Lucas Santora, lead guitarist of Rockville Centre band Bailout 42, couldn’t believe it when he discovered his group would open for Nine Days, a fellow Long Island band that enjoyed brief stardom in the height of the early-millennium pop era.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is actually happening,’” recalled Santora, who will share the stage with the longtime alternative rock group at Amityville Music Hall & Tavern on Aug. 12. “I didn’t even know their music that well, but I was like, ‘Holy sh-t, this is the band that did that song.’”
He was referring to Nine Days’ 2000 hit, “Absolutely,” also know as “Story of a Girl.” The song, released as the lead single from the group’s fourth album, “The Madding Crowd,” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart in August that year, with teens everywhere belting out its catchy chorus.
Santora, 20, discovered Nine Days in 2010, after reading an article in Rolling Stone that mentioned the group as one of the previous decade’s “one-hit wonders.” Now “Story of a Girl” is one of his favorite songs.
John Hampson, the lead singer of Nine Days, who assembled the band with friend Brian Desveaux while growing up in Suffolk County, remembered writing the song after looking across the room at his girlfriend — now his wife — during a gig. She had been annoyed that Hampson had not yet proposed.
“… She was talking to a bunch of her girlfriends and she laughed, and I literally just thought, ‘She drives me nuts, but I absolutely love her when she’s smiling,’” Hampson, 45, told the Herald.
The first line of the song came to him in a flash, and he said he wrote most of it in a half hour. “I’ve written so many songs and I’ve had the feeling of ‘this is a great song’ many times,” Hampson said, “but even I kind of knew when that song came to me … it was something different, or special, or whatever you want to call it.”
Though the group had formed about six years before the hit and had released three records before being signed by Sony Music’s Epic Records for “The Madding Crowd,” which sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States, the album’s lead single put Nine Days on the map.
“At that point, we had been circling around record companies, and we had heard enough times that we needed a hit, so it was an interesting time,” Hampson said. “When that song happened, I just kind of felt like, ‘Holy cow, I think I just did it.’”
The band’s follow-up album, “So Happily Unsatisfied,” which had a limited release in 2002, did not have a full commercial release until 2006. Epic Records ultimately dropped Nine Days from its label after repeatedly delaying the album. The group made a sixth album on its own before taking a hiatus.
Though Nine Days didn’t have “a hit-driven career,” Hampson said that was never the goal, and he isn’t bothered by people who label the band as a one-hit wonder. But he realized he needed to shift his career path. “I had spent years trying to get through that place, and once I saw it wasn’t going to stay there … I just wanted a different life,” he said. “I didn’t want to live the rest of my life kind of chasing something that I had already achieved.”
Hampson went back to school to get a degree in English, and wound up teaching at Wantagh High School, where he has worked for the past 10 years. He said that while he occasionally brings in his guitar, and incorporates poetry and lyrics into his lessons whenever possible, he is just an ordinary teacher.
“Nobody cares,” Hampson laughed, referring to his music career. “I’m their English teacher and I’m making them read ‘Catcher in the Rye’ or something.”
He does, however, sometimes get song requests from his students — one song in particular. When he brings in his guitar and tries to play some new songs he wrote, the high-schoolers urge him to play the tune Nine Days is best known for instead.
“I feel bad for the teachers around me who have to hear it, like ‘Here he goes again,’” Hampson said. “…I’m sure there’ll be a point where I’m 60 years old and nobody wants to hear me sing ‘Story of a Girl’ in their English class, but for the moment it’s still sort of a cool thing.”
Nine Days has reunited and put out two more albums on its own in the last five years, including “Snapshots” last year, which featured a re-recording of “Story of a Girl.” Desveaux, who moved to Nashville and has continued writing songs over the last decade, will join Hampson and the rest of the band for the Aug. 12 show.
“Long Island is our home, so any time we play here, it’s a bit of a homecoming,” Hampson said. “We expect to see a lot of our old fans and friends come and hang out.”
Meanwhile, Santora and his brother, Ian, 17, South Side High School graduates who formed Bailout 42 in 2011, prepare for one of their biggest shows. Guitarist Anthony Carriero, of Massapequa, is the band’s other consistent member.
Santora, who grew up listening to the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day and Blink 182, said he had wanted to be in a band since he was 8 years old. “Growing up, I was a bit of an outcast, and music was where I found comfort, and it was the thing that made me happy and was always there,” he said. In high school, it all came together. “My brother took up bass, and he invited a couple friends over and we all just started jamming.”
The alternative rock group began playing at local churches and open mic nights, Santora said, and has more recently played at bars, including a show at Shakers Pub, in Oakdale, on July 22.
Opening for Nine Days will be both stressful and exhilarating, he added. “We’re excited to play a long set and give it our all.”