"A lot of people think John-Mark is a singer, not a band," says bassist/singer/songwriter James Coleman, 22. The four members of John-Mark were signed to Maverick Records last May. Three local artists inked major-label deals last year (Reeve Oliver/Capitol, Tristan Prettyman/Virgin), but John-Mark's recruitment to Madonna's label received little publicity.

"There hasn't been any press," says front man and band namesake John-Mark.

"They mentioned [the signing] in [L.A.-based] Music Connection, but other than that, the press was, like, nonexistent," says Coleman.

The band's first album, which is being recorded at NRG Studios in Burbank, will be co-produced by their Maverick A&R rep and by Aaron Kamin, former guitarist/songwriter with the Calling. The disc will be released "sometime in the summer," says John-Mark.

Last month, John-Mark opened for Hoobastank at the Galaxy in Santa Ana. But local gigs are rare.

"It appears pop is not the most appealing style in San Diego," says Coleman. "We get L.A. gigs at the Whiskey, Viper Room, and the Cat Club. But sometimes we feel like we don't fit in in our town." John-Mark's sound can be compared to the pop-rock of Matchbox 20 and Maroon Five. "We play radio-friendly, melody-driven stuff," says John-Mark.

Madonna sold her interest in the label to Warner Bros. in mid-2004, and most of Maverick's operations have been absorbed by Warner Bros. I also note that the Troy sisters, a local act, were signed by Elektra but were dropped before they could release an album.

"This is a volatile business," says Coleman. "We're just happy to play music."

Neither band member would divulge the specifics of their Maverick deal.

"We got everything we needed," says John-Mark. "Bands don't get big advances anymore." He says the signing was guided by Gary Newell, an L.A.-based artist manager who worked with Paula Abdul and Savage Garden. John-Mark says he met Newell through North County band Noise Ratchet (now disbanded, but they once had a deal with Rick Rubin's American Recordings).

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