It takes a lack of superstition and a sense of sarcasm to call a band Failure in the first place — but around 1996, singer, guitarist and producer Ken Andrews had to be wondering if it was a self-fulfilling prophecy for his star-crossed Los Angeles trio.
For a group to make a career-defining work, only to have it go largely unheard, requires bad luck and bad timing — and Failure had both.
Their label, Warner Bros., had no idea what to do with “Fantastic Planet” — their 68-minute whale of a third album — and gave up promoting it after it failed to chart on Billboard’s Top 200.
“I’ll never fully understand why they got cold feet,” sighs the Seattle native in a phone interview. “I felt like people really just needed a minute to get to know us, to figure out what our sound was about… but they weren’t ready to make that commitment.”
But now, Andrews and his writing partner Greg Edwards — Failure’s bassist and co-founder — are getting their due. Last winter, they announced their first live performance since breaking up, at L.A.’s El Rey Theatre. It sold out instantly. They’ll play The Showbox Sunday.
“We used to sell out [L.A. clubs] like The Troubadour and The Whisky,” Andrews remembers, “but not in two minutes. And we certainly never had an entire crowd singing along to every word of every song.”
Affirming his statement about the need to approach Failure with patience and an open mind, the legend of “Fantastic Planet” has evolved over time.
A quantum leap from its predecessors, 1991’s “Comfort” and 1994’s “Magnified,” the self-produced double LP — with its rhythmic barre chords, sinewy bass tones and blunt-instrument drumming — was post-grunge ear candy. And the lyrics were crafted as carefully as the soundscapes, using space travel and science fiction as metaphors for drug dependency and feeling out-of-step with the world.
The mainstream might’ve rejected the album, but the underground came to embrace it. Younger bands who’ve fallen under its spell include Nashville’s Paramore, who covered its one and only single “Stuck on You” in 2006, and Boston’s Cave In, who completely ditched their hardcore punk sound after hearing it — even attempting their own spacey opus, 2000’s “Jupiter.”
After marriage and children, Andrews and Edwards — the former a sought-after recording engineer whose credits include Beck, Blink-182 and Nine Inch Nails, the latter a member of the shoegazing Autolux, who’ve toured with artists ranging from The White Stripes to Shellac — began playing together again last year.
In coming months, the duo, plus returning drummer Kellii Scott, will begin work on a new record. (“Come Crashing,” below, appears on the tour-only EP “Tree of Stars.”)
Asked whether he has any concerns about potentially messing with Failure’s legacy, the bandleader, now 46, says fans needn’t worry.
“We’ll be focusing on ‘Fantastic Planet’ for this tour… but we still have something more to say, musically.”
It took 17 years, but Failure was — is — a success.
7:30 p.m. Sunday at The Showbox, 1426 1st Ave., Seattle; $25-30 (206-628-3151 or showboxpresents.com)