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About The Successful Failures

The Successful Failures band photo“The first thing you should know about The Successful Failures is that any attempt to plug them into one genre or another is very much a fool’s errand. Hailing from Trenton, N.J., the band deftly combines Americana, Pop, Rock, and enough of a dusting of Bluegrass that serves as an appetizer to the main course without overwhelming the entire meal.” – July 2020, Rock is the New Roll

Check out this 2 hour interview from 10/27/23 on WOWD 94.3 FM in Takoma Park, MD – lots of info about the history of the band plus several live performances

Check out this recent Article/Interview in New Jersey Stage Magazine that basically provides a history of the band – good resource.

No Depression magazine dubbed The Successful Failures as “one of the hardiest and most prolific outfits on the planet” playing “instantly infectious melodies that tread the line between power pop and Americana without wholly committing to either”.  With a name borrowed from a Jack London short story and an indie rock work ethic The Successful Failures burst onto the scene out of the NJ pinelands in 2006. TSF has released 10 full length albums full of songs about vikings, armadillos, old cars, murder, prison, fences, and girls.   The band continues to showcase their versatility, seamlessly marrying power-pop, garage-rock, classic country and un-affected rock n roll with roots-inflected rock and winsome, harmonic, pop. The band has shared the stage with Steve EarleLucinda WilliamsEmmylou HarrisJeff TweedyDeer TickDr. DogStrand of OaksIke Reilly, JD McPherson, and many many more.  Most of all, the band’s infectious energy and love for what they do shines through in every live performance.  One fan put it this way, “SF could play on a small raft heading over the falls and still have a blast and crank out the best tunes this side of the Milky Way.”  The Successful Failures released their 10th full length album, Wrong Together in April 2023.  The single, “Millions of People” has been featured on Sirius XM Radio’s Underground Garage show as well as other stations all over the country and world.  TSF plan to continue playing live shows both regionally and nationally to support the new album.


The Successful Failures formed in 2005 as a side project for Mick Chorba (Dipsomaniacs).  In 1998 Chorba had released the solo song “Hick Bars” on a compilation CD using the name Successful Failures (taken from a Jack London short story) as his moniker.  The name was resurrected 8 years later when drummer Rob Martin and bassist Ron Bechamps were recruited to form a real band.  The trio rehearsed in Martin’s Pine Hill, NJ basement, learning the songs that would become their debut CD.  In May of 2005 The Successful Failures played their first show in Dewey Beach, DE at the Dewey Beach Pop Fest with Greg Potter (Blank Pages) sitting in on guitar.  The band’s debut self titled CD (featuring “Up to Her Ears”, “Sewer Water”, and “If That’s the Way That You Want It”) was released.  Later that year guitarist John Williams joined the group and the quartet began working on their sophomore effort.

In 2007 the band played a series of out of town shows in DC, Baltimore, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and more.  In July of ’07 the band camped out in Knoxville, TN to record with Superdrag drummer/producer Don Coffey at Independent Recorders.  The Successful Failures also appeared at the Corner Lounge at the Coffey-run festival, Hottfest.   The 5-song EP, Bridges Over the Delaware was released (featuring the title track, the Kristofferson cover “Sunday Morning Coming Down”,  as well as a live version of “Sewer Water” recorded in Arlington, VA).   In November of ‘07 the band released Ripe for the Burning (featuring “All You Can Take”, “Sun Makes Circles”, and “Carolina I’m in Love”).  The band celebrated with a show at what was becoming SF headquarters – The Khyber in Philadelphia.  SF opened for Ike Reilly at the Khyber as well around this time.  The band closed out 1997 by contributing a version of the Big Star song “Oh Dana” to the FDR tribute CD, About a Girl.

