had sold out in minutes. Not long after, Skate & Surf had reached out to Vena about a reunion show. He ignored it but the venue’s promoter reached out again the following year and the proverbial ball had begun to finally roll. The problem was, though, many of the members hadn’t seen one another – let alone play together – in years.
Now though, Vena says, things are different.
“We’ve been fortunate to reconnect as a group and to accept each individual within the group as they are,” Vena says. “I think our perspective is about loving each other and having brothers and a family of people you connect with.”
Growing up, each of the band members were raised in church. Religion – or, more specifically, often overly conservative ideas of religion – got in the way of their friendships. But by embracing each individual the band itself has grown and matured, member by member, to become a more fully formed version.
“I think you just grow up,” Vena says. “There’s a big difference from being a teenager and being a 40-year-old.”
Today, the band is back on track. “Midnight” is passionate, emotional, swelling and bright. It’s part-U2, part-The Killers. The song describes a relationship – not unlike the one felt between the members of Acceptance – that has its ups and downs, successes and failures, vision and shortsightedness. The core characters have to decide whether to continue their relationship (in the song’s case, a romantic one) and decide whether all that they put into it is worth extending or worth abandoning.
“I really tried to harness some of the rock ‘n’ roll from the 80s,” Vena says. “And the relationship story is grounded in this small-town feel. In a serious relationship, the stakes are really high. What you put into it is so intense. Yet, when it fails or it breaks or if it’s faltering, each person has their own perspective or justifications.”
Vena, who first learned to appreciate music at the foot of his father, met guitarist, Kaylan Cloyd, in 1997 at the Warped Tour in Seattle. Eminem was the headliner, Vena remembers. At the time, the two were still teenagers. They had dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom. Vena, who had taken guitar lessons early on, was impatient at first, as a student. Later, he found a book of guitar tabs for the Green Day record, Dookie. Discovering the power of barre chords opened him up to music in a whole new way. He became obsessed. He fell in love with the big rock sounds of the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World. He started Acceptance with Cloyd.
“Jimmy Eat World,” Vena says, “harnessed this sound where the guitars could be really interesting and stripped down and, yet, they could still have these big moments that were fairly aggressive. We gravitated to that feel.”
Conflict is not always a bad thing, especially if the aggrieved parties, in the end, feel made whole again. Growth comes from conflict. Wisdom comes from mistakes. Today, Vena says the band members’ relationships are stronger, made more real after all that they had to go through together. Each member seems invested in the band and each seems to appreciate the next by his side. Things are better than they were. So much so that Acceptance, which first formed in 1998, has at least one more record in the works – and likely many more.
“I’d like to leave the world a better place than it was when I found it,” Vena says. “The predominant social issue of my lifetime is understanding how to love each other and accept each other and support each other and create an environment where everybody can be the best version of themselves. To me, that’s a lot of what we want to write about. Those are the stories we want to tell.”
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