Regional band makes airwaves
Unsigned local bands NEVER make it into the exclusive playlists of commercial radio.
It just doesn’t happen.
Sure, many stations have the obligatory local music show late at night where a few provincial favorites get some spins. But to get into corporate radio’s prime-time rotation, artists need a big-time label giving them a big-dollar promotional push within the industry.
Unless you’re Anything But Joey.
The Kansas City pop-rock band is willfully unsigned, yet somehow broke into rotation on 96.5 FM The Buzz. In fact, the band’s single, “Girl Roommate,” has been that station’s No. 1 requested song for weeks, edging out the likes of Eminem.
The Buzz’s program director, Mike Kaplan, said that Anything But Joey is likely the only unsigned band from this area that has ever reached that mark. But he didn’t feel like he was taking a risk putting them into rotation.
“We saw the group’s strong local following and felt their sound fit the radio station’s target,” Kaplan said.
At that point, Anything But Joey didn’t even have an album out. Just a demo that found its way into the good graces of Kaplan.
“Our Web site guy was an intern at 96.5 and he just pushed it to the right people long enough,” explains bassist Drew Scofield. “They really liked it and it went from there.
“That song (‘Girl Roommate’) was written years ago and it’s been on a couple Thulium demo CDs,” Scofield said, referring to the band’s name before they changed it this summer to Anything But Joey.
‘Everybody hated us’
No longer tinkering with demos, the band just issued its full-length debut, “Come Out Fighting.” Joey hopes its second single, “One,” will get some spins on The Buzz.
Guitarist Bryan Chesen said that just a few months ago, before their music got on The Buzz, it was hard to imagine how the band would ever make it this far. He said since forming in 1996, they’d been virtually ignored by the local music scene.
“Since we’re basically mainstream, Top 40-style music, everybody hated us for it. Plus, at the time we were a little more clean-cut. We just really got rejected,” Chesen recalled.
“We were set to move to Dallas because everybody we know is down there. We were like, ‘Screw Kansas City, we’re never gonna make it here.’ But we decided to give it one more year because we love Kansas City and we don’t want to move. Now we’re getting spun. And The Buzz is only going to spin us more, and we’re only going to get bigger here.”
The group started playing covers together in high school as Thulium. Once they had several of their own tunes, the members began to falter a bit as some went to school and all of them began to wonder if this band thing was going to work.
The critical break came last November when Chesen met Anything But Joey’s eventual manager, Bryce Graves. Chesen was trying to book the Dallas band Flickerstick to play in Manhattan, and when it looked like the gig might fall through, he was directed to Graves.
That Mark Cuban?
“Bryce had never heard of us because we were nobody in November,” Chesen said. “He met us and he really dug our personal vibe, and our hooks were there, but a lot of the stuff that’s in our songs now just wasn’t there then.”
Graves worked with the band members informally for a year, and eventually set them up with producer Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup, another Texas band.
The song that put Anything But Joey on corporate radio may be about not getting any action from their girls of choice, but you wouldn’t know it from the song’s video.No, it’s not THAT kind of video. But the “Girl Roommate” music video does feature some choice girls: the models for the 2003 Women of KU calendar.Both the band’s video and the calendar make a debut today online at KUsports.com.The coordinator of the calendar, Rob Curley, said when looking for a band to make a music video for promotion of the Women of KU calendar, Anything But Joey stood out for several reasons.”They have that funny self-deprecating humor, that song is exactly what we wanted, and how can you not think these guys aren’t the next big thing to come out of Kansas City?” Curley said.”They fit the calendar perfectly. It’s fun and cool, and that’s what those guys are,” he said.
“He just took the songs we had recorded and twisted them all around,” Chesen said. “He was like, if this is going to be on the radio, it’s gotta be like this. So the songs are dramatically different, plus the difference between spending $800 on the recording or $10,000. No one’s going to put anything on the radio that sounds like ass.”
Up to that point, the band was making ends meet ” barely ” playing bars, selling a lot of merchandise and being very frugal. Then Joey made a connection with deep pockets.
Graves turned the act’s current, Dallas-based lawyer Brian Cuban on to the Kansas band. Happily, Cuban’s brother is Mark Cuban ” owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HDNet ” who also happens to be the youngest billionaire in the country.
“Brian’s landed us two songs on the soundtrack of a major motion picture due out in the spring. And we’ve been on Mark’s (TV) show. They’ve helped us a lot just through networking,” Chesen said. “And Bryce got Buck McKinney to be our lawyer as well, who was the on staff attorney of A&M records for more than five years.
“Once we found somebody in the business who believed in us, we started working 10 times as hard,” Chesen said.
Their hard work and connections have recently landed them some high profile gigs including Late Night with Roy Williams, a spot on the NBA’s Rhythm and Rims tour, and soundtrack honors for the “2003 Women of KU” DVD.
“This is a lot of fun now that people know who we are,” Scofield said. “But getting there, man, it took forever.”