In 2008 The Successful Failures traveled to the Midwest for a series of memorable shows in Chicago, IL and Madison, WI.  A live recording of Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart” (recorded in Madison) was featured on the 3 song digital only ep, Time to Sell (also featuring “Time to Sell” and “Fishing Boat Picture”).  In the summer the band played with Mic Harrison (former member of  Superdrag and V Roys) in Richmond and continued to play locally in Philadelphia as well as DC, Baltimore and other East Coast hot spots.  In 2009 the band began work in earnest on their third album which was recorded at Chorba’s home studio in Chesterfield, NJ and mixed by Drew Mazurek in Baltimore, MD.  The rockin’ new album, Three Nights (featuring “Houston, We Have a Drinking Problem”, “Armadillo Boy”, and “Scream”) was released in May of 2010 to much critical acclaim.

In 2011 SF released a digital-only-single called “Liar in the Room”.  The band used most of the year to work on 20 plus songs slated for what became their 4thalbum, Here I Am (released in April 2012).  The band continued to play shows with stops in Richmond, VA and Winston-Salem, NC as well as many local shows in NYC, Philadelphia, and NJ.  The band performed a marathon set as a featured artist at the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Marathon in September of 2011 and participated in a tribute to Clash front-man, Joe Strummer, at the North Star in Philadelphia in December.  The band ended the year with a special release, a digital-only-single called “The Voice of Joe Strummer” in December.

In 2012 the band released their 4th full length CD, Here I Am, and continued to tour in support of the new album.  The album was well received, earning praise from press and fans alike.  The opening track and single, “How People Start Sentences” has become a fan favorite and is the most downloaded song the band has released.  On Valentine’s Day 2013 the band released a digital only single… an underwater love song called “Sea Flowers”… it was presented as a thank you to fans as a free download.   SF also contributed a vivacious cover of The Fountains of Wayne song “Flair” to the FDR Tribute to NJ: My Hometown. In the fall of 2013 they appeared at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in Bristol, TN (also appearing Lucinda Williams, Deer Tick, Blitzen Trapper and more).  Guitarist John Williams left the band in Sept. of 2014 to open a running store in NJ.  Jim Becker from the NJ indie rock band, Taggart, filled in on guitar.

In December of 2013 The Successful Failures released the Christmas vinyl split EP Snow Day (Take it Easy).  SF contributed 4 holiday songs (3 new originals and a cover of the Ramones song “Merry Christmas I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight”) and Taggart contributed 4 songs as well.  The bands celebrated with a festive show at Ortlieb’s in Philadelphia, PA.  In the new year The Successful Failures dedicated their time to finishing their new album, Captain’s of Industry, Captains of War, featuring 12 new Mick Chorba originals.  The band also began playing more and more frequently as an acoustic trio with bassist Ron Bechamps playing mandolin and drummer Rob Martin on the cajon drum.  Notable shows included a St. Patrick’s day performance at the Parlour in NYC as well as a series of shows at local wineries and outdoor events.

In March of 2014 the band recorded 4 songs live in Rob Martin’s Pine Hill, NJ basement, The Bunker, with producer Matt Gorman.  The songs were released as an EP, titled Pine Hill, in August 2014.  The EP features the new SF song, “Mike Malloy” and three covers (Old Crow Medicine Show, J Cash, and Hank Williams respectively).  Joining the band for the recording and other live performances is Pine Hill resident and former Chubby Checker and Robert Hazard guitarist Pete Smith.

In the fall of 2014 The Successful Failures returned to perform at The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival (Jeff Tweedy and Emmylou Harris headlining).  The new album Captains of Industry, Captains of War (featuring “Stagger Lee & Woodrow Wilson”, “Milwaukee”, and “Ghost Around Here”) was released in October of that year.  The band celebrated with a hometown show to a packed house at The Record Collector in Bordentown, NJ.  The album received local and national praise for it’s production, songwriting, and musicianship.  The song “Ghost Around Here” was featured nationally on SiriusXM radio.  In 2015 the band played to a packed house at Triumph Brewery in New Hope, PA with friends The Paper Jets.  St. Patricks Day 2015 proved to be another busy time for SF as they performed several shows in NYC and NJ featuring acoustic versions of several Pogues songs and many traditional Irish tunes with Ron Bechamps on mandolin and lead vocals for much of the set.  2015 found the band at a series of unlikely venues that pretty much rocked… for example: a bike store, a library, more wineries, street fairs, food truck events, and farm markets, performing sometimes as a full electric band with Pete Smith on guitar and sometimes as an acoustic duo or trio.

