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"Keith asked, 'Who's Angie Wood?'" Locke says with a laugh. "And since the song wasn't even titled yet, I decided to go ahead and name it 'Angie Wood.'" At that point, the band had a song they could finally give to Wylie, who in turn passed it on to Redbeard. The venerable program director--who's broken more than a few local acts--liked the song and, after a few positive-response spins on his "New Rock Preview" program, decided to add the tune to Q-102's rotation.
It took off and--while certainly splendid news for dead city radio--it also compounded a few problems. "We had this song on the radio," Locke says, "and people are calling up asking for it, and there's no album. We could've been selling records at a pretty good clip, but we had no management, either. It was pretty frustrating for a while."
Lack of product and management weren't the only downsides to the surprising success of "Angie Wood." There was also the niggling matter of name identification. At the time Q-102 discovered the tune, dead city radio was a great, instantly memorable name for a band. Unfortunately, it was so good that it was being used by several other groups across the country.
"We were starting to build a little bit of a following," Locke remembers. "'Dead city radio' is a great name--it's the title of a William Burroughs spoken-word album--but we should have put more thought into it, because how many other alternative kids across the country are into Burroughs?"
Enough that when South by Southwest lost the band's submission tape and called requesting another, the SXSW official had to ask which dead city radio he was talking to.
"They had, like, five dead city radios submit tapes that year," Locke says. The band came up with Grand Street Cryers after a protracted and beer-infused brainstorming session, and slowly went about regaining any lost momentum from the sudden and unanticipated success of "Angie Wood." The management deal with Robinson-Wood followed shortly thereafter.
"Man, having a song on the radio opened a lot of doors for us," Locke says. "As soon as we agreed to let Robinson-Wood manage us, the idea was to release a regional album for their Rhythmic Records label, and hopefully take it to the next level from there. They began putting us in these high-profile gigs--and one of the first ones was the CD release party at Trees for Finest Hour, the most recent Jackopierce CD. Stan Lynch was there, having produced part of that record, and he asked [Rhythmic A&R hound Paul Bassman], 'Who are these guys? Do they have a record? Do they need a record?'"
Suffice it to say that it wasn't long before the Cryers loaded up Locke's parents' Suburban and drove to Los Angeles for three weeks of labor-intensive recording and mixing at Royaltone studios under the guidance of Lynch and engineer Rob Jacobs (U2, Sheryl Crow, Weezer). Though the band had never spent that much time being constantly together, it was a terrific experience.
Locke smiles at the memories. "If you could have seen the studio we were in. I mean, it's for rock stars--totally excessive! It looks like a castle, and it has a hot tub. We totally geeked out on [Lynch and Jacobs]. We bugged them for stories the whole time we were there. After a while, they opened up and told us all the rock 'n' roll debauchery they've seen. It was beautiful. I'd tell you some...but I don't want Stan to kill me," he concludes with a laugh.
"As we watched Stan and Rob work their weird, symbiotic magic," Locke says, "we just looked at each other, thinking, 'It doesn't get any better than this.'"
Perhaps not, but the immensely commercial appeal--not necessarily a bad thing--of Steady on the Shaky Ground might well portend even better things to come. Along with "Angie Wood," the CD features such delightfully melancholic tunes as "Any City," "You Win Again," and "Don't Hang Yourself"--and Grand Street Cryers have an abundant supply of material. Though Locke wrote every song on the album except Duncan's winning "Loser Not Blues," the entire band is a creative wellspring.
"Steve and Greg are really good songwriters," Locke says, "they're just slower. They're more quality than quantity. I just have so many sitting around that it's been easier to go that way. But--in any case--it's not like we're going to run out."
Grand Street Cryers play Saturday, February 1, at the Aardvark in Fort Worth.