The lifespan for a rock band is similar to an athlete’s — it's a young person’s game where most don’t last more than a decade. Health (often stylized HEALTH) has been a band for 10 years, and bassist John Famiglietti is fully aware of the game.
"You know, the last half of the rock documentary is really depressing," says Famiglietti. "It's always about the fall."
To know which half their rock documentary they're in now, we have to start at the beginning. Health started in 2005 and quickly got attention in the underground Los Angeles punk scene for their loud and aggressive music.
The band started with two guitars, bass and drums. They were in L.A. when there was a fertile noise scene growing.
"We didn't really want to do 30-minute free-noise performances," says singer and guitarist Jake Duzsik, "but we saw people doing these things that were incredibly powerfully loud and physical — the way you'd think of the first time you saw punk rock in the '70s — and we wanted to apply them to our first record."
A year after the band formed, it started selling out shows at an influential punk rock venue in downtown L.A. called the Smell.
"I think us selling out the Smell was probably one of our bigger moments," says Duzsik, "and it's like 200 people, but it was like, Oh my god!"
If you’ve ever been to the venue, you’d know why it’s called "The Smell." The venue was known for its avante-garde rock scene and DIY aesthetic, and people started taking notice. Around the time Health was selling out shows at the Smell, the venue was gaining national attention from the L.A. Times and Pitchfork. A new music scene in L.A. was born and Health was in the middle of it.
Jack Duzsik says:
"We'd been working on our band tirelessly so we were ready for it, but that is what allowed us to grab on to the first rung of the ladder and start getting booked at international festivals, and that changed the band."
Health went on to get national coverage of their own — being profiled by Vice, Billboard and the New Yorker — and the band was handpicked by Nine Inch Nails to go on tour with them in 2008.
To extend this hypothetical rock doc further — at this point, they’re just getting started. Health releases its second album “Get Color” to critical praise.
While playing a show in New York, Rockstar Games — the company behind the hugely successful "Grand Theft Auto" video game series — asked them to write the music for another massive gaming title: "Max Payne 3".
The action game is about a New York cop-turned-vigilante. A year after its 2012 release, "Max Payne 3" sold over 4 million copies.
"Doing that score was incredibly legitimizing and validating," says Famiglietti. "It changes how you think about yourself."
Duzsik says the band took inspiration on how the game company took time to make its product. This work ethic inspired Health to take its time with finishing the third full-length album, "Death Magic," which was released six years after its sophomore release, "Get Color".
But in that six years time, the band took a softer and more poppy side — especially with the song "L.A. Looks."
The song almost never made the final cut. "I was talking to my girlfriend and I was like, I don't know," says Duzsik. "In retrospect, nobody has brought up anything negative about it. But she was like, So let me get this straight. You have a song that people who don't like your band normally would like and you don't want that? And I was like, That's a very good point."
Health may be at an all-time high, but with every rock documentary, they’re very aware that a downfall is inevitable. So it's only logical to ask if their worried about what to do next:
"Even bands that are 15 to 20 times bigger than we are, you have to carefully manage and source your revenue to make it a life-long financial support structure," Duzsik says. "You're kind of freaking me out. I don't want to have to think about it too much right now. We just had a record come out, but if I project to me being 55 years old, am I still in a band? I don't think so, but I'd like to think that we would still be involved with making music."
Health will perform at FYF Fest this Sunday, Aug. 22.