In the fall of 2015 The Successful Failures returned to Bristol VA/TN for their third year performing at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Festival.  This year the band shared the stage with Steve Earle, Dr. Dog., Josh Ritter, Strand of Oaks, and many more.  The band played two different stages over two days and played an impromptu street performance with some borrowed instruments.  In October SF will headline at the Philadelphia Rock n Roll marathon.  November had the band returning to Triumph Brew Pub in New Hope, PA with The Paper Jets.  The band  closed out the year with their annual Black Friday show at the Chesterfield Inn.  In the winter of 2015/2016 The Successful Failures took a hiatus from performing to record their 6th full length album, this time with Pete Smith on guitar.  The band planned to tour in 2016 to support the new effort.

2015 – 2017:  the band continued to work on recording the next album though the progress was slowed due to shoulder surgery for drummer Rob Martin.  During the hiatus Mick continued to write and Mick/Ron continued to play live featuring the acoustic guitar/mandolin line-up.  St. Patrick’s Day shows most notably at home base pub, Tirnanog, in Trenton, NJ were particularly raucous and down-right fun.  Rob recovered in time for the band to return for their 4th appearance at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, this time performing with Cracker, Loretta Lynn, Houndmouth, and Hayes Carll among others.  The annual Black Friday show moved back to Philadelphia for an electric set at The Boot and Saddle.  In 2017 the band finished the mixing of the new album – portentously titled Ichor of Nettle. The album broke in November 2017 to rave reviews featuring the rockers “Misguiding Light”, “Sam Houston”, “The Shit That Weighs You Down”, and the acoustic numbers “Tennessee Boy” and “Baby Home Tonight”.  The band celebrated with a hometown show at The Record Collector.  Also released at this time: a 4 song live-in-studio ep called “Red Bank” which was recorded live to video for promotional purposes (highlighting the band’s live tight/loose Replacements vibe).

In 2018 longtime friend and musical collaborator, Greg Potter (Blank Pages) joined the band as a 5th member on guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals.  With Greg on board the band honored the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ White Album with 2 shows featuring spirited renditions of songs from the classic double album.  In November the band began the process of recording their 7th album with sessions in Red Bank, NJ at Retromedia Studios.

2019 – The band spent the early months of the year, the cold ones, in Red Bank, NJ at Retromedia and at the home studio in Chesterfield, NJ finishing up with the tracking of the new album.  In March the band played a series of shows revolving around St. Patrick’s Day featuring their love for Irish music, mostly songs by The Pogues and the Dubliners as well as original songs featuring an acoustic based version of the band with Mick on acoustic guitar, Ron on mandolin, Pete on bass guitar, and Rob Martin on drums.  In the spring the group started up a new venture called “The SF Beer Tour” in which the band featured different breweries with live performances highlighting a marriage of two favorites: beer and music. Featured breweries included Death of the Fox (Clarksboro, NJ), Human Village (Pitman, NJ), Lost Rhino (Ashburn, VA), Black Narrows (Chincoteague, VA), and more.   The 7th full length album by The Successful Failures, Saratoga, was released on August 30th.  Indie label, FDR, was proud to make the 11-song collection available on beautiful 12″ vinyl, the first full length SF album to be released officially as a record.  The album was mixed in Red Bank, NJ by enginner Adam Vaccarelli and mastered in Baltimore, MD by long time SF collaborator producer/engineer Drew Mazurek.  The album featured three well-received singles:  “Love You So”, “Disgruntled Bankers”, and “No White Knight in Knoxville”.  The band (back to a 4 piece with the departure of Greg Potter to pursue his original music with Blank Pages) toured in support of the release with stops in Falls Church, VA; Richmond, VA; Winston-Salem, NC; and Knoxville, TN.  Shows in support of the album also included a memorable sold out evening in Bordentown, NJ at Randy Now’s Man Cave in which the band performed the album in its entirety.

