The Story Behind Jellyfish’s Final Lineup, Part Two

Continued from Part One

Bill Kopp: How did Eric Dover come to join Jellyfish?

Roger Joseph Manning: The whole thing was just weird. In a nutshell, we had put out that announcement for a guitarist replacement, and got all kinds of submissions … well, as much as you could pre-internet. About 50 submissions, which was a lot. And they were just all over the map. I think we were interested in four or five of them. The rest were just, like this metal dude, fully tattooed, piercings all over his body. Playing industrial metal – which, hey we have no problem with – but it’s like, “What does that have to do with Jellyfish?” [We said], “Hey, we’re flattered that you’re a fan of our light, easy pop, but what does this have to do with anything? It was just mind-blowing.

I actually hung onto all the audition submissions for a while, because it was such an entertaining book to leaf through.

But there were four or five guys that we reached out to in the process. We did some follow-up with them, and they sent more material. We met with a few of them, and it just didn’t yield anything. They were nice enough people, but we were just like, “They don’t have what it takes, unfortunately.”

And [at that time] we’re literally mixing the Spilt Milk album with the full awareness of in the next two months we are on the road, hard and heavy. And Tim [Smith] was a very much solid member at that time; in fact he had joined early enough to participate with Spilt Milk. But no guitar player.

Tim, you already knew Eric Dover at that point as well, didn’t you?

Tim Smith: Yeah, sort of. He was in a powerpop band from Alabama called Love Bang. I knew a couple of the guys in that band. I knew Eric was great and what we were looking for in a touring guitar player. I thought that he’d be totally able to do it.

Manning: Tim said, “Well, it’s a long-shot, but I just did a gig this last month in Birmingham. This band opened for us, and I thought the singer had quite a good voice. They were a little more hard rock. But I talked to him after the show. He was a nice enough guy, really sweet guy, and he can sing his butt off. He seemed like he could play guitar, but it was really all about his singing.”

So, we were like, “There’s no bad answers, just friggin’ call him up. If he wants to come out here, great.” With no expectation that this was going to work out at all. What ended up happening was Eric – who was very shy and intimidated, as I would have been had I been in his position – just kind of jammed with us at the studio where we were finishing mixing Spilt Milk. And it was super awkward. We hadn’t even really jammed with Tim. We weren’t a “jamming band.”

We had to try to feel out how this guy could sit with us. We had heard him sing on tape and stuff. It was like, “Okay, he can sing.” He has a very strong and powerful voice, which is going to be great for the high harmony. Because Tim and I have low voices and then Andy and Eric would, then, have the higher voices; we needed that balance.

And we just went for it. It was a long shot. It was a credit to everybody. It was a credit to me and Andy and Tim for taking the chance. But it was a credit, even more, to Eric for risking it all and basically auditioning during rehearsals.

It got to the point where it was like, “Okay, clearly he can sing his ass off. He can play guitar, but he’s not the guitar player Jason [is].” Jason is one of a kind to this day. You don’t just walk in and clone Jason Falkner! So, Eric had his work cut out for him. Basically, we were like, “Eric, if you’re up for this, we’re going to work you to death, and there’s only one result. And it’s victory. We know you can sing the parts – which are hard enough as it is – but you’re really going to have to rise to the occasion with the guitar.”

And he did, to the point where he was also playing extra keyboard parts that were needed. Not being a keyboard player at all. We frigging killed it. We were working so hard, and we were like, “This is the goal.” Like, being tough-love coaches where you have to give everybody pep talks; that happened on several occasions. There were a few points where I thought for sure that Eric – and possibly Tim – was going to quit. That did not happen.

And I could not be prouder of the shows, thankfully, some of which were taped and videotaped. I mean, [there aren’t many], but enough. I’ll look at a YouTube clip and I’m just like, “Oh my god, we were just unstoppable.” I’m Just so proud of what that yielded, but it was a tough road to get there. And I’m proud to say that it all worked out.

Today, Manning, Smith and Dover are together again as The Lickerish Quartet. Their absolutely superb debut EP, Threesome Volume 1 was released May 15.