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Not Afraid To Be Happy With Upbeat Rock ‘N’ Roll, Sister Hazel Doesn’t Mind Making People Smile

Jeff Beres, bassist and singer for Sister Hazel, speaks with the same upbeat cadence with which his band’s songs come across the radio.

“When we started this thing back in ‘93 the whole grunge scene was just really kicking in,” he says. “But we felt different about things. We’re not saying that everything is always sunshine and roses, but we like to give a little bit of hope to this world.”

In these days of the post-grunge apocalypse, Sister Hazel is finding success with a rootsy acoustic-based rock that has landed plenty of its brethren on the radio as well as the top of the charts.

On the female side, Sarah McLachlan and Jewel have discovered mega-selling status with an easy-on-the-ears rock and roll. Hootie and the Blowfish, the Wallflowers and Dave Matthews have strummed their way to the top with their own catchy guitar noodlings.

But where Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz gives the sound a certain whiny element, Sister Hazel puts on a smile.

After all, they do have a tune called “Happy.”

It is an upbeat rocker of a song off their latest album, “… Somewhere More Familiar,” a song about remembering to look at the good things in life and about “being OK with what you’re doing,” Beres says.

Their tune “Look to the Children” suggests “I look around/So many so far down/Just search inside yourself/Cause the dream’s alive.”

A bit Pollyanna-ish? Maybe.

But “that’s just how we choose to leave people at the end of the night,” Beres says. “We want to put a smile on people’s faces.”

It has been with a certain single-mindedness that Beres and the four other members of Sister Hazel have pursued their dream to stand on stage and put that smile on people’s lips.

They formed in Gainesville, Fla., with Ken Block on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Andrew Copeland on guitar and vocals, Ryan Newell on guitar and vocals and Mark Trojanowski on drums. To put it in music industry terms, the band then created a “regional buzz.”

For three years they toured and toured and then they toured some more throughout the South and East. The band released a self-titled album and then “… Somewhere More Familiar.”

Execs at Universal Records were so impressed with the album sales, the live shows and the band’s business smarts they picked up Sister Hazel’s sophomore album last year. Now both “Happy” and “All For You” have spent time in heavy rotation on radio stations around the country, including Spokane’s 105.7 The Peak.

“We just really worked from the ground up and based it all on touring,” Beres says.

Last year the band was on the road for 320 days and played 280 shows.

Of course, with the growing success of their album, much has changed since their first days on the road. Nice hotel rooms have replaced sleeping in the tour van. The tour van has been replaced by a bus.

“It’s not like you just go in and plug in your amp and have just one guy out there mixing for you. Now it’s a whole big hullabaloo to put on a show,” Beres says, sounding not a bit ungrateful.

While their CD can seem, at times, subdued to a listener into the power of solid guitar rock, the band’s live show better represents the band’s natural intensity, Beres says.

“Our live show is really where it’s at. And what we found out early on is that the crowd really seemed to identify with what we’re saying and felt like they could be a part of the show.”

Such a feel-good vibe has given some pause to wonder if Sister Hazel isn’t another of those sneaky cross-over Christian bands. They are, after all, named after a female minister from Gainesville who runs a rescue mission.

“People thought “All For You” was a song about God and stuff. But, we’re definitely not a Christian band or a religious band,” Beres says. “I guess you could say we’re all spiritual in our own ways.

“The nicest thing about it is we’re doing our own thing and people are accepting it,” Beres says. “We dig it and that’s what’s most important to us. ‘Cause if we don’t like what we’re doing then how can you expect someone else to.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: In concert Sister Hazel performs Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Met. Alana Davis opens the concert, which is sold out.

This sidebar appeared with the story: In concert Sister Hazel performs Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Met. Alana Davis opens the concert, which is sold out.