2020 – The band continued to play live shows as 2020 dawned on the world.  On Sunday March 15th the band played their last show at a small NJ brewery (Spellbound) before the pandemic shut everything down.  The Successful Failures used the down time to polish off an unexpected and unplanned 8th studio album titled Pack Up Your Shadows (co-released by FDR and Kool Kat Musik).  Pack Up Your Shadows is available on CD and 12″black vinyl and features 8 new Mick Chorba songs plus a raucous version of “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It” which was featured on Willie Nelson’s Willie’s Roadhouse XM Radio Show.  As this is being written (October 2020) nothing has returned to normal but fans should be encouraged to know The Successful Failures have written a 9th album and have begun the process.  Hoping to play all this new music live in 2021!

2021-2023 –  The Successful Failures released a concept album called James Cotton Mather which tells the story of the titular character who flees his Maine hometown and his destined life as a sailor to become a lumberjack in the western regions of the state.   The album falls somewhere between the Decemberists and The Who in a hard to define place that only SF seem to occupy.  The album featured the songs, “Julie the Redeemer”, “Cara (I Can Take Your Pain Away)”,  and It “Goes Away”.  The band continued to play locally in NJ and PA and regionally with performances in 2021 and 2022 at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion Festival in Bristol, VA/TN  In 2023 the band released their 10th album, Wrong Together, a collection of 12 new original songs recorded at Gradwell House studio in Haddon Heights, NJ.  The album was mixed by Travis Harrison in Brooklyn, NY.  Mr. Harrison is best known for his work with indie rockers Built to Spill and Guided by Voices.  The first single from the album, “Millions of People”, has been featured on Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show as well as numerous other stations throughout the world.


The Successful Failures–Captains of Industry, Captains of War (FDR).

The finest pleasure for music fans is to watch great bands get even better, and Chesterfield, NJ’s The Successful Failures have perfected their already deeply respectable/respected craft on their new fifth LP,Captains of Industry, Captains of War (FDR). All their formidable strengths have been streamlined and crystalized on Captains; already one of the most dependable, refreshingly honest and smart rock ‘n’ roll bands in the U.S., they still seamlessly mix melodic classic power-pop, garage rock, and ageless rock ’n’ roll with more roots-inflected rock and winsome, harmonic pop. Now with Captains, they’ve arrived at a place of timelessness, not unlike Pleased to Meet Me-era Replacements, Cheap Trick (note Captains’ “O Carolina” nods to their 1977 In Color killer, “O Caroline”), and Superdrag—whose drummer, Don Coffee Jr., once produced them—or contemporary Teenage Fanclub, Sloan, and Nada Surf.

Like such stalwarts, listening to Captains, you don’t know what’s best: singer/guitarist/songwriter/FDR Records head/former Dipsomaniacs leader Mick Chorba’s stubborn, gripping hooks and thoughtful-as-ever lyrics, or the trio’s insistent yet smooth attack. Like 2012’s Here I Am, Chorba caresses or stomps out sticky, lashing licks on his guitar, bolstered by Ron Bechamps supple bass (and cool vocal harmonies) and Rob Martin’s powerful pounding. Pleasantly, they sprinkle in acoustic-built gems such as the elegiac, quietly heartbreaking, piano-fed “Falling Out” and “Meal Parade” alongside sublime guitar rockers such as “Stagger Lee” (an original twist on the wicked protagonist of the 19th Century folk/R&B classic associated with Mississippi John Hurt, Woody Guthrie, Lloyd Price, and Wilson Pickett, with a prominent reference to a 1969 Neil Young LP), “Sunny,” and the evocative—of another American folklore archetype—“John Henry.”

