“Major labels are flopping because they sometimes have to sell a million copies [of each release] to break even.” Arteaga says bands Every Time I Die and In Flames — also on the Ferret label — have sold over 100,000 discs, a profitable benchmark for an indie band.
Arteaga points to the air time of Chiotos and As I Lay Dying on MTV2 and Fuel TV as proof that bands can get on the radar without the backing of a big label. Though Arteaga’s “melodic hardcore” band received no up-front money, Ferret will pay for tour support and for Lower Definition’s recording session at a Portland, Oregon, studio next month. In addition, the band was allowed to select producer Kris Crummett (Dance Gavin Dance, Drop Dead Gorgeous), whose fee will be covered by Ferret.
Lower Definition is known locally for playing to under-age audiences exclusively. Arteaga says his band has “seriously toured” for the last three and a half years, which helped stimulate label interest.
“You just have to get out there and tour and get as far away from San Diego as you possibly can. We toured the western U.S. at least seven times. It’s gotten a lot easier to tour with the Internet.”
— Ken Leighton
Smokin’ The Lost Boys of Penzance have covered a TV commercial jingle, “The Disadvantages of You,” from a 1967 Benson & Hedges 100s cigarette ad.
“I recalled hearing the tune on TV, growing up in the 1960s,” says bandleader Jonathan Villegas. The commercial is still remembered for its images of extra-long cigarettes getting caught in elevator doors and lighting the beards of people standing too close.
“The ad didn’t turn me into a smoker,” says the 50-year-old guitarist, “but the lilting melody of the song stuck in my head. I later discovered that my dad had the sheet music in a songbook that’d been distributed to members of the armed forces.”
To obtain song rights, Villegas says, “I got a compulsory mechanical license, granting use of the song once I paid the statutory royalty rate, which is currently 9.1 cents per minute for songs five minutes or less. The minimum quantity is 500 units. So, for a cover of a two-minute song, it cost me…$91.”
Rockers who claim to smoke Benson & Hedges include the Gallagher brothers of Oasis and AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. “We don’t endorse smoking ourselves,” says Villegas, “other than smokin’ hot tunes.”
The Lost Boys of Penzance are based near surfing hotspot Swami’s in Encinitas. Their version of “The Disadvantages of You” is included on the surf-rock compilation Beyond the Sea.
— Jay Allen Sanford
In His Face… Some excerpts from Martin Storrow’s tour diary:
Ohio, 1/8/08: When most of what you play are love songs, or relationship related, or very poetic, it’s always a surprise to walk into a show and find out that you’ll be playing for an entirely male audience, especially in the middle of Ohio, where men are especially manly…about fifty guys had shown up. Oh, and one very lucky girl. I started the show by gesturing to the girl and saying, “I just want you all to know that there’s a slight imbalance here tonight, and whenever I play a love song, it will be dedicated to her.”
“Be careful,” a guy from the crowd said. “Her boyfriend is here, too.” Crap.
“All right,” I said. “I’ll dedicate a few to him, too.” The crowd busted up. The ice had been broken.
Waltham MA, 1/12/08: They didn’t have a room for me to warm up in, so I went into the parking lot and began to do my vocal exercises and stretch. Some of my vocal warm-ups sound roughly like a mix between whale squeaks and outboard motors.…
About a minute later, two police cars came down into the parking lot, a cruiser and an SUV. I wondered what was going on. They approached me and the SUV in back pointed a spotlight in my face. A female officer rolled down her window.
“Are you okay, sir?” I smiled… “Yes, I’m fine. I’m playing a show here tonight and was just warming up my voice.”
The officer looked relieved. I was, too. “So you haven’t been drinking or anything?”
I laughed. “No. I must look a little nuts warming up out here.”
“Somebody thought so. Have a great night, sir.”
— Jay Allen Sanford