A couple of years ago, the Ours frontman decided to switch his birthday celebration from Sept. 30 to Sept. 4, he says, “Because it was a new day for me, and I wasn’t ever going back to the person I was before. I was really closed off about sharing how I felt, and I’ve learned that I should always tell people how I really feel, no matter how much it may hurt their feelings. I’m going to save everyone a ton of time that way.”
His previous persona is on Ours’ new, third recording, “Mercy … Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy,” from which the band is likely to play Friday in concert at Slim’s in San Francisco.
Track one, “Mercy,” mentions suicide; amid the murky chords of track two, “The Worst Things Beautiful,” the topic expands as the Baudelairian lyricist thanks unknown benefactors with the line, “Could I save your life like you saved mine?”
Gnecco is being brutally honest; the potential suicide was himself, his saviors being his two teenage children who phoned him one night just in the nick of time.
“It started with a good amount of drinking,” the 34-year-old admits. “And then I found myself standing on the roof of the L.A. mansion where we were recording ‘Mercy,’ ready to jump. Which was pretty ironic — we were in a mansion, making a record with Rick Rubin, and I should be happy. But I was out there, teetering, thinking ‘Not even this feels good to me.’ I was ready to take my own life.”
The New Jersey native was in a bad state, having watched his 2002 album, “Precious,” tank right out of the box. Within a week of its release, his cousin passed away, one of his best friends was killed in a car crash and his longtime girlfriend committed suicide on a wine-aspirin overdose.
But at 4 o’clock in the morning on his birthday, when his son called him from across the country, things changed for Gnecco, who says, “He was just getting up for school. I was still up, shaking and crying, and he said ‘Hey, dad, happy birthday!’ And that really hit me. It would be the most selfish thing I could do, to leave my children and put that message in their heads — that when it gets really bad you should just give up.”
Now the songwriter finds inspiration everywhere he looks. Still, Gnecco doesn’t see his case as extraordinary. “I think I’ve just been learning some basic life lessons,” he says. “And I felt like a man with nothing to lose, but now I understand — I had plenty to lose.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 255-0333 or www.sflims-sf.com