Formed in 2005 and named for a 1901 Jack London short story, Minions of Midas, it’s significant that like The Replacements’ Pleased, Captains sees The Successful Failures slimmed down from a quartet to their initial threesome. Second guitarist John Williams “had to leave to open a running store,” explains Chorba,” bringing them “back to the original roots: a collection of songs I wrote that is band arranged. We wanted it to be an up-tempo rock ’n’ roll record,” he remembers. “I write a lot of songs, and some are more on the alt.country side, but we were picking through the ones that Rob could bash around a bit.”

“There still are a few in-between tracks,’ he allows. “But it’s a guitar record. We record live, no click track, so it has the right energy, at our studio FDR studio C. And after every best take, Rob would stand up and say, “F-ing rock,” and we’d know it was the one—you can even hear that once on the album.”

Meanwhile, fans will note something familiar about “O Carolina.” “Right, that’s a continuation of ‘Carolina (I’m in Love With You),’ a song on [2007 second LP] Ripe For the Burning, The earlier song was a guy in prison that married, based on a real story. And in this new one, he realizes she’s double-crossed him.” Likewise, in literary-minded Chorba fashion, “’Milwaukee’ is “written from the point of view of Pip from [Charles Dickens’ 1860 landmark] Great Expectations,” which he teaches as a New Jersey High School English teacher. “A lot of the songs are about someone setting off on a journey, he continues. “For instance, ‘Hit the Ground Running’ is about turtles racing to the ocean, a metaphor for starting out your own adventure in life, while all sorts of predators are trying to get you… It’s the only song I’ve ever written from the point of view of a turtle,” he laughs.

In addition to their new EP, Pine Hill showing their range by convincingly covering Old Crow Medicine Show, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Sr., The Successful Failures often do special acoustic shows that include covers of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Irish folk. Clearly they can do it all, with spirit, intelligence, determination, and sneaky power—and Captains is their finest statement of purpose to date.

Jack Rabid, editor and publisher, The Big Takeover Magazine

“‘I’ve been following the Successful Failures since I read about 2007′s Ripe for the Burning in the Big Takeover (best music mag on the planet, fyi). As a die-hard fan of chunky power pop bands like Superdrag and Sloan, the Failures immediately hit all my sweet spots. But what sets them apart is their lyrics. Writing about love and relationships is easy; Vikings, Mickey Mantle, China’s rise to superpower status, and the Civil War — those topics take a bit more inspiration.

The band’s newest album, Here I Am, gets you smiling immediately with the sly wordplay of How People Start Sentences. The cleverness continues throughout — I certainly never thought I’d be humming a song called The Rise of China. And just try to remove the addictive opening chant of Pig Tight Cattle High from your brain after the first listen.
Here I Am, like the Successful Failures previous efforts, is a near perfect blend of Replacements-inspired rock, some alt-country leanings (see Clifton Mills), and crunchy melodies that never lose their timelessness. It’s feel-good music. Go ahead and listen. ” Fresh Droppings: The Successful Failures — Here I AmAPRIL 27, 2012 BY JEREMY ZUCKER

“With Trenton’s Dipsomaniacs on extended hiatus, Mick Chorba’s “other band” has become his priority, and they’re even better. They replicate the Dips’ energy and melodic thrust, but the ‘Failures third LP again indulges a wider scope. Three opens with folk-pop, takes three more valid excursions into country-rock shakers (“College Scholarship Blues,” “All You Had,” “Any Ol’ Thing”), and kicks ass on a harmonica-blazing rave-up, “Scream”—reminding oldsters of that forgotten word “repertoire.” Beyond that, proving that 2007’s cheekily-titled Ripe for the Burning was no fluke, Three is another sweet treat for lovers of recent Sloan, Pleased to Meet Me Replacements, Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush, Mike Ness, and Cheap Trick (whose “Surrender” lyric “Got my Kiss records out” is referenced cleverly on “Houston, We Have a Drinking Problem”). Besides, the ensemble’s arrangements (piano a plus) and harmonies allow for lighter touches to tickle backgrounds, even while one falls anew for the band’s bread ‘n’ butter bold ‘n’ bursting big guitar power-pop prowess, on hotfoot treats such as “Armadillo Boy,” “Fletcher,” and the buzzing title track. Take it from a long-ago native—New Jersey can rock.” (Jack Rabid in The Big Takeover March 2010).

