Everyone knows the various evils of the music industry and major labels. Or, at least, they should by now. The low royalty rates, deceptively large advances, secret recoupable expenses, accountants who "don't hear a single" and pushing-50 white guys with glowsticks and pacifiers in hand, demanding bands add drum loops and DJs to their songs, because "that's what the kids want." Signing with a label is a tragic comedy of bad contracts, worse advice and, more often than not, fired drummers. Word to the wise: Labels like to believe they're in control, so if the drummer isn't being shown the door, the bass player is already packing. If you're in a band with any sort of aspirations, we suggest you hire a rhythm section you're not attached to.
Here's a new one to add to the list: making a band stand in the middle of the Trinity River. In suits and ties. In the middle of the summer. If we didn't know any better--and honestly, we rarely do--we'd say Stereo Fuse (the quartet in question) was being hazed by its new label, Wind-up Records. After all, most people don't say the words "Trinity River" without donning a Haz-Mat suit. (We're wearing one right now.)
"You know, when we were standing in the water, we thought that for a brief moment," says Stereo Fuse singer-guitarist Colin Hill. The photo shoot happened a few weeks ago, under the guidance of Wind-up publicist Steve Karas. "Because Steve was with us, but didn't dare set foot in the water. It was kind of his idea when we met with him in New York. It sounded like a really good idea, if we could make it work. Got the suits in New York, and sure enough, a couple weeks later it happened. We were standing in the middle of the Trinity River with things floating by our feet, and we weren't sure what they really were. We were waiting for some body to start floating by. Some syringes or something."
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For Stereo Fuse, it's probably a small price to pay, since the group's now riding shotgun with the label that led Creed and Drowning Pool into ubiquity. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Stereo Fuse followed the same road to Wind-up that Creed did: Southern rock band with an early-1990s influence self-releases an album, a song from which becomes a regional hit. Creed did it with "My Own Prison," and now Stereo Fuse has done it with "Everything," the most-requested jam at Nashville's WQZQ and WRVW, and doing well all across the South. So well, in fact, that Wind-up wasn't the only label to come calling: "We actually got an offer from Universal," Hill says. "And we decided Wind-up was probably the better of the labels, just because we felt more comfortable. They're not quite as big. Just felt more at home. More of a family atmosphere at Wind-up."
For a while, there wasn't exactly a family atmosphere surrounding Stereo Fuse. Until April, the group--which also includes guitarist Jeff Quay, bassist Rob Clark and drummer Chad Jenkins--was calling itself Lee Harvey Osmond. "The name was kind of offensive without being obscene," Hill says. "You know, it just kind of rubbed people the wrong way. Being from Dallas and being Lee Harvey Osmond didn't really work too well. People remember the name, of course. It's hard to forget. But people did see it as sort of a novelty, and that's really not what we are." The band changed its name to Fuze, but trademark issues necessitated the switch to Stereo Fuse following its signing with Wind-up in early July.
With new name in tow, Stereo Fuse will re-release on October 8 a gussied-up version of the self-titled album that brought them to Wind-up's attention. They re-recorded a few songs and recorded a couple of new ones, but the sound, Hill says, remains the same: "We're like a poppy alternative. Stone Temple Pilots meets the Smithereens. Something along those lines." Well, they had us there for a while...
Side note: No, we didn't mean to insult former SMU QB/current bassist for Submursed Kelan Luker or his family in last week's Scene, Heard. When we compared Luker's and ex-Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman's "blank, dull" stares and said they both looked "like they were trying to add fractions in their heads," it was meant with all due respect. And yes, last week's column was a joke. (Most people say that anyway.) We're not quitting to follow our dream of becoming the starting QB at SMU or anything like that. Fact is, we're living the dream right now, baby; long hours for low pay excites the lapsed Catholic in us. You're stuck with us until our book, Pants!: A History, finds a publisher. So sit tight.