There's a theory circulating among culture pundit that the way bands become commercially successful these days is no longer via radio play or touring, but ad placements. There's some truth to the idea. Turn on the tube and wait for a commercial break, and you're bound to hear a hot new indie band or two being used to plug a Kia or Target superstore. In fact, music from every act nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Alternative Rock Album" category appeared in a commercial hawking something in 2010.
Typically, ad folks will pull just a catchy tune from a band's catalog to suit their Don Draper-esque needs. But what if companies commissioned bands specifically to write, or rework an existing jingle?
Coffee giant Folgers recently put out a call for musicians to rework their well-known jingle for a chance at $25K and an appearance in a Folgers commercial. Rutland indie-folk outfit Split Tongue Crow answered the bell. Here's their entry:
In my column last week, I left you with a riddle: "What is red and white — like really, really white — has 16 arms and loves you?"
This week, I promised I would share the answer here on the blog today, as revealing said answer in print would violate the only real rule my eds have ever given me: not writing about projects with which I am involved … in the paper. Due to the wonders of Facebook, and the general closeness of life in a small community like Burlington, this almost feels anti-climactic. It seems there's already a decent buzz around the event in question. But a promise is a promise. So without further ado …
Q: What is red and white, has 16 arms and loves you?
A: The Ginger Snaps.
(smattering of applause and confused murmuring)
For more on this developing story, let's bust out an old-school FAQ, shall we?
Q: Um, OK. So, who, or what the hell are the Ginger Snaps?
A: So glad you asked! The Ginger Snaps are VTs finest/only all-redhead all-star band. They're playing their one and only show this Monday, Valentine's Day, at Club Metronome with Kyle the Rider and the Human Canvas.
Q: Wait … really?
Q: All redheads? Are there really enough of you to make up a whole band?
A: And then some. Though finding a drummer proved tricky.
Q: So, if you're involved, does that mean we've drastically lowered the bar on just what exactly qualifies as an "all-star"?
A: Probably. I'm undoubtedly the weakest link. But the only reason I'm mentioning this at all is because the caliber of the rest of the band is pretty noteworthy. When you get people like Bob Wagner, Swale's Amanda Gustafson and Jeremy Fredericks, Heloise and the Savoir Faire's Rob O' Dea and That Toga Band's Tyler Minetti all on the same stage, cool stuff is bound to happen. Plus, we've got a pair of killer backing dancer/vocalists in Trena Isley and Myesha Gosselin. Next to those cats, my only real qualification for being in the group are my raven tresses.
Q: Hold on a sec. O' Dea is bald, and Fredericks ain't a redhead.
A: That's not really a question, but I'll enlighten you anyway. Both O'Dea and Fredericks were gingers as kids. We have photographic proof. Once a ginger, always a ginger.
Q: Fair enough. So are you guys just doing Willie Nelson and Rick Astley covers?
A: Not at all! We actually have a set of about 12 original tunes, written by gingers, for gingers. Some titles include "Everybody Knows the Beach Fucking Sucks," "Does the Carpet Match the Drapes," "Little Red Haired Girl," "Fetish" and "Sunblock Cockblock." We'll also probably toss in a love song or three to satisfy Cupid's bloodlust.
Q: Hey, Neko Case is a redhead, right?
A: Sigh …
Q: This is wacky. Who's dumb idea was this?
A: That's open to debate. Though the specific origins are unclear, what is known is that the idea developed between Bob Wagner and myself over way too many beers at Radio Bean last fall. Max Schwartz, late of the Jazz Guys, is rumored to have been an instigator as well. I maintain it was all Bob's fault, er, idea.
Q: $1000 question: Are you guys any good?
A: We'll see. At the very least, it'll be an interesting show. Plus, there is the very real possibility that this gig will be our collective undoing in Burlington. Do you really want to miss that?
Q: Last question: What is the preferred nomenclature here? I mean, is it OK to use the term "ginger"?
The ever-industrious lads at Angioplasty Media continue to expand their growing empire of awesome with the announcement that they are now getting into the label biz. Their first project is the latest from local indie duo Parmaga — whose tumblr page is pretty hilarious — the Ryan Power-produced Ghost Pops EP. The EP hits shelves on 3/18. In the meantime, here's a sweet little pre-released cut from the disc, "Plenty Hands" that you can download for free at the band's website. Enjoy!
Nothing rewards the tireless labors of love put forth by struggling musicians like subjecting their deeply personal art to the rigors of competition. Or in other words, the reader poll. For how else would one divine which band is "the best" in any given field from among the flood of musicians vying for our auditory headspace? Aside from, you know, actually listening to them, of course. But I digress.
Our friends over at the Deli New England have just such a reader poll on their website, designed to figger out, once-and-for-all-or-at-least-until-the-next-poll, just who, exactly, is the "Best Emerging New England Artist." The poll, which closes today, comprises a lengthy list of Yankee bands both relatively unknown and of wider acclaim. It also includes a fair number of VT acts: Villanelles, Rough Francis, Blue Button, Spirit Animal and Butterfly Starpower, among others.
Reader polls, generally speaking, are harmless enough. They don't really mean all that much beyond the victorious band being able to pad their press sheet with some snappy accolade. It's like high school superlatives for grownups. If Blue Button or Villanelles aren't named "Most Likely to Succeed" or "Most Likely to Marry Their High School Sweetheart," I doubt Jason Cooley or Tristan Baribeau will lose much sleep over it. (Eric Olsen on the other hand …)
My only real problem with this kind of electoral folly is that it tends to reflect less how a band is perceived by the local listening public at large than said band's campaigning prowess. For example, the leading vote-getters of DeliNE's current poll are Brothers McCann, a Boston-based roots-pop outfit with VT ties (they'll be at Red Square this Friday), and the Wandas, also Boston-based. As of this writing, the groups have tallied 1044 and 940 votes, respectively. Or, a whopping 46% of the total votes cast. The next closest band is Wally Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys (great name), followed closely by our own Blue Button, with 449 (10%) and 395 (9%) votes, respectively.
Are the McCanns and Wandas really that much more beloved in New England than the other nominated acts? Probably not. But they might be savvier than most. Both groups have links to the voting site prominently displayed on their web pages and have pimped the contest via other social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), making it easier for their fans to stuff the ballot box. In other words, they were more effective at motivating their bases than their peers. I don't mean to take anything away from whichever band wins — they're both polished acts, and a crafty marketing sense is important for working bands — but it seems a rather hollow victory when the results feel predicated less on sheer musical ability than PR acumen.