“With their fab merging of crunchy power-chord pop and Stonesy drive, these Jersey rockers, with Mick Chorba of Dipsomaniacs fame leading the charge, are one of the best bands going. One listen to the rousingly infectious “All I Can Take” will hook you” (Pop Culture Press Magazine, Austin, TX, 2008).

The Successful Failures–Ichor of Nettle (FDR).

This very publication [No Depression Magazine] once pronounced the Successful Failures “one of the hardiest and most prolific outfits on the planet,” and who are we to argue given the brilliance of their latest epoch, obtusely titled Ichor of Nettle. As always, it’s their ability to bend the boundaries between indie pop and effusive Americana that separates them from the pack. Whether it’s the wholly infectious “The Ballad of Julio Cuellar,” the unrelenting surge of songs like “Misguiding Light” and “All Wrapped Up,” or the amiable ramble of “Baby Home Tonght” and “Tennessee Boy,” the Successful Failures remain in top form, creating an intoxicating sound that’s been perfected over the span of five previous albums.

Granted, when you brand your band with a name like Successful Failures, you’re admitting some degree of disappointment, but suffice it to say, there’s no letdown here, and, in fact, it’s rather remarkable that ten years after their formation, this New Jersey-based band hasn’t relinquished any of the energy or enthusiasm originally demonstrated so early on. While their subjects occasionally tilt toward the unexpected, be it Viking adventures, crime stories, tales of incarceration, or what have you, they always manage to stay true to their indie ethos and careen their way through whatever muse happens to attract their collective fancy. Here, for example, they sing in celebration of Sam Houston, a preference for Pennsylvania, or a faithful father, but the sheer exhilaration that comes through in the music is consistently revved up in top gear.

Further demonstration of that energy and aptitude is evident in the limited edition live EP Red Bank that reprises four songs from the new album, even while elevating them to new heights.

“With Trenton’s Dipsomaniacs on extended hiatus, Mick Chorba’s “other band” has become his priority, and they’re even better. They replicate the Dips’ energy and melodic thrust, but the ‘Failures third LP again indulges a wider scope. Three opens with folk-pop, takes three more valid excursions into country-rock shakers (“College Scholarship Blues,” “All You Had,” “Any Ol’ Thing”), and kicks ass on a harmonica-blazing rave-up, “Scream”—reminding oldsters of that forgotten word “repertoire.” Beyond that, proving that 2007’s cheekily-titled Ripe for the Burning was no fluke, Three is another sweet treat for lovers of recent Sloan, Pleased to Meet Me Replacements, Matthew Sweet, Velvet Crush, Mike Ness, and Cheap Trick (whose “Surrender” lyric “Got my Kiss records out” is referenced cleverly on “Houston, We Have a Drinking Problem”). Besides, the ensemble’s arrangements (piano a plus) and harmonies allow for lighter touches to tickle backgrounds, even while one falls anew for the band’s bread ‘n’ butter bold ‘n’ bursting big guitar power-pop prowess, on hotfoot treats such as “Armadillo Boy,” “Fletcher,” and the buzzing title track. Take it from a long-ago native—New Jersey can rock.” (Jack Rabid in The Big Takeover March 2010).

“With their fab merging of crunchy power-chord pop and Stonesy drive, these Jersey rockers, with Mick Chorba of Dipsomaniacs fame leading the charge, are one of the best bands going. One listen to the rousingly infectious “All I Can Take” will hook you” (Pop Culture Press Magazine, Austin, TX, 2008).