When guitarist-turned-drummer Rico Garcia of TEAM*, practitioners of warm and energetic indie-rock, was approached by the corporate behemoth Verizon to use one of their songs from their debut EP for a televised ad, it was not exactly earth-shattering news. In fact, many bands receive similar interests that yield no follow through.
"It's one of those understood things that you never get your hopes up," says Garcia who, along with band mate Caleb Turman, will be opening for El Ten Eleven tonight at Sons of Hermann Hall for this month's Red Bull Sound Select event. "You assume for every 100 that hit you up, maybe one will land."
Taking the offer in stride, they submitted their track, the poppy single, "Come to My House." Within four hours, they received an email response stating it would air the following Monday worldwide, along with a contract. The band was engulfed in a mix of the surreal and the ecstatic. It was also a humbling experience as the dewy upstart band that started as a mere side project seemed to have stumbled, almost effortlessly, onto a stroke of good fortune.
Not that they still had yet to pay their dues.
Turman and Garcia had been touring together for about six years prior, and in between being on the road or casually hashing out ideas together at home, the groundwork for TEAM* was formed together rather organically. Now with two self-released EP's on the books, their recent EP, Good Morning Bad Day, is getting a shiny new re-release on October 14, along with two new tracks.
As Turman and Garcia had experienced recording in multimillion dollar studios and touring in a reputable pop-punk band, TEAM* was basically starting all over again. But this fresh start and the challenge of switching gears was an exciting venture.
"Especially for Caleb because he really switched gears as far as writing, because he had been writing kind of pop-rock music consistently for six years as a career, and then to switch gears and do this, it was really cool to see that," says Garcia. "He was kind of like, 'Hey look, you know there's more to me than that, like there's more going on in my head.'"
Not only did Turman change direction, but Garcia experienced an about-face of his own, trading his place at guitar for a seat at the drum kit. That switch has rendered Garcia now almost invisible to his fans, a change that he admits is actually pretty enjoyable. "People would be like, 'Doesn't it bum you out?'" Garcia says rather enthusiastically. "And I would be like, 'Dude, are you kidding me? Nobody knows who the hell I am ever. This is awesome!'
"It's not that I don't like it, but you know what? This is cool. It shows that I'm in it for the right reasons," Garcia continues. "If I don't ever get a high-five or a pat on the back, I welcome it, don't' get me wrong, but the fact that I do it and I'm still happy, it's like a good reminder. Like you know what, I know my heart's in the right place when I'm doing this."
Fleshing out a side project into a fully functional band and the hurdles associated, TEAM* garnered some positive feedback from an already moderately sized fanbase, and played an impressively well attended first show. "We played at Trees, and we had over 300 people show up," says Garcia. "And we never played before, so it was kind of like, it was really kind of a warm reassuring moment because hey, this is pretty cool, the fact that we have this support system for something that really isn't anything yet."
It was around then that luck smiled down upon them again as they were chosen last minute to open for Imagine Dragons at a very capacity sized crowd at the South Side Ballroom in Dallas in what was only their third show as a band.
"It was obviously very memorable being like a brand new baby band that only had literally two shows and then we're playing this 4,000 cap room that was sold out months, just completely months, in advance," says Garcia.
The jaw-dropping amounts of exposure TEAM* seemed to reel in right away with ease didn't cease, as they were invited to join one leg of a tour with one of alt-rock classic staple acts, Third Eye Blind. At this point, TEAM* then transformed into chaotic scramble mode, as they had still yet to master and mix their EP. They didn't even own a van.
"It was just funny, I felt like I was like 14 years old all over again," admits Garcia. "I was calling my dad, and I was like, 'Dad, can you help me find a van? I don't know shit about vans!' I literally bought a van off Craigslist three days before the tour."
The first record Garcia ever bought in the fifth grade was Third Eye Blind's first album, and well over a decade later, Garcia was now holding frontman Stephan Jenkins' guitar while standing completely naked onstage behind a clueless Jenkins during TEB's last performance.
There was a legitimate reason for this of course. Garcia was acting out what was the culmination of escalating pranks between Garcia and Jenkins throughout the tour, and when Jenkins then turned to see his prized axe being brandished by a birthday suit-donning Garcia, he laughed so hard he couldn't finish the song.
"The fact that they treated us with just respect and were stoked that we were there and really took care of us really made it fun," points out Garcia.
The premiere track, "I Like It," brims with effervescent vibes and rich pop textures, a testament to the fact that TEAM* is honing in on their identity, musically speaking, and coming together as a creative unit. As with the simplicity of their monosyllabic band name, there really is no "I" in the proverbial team mindset. And each member is unique in their contributions.
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"I think TEAM* means, it's not just only our band, it's everybody, like it's a family. It's everybody making it work. TEAM* is just kind of like, whoever is in the room," Garcia says with a laugh.
Essentially, TEAM* consists of Turman's and Garcia's yin and yang relationship, which balances out any excessiveness of Turman's introversion or Garcia's outgoing personality from holding too much sway on the group's direction.
"If you have two people who are exactly alike, and obviously TEAM* is him and I, this is like, we've been running it," Garcia clarifies. "If I were exactly like him, nothing would get done, and if he were exactly like me nothing would get done either. We very much need somebody totally to the left and totally to the right to make it work."
TEAM* opens for El Ten Eleven and Zorch, 8 p.m., tonight, Thursday, August 21, 2014 at Sons of Hermann Hall, 3414 Elm St., $3