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causing a commotion
by jay s. jacobs
All rights reserved. Posted:
November 21, 2002.
The worlds gone reality show mad these days. Instead of working on and
honing your craft in crappy honky-tonks and gin joints, today everyone
thinks the best way to the top of the pops is to make a fool of yourself on
TV. At this writing, you cant go an hour without hearing that insipid
Kelly Clarkson song on the radio. Is it a hit because she is talented, or
is it a hit because she was willing to take the chance that Simon would make
a droll comment with a smarmy British accent designed to shatter her
dreams? Then theres the series where the metal figurehead who hasnt had
a hit in well over a decade becomes a
because he and his Addams family curse a lot and throw poultry on
neighbors lawns. Ozzy is supposed to be an example of good parenthood.
And you know what? Its nice that he loves his eccentric family. But so do
most people. What is a little more disturbing is that through better living
by chemistry, a man in his 50s walks and talks like hes in his 90s.
The problem with this whole TV-ization of the music industry is that with
the exception of the occasional fluke short-lived hit, the music always gets
the short shrift. Actual musical or singing talent is not so important as a
personality or a look that the camera likes. Once the records come out the
novelty has worn thin and its on to the next star. For example, when was
the last time you went out for the new Edens Crush or O-Town disk? All the
didnt really do all that much to push Ozzys new
Live At Budokan
album or daughter Kellys Papa Dont Preach single to the top of the
But just because a band plays on TV doesnt make them a TV Band."
Unlike so many groups in a similar situation, Flickerstick was together for
years before they were pegged to be in VH-1s life-on-the-road reality
Bands On The Run.
The band wasnt formed through a cattle-call audition, they got together the
old-fashioned way. Brandin Lea (lead vocals/guitar) and Cory Kreig (lead
guitar/keyboards/vocals) were a couple of high school kids in a small town
near Dallas, Texas, who dug music and decided to put together a band for the
fun of it. They picked up some friends over the years, including guitarist
Rex James Ewing, bassist (and Brandins brother) Fletcher Lea and drummer
They started doing local gigs, soon graduating to the bigger clubs of Dallas
and finally building a big enough buzz to be headlining shows. Next thing
you know, the band became full-time and took over my college career,
recalls leader Brandin Lea. The group was able to scrape together ten grand
and self-release their debut album,
Welcoming Home The Astronauts.
It sold well locally in Dallas music shops and at Flickerstick shows.
magazine picked the group to be on a CD sampler they put together of the
best unsigned bands in the country.
where VH-1 came in. They heard the Flickerstick tune on the compilation and
invited the group to audition for a new battle-of-the-bands reality series
they were creating called Bands on the Run. Flickerstick was soon on
a treadmill of auditions, starting as one of 2,000 bands in the running and
watching incredulous as other bands fell to the wayside
but not them.
Suddenly it was down to twenty finalists and Flickerstick were there.
There was just a lot of auditions and a lot of filming. After really not
taking it seriously
because we never thought they would hire us to be on a
we kind of joked and blew the whole thing off. They seemed
to like that about us, Lea laughs. Next thing you know, we got the call
that we got the show and we took off to go film it for two months.
show came on and became something of a phenomenon. There was only one
problem. Everyone was focusing on the fighting and the joking and the
marital problems and no one was listening to the music. We figured out
early on that music wasnt going to be the first thing on their mind, Lea
admits. Its a reality TV show. We thought that music was going to be a
major part of the show when we signed onto it. But after the first
shooting, we can tell this is going to be about the drama. By then, we were
under contract and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. So we
just decided to make the best of it.
make the best of it they did. The group settled in, played the finest they
could, and tried to keep the audience tuned in too. When the dust settled, Flickerstick had won the battle of the bands. They were the
top band of
the group. And to follow the big victory up
they went back on the road.
the reality-show fantasy storyline, an A&R guy is waiting in the wings
saying, Kids, Im gonna make you a star. Life doesnt work like that
though. Flickerstick just kept working hard on the road and building the
buzz up on the band. Finally, months later, after they proved they werent
a fluke, the record labels started circling. The whole bidding war thing
was always kind of funny to me. Its always like, where were you guys six
months ago when we were doing the exact same thing? We didnt know what to
do about it
its hard to say. They all come on with pretty good poker
We just tried to make the best decision we could, which turned out
to not be the best decision, Lea chuckles.
band signed up with Epic Records. For some reason, everybody thinks that
the Epic deal came out of the prize of the television show, Lea continues.
Very untrue. Actually, a lot of labels were deterred by the TV show. We
didnt get signed until six months later, after we had toured on our own and
kind of proven ourselves. The labels were kind of scared off about the TV
show. They just didnt know what to do with it. It never happened before.
that didnt stop Epic from re-releasing the Welcoming Home The Astronauts
CD in November 2001, all the while playing up the Bands On The Run
connection. This disappointed Lea a bit, he was hoping the band would get
the chance to refine their music and amp up the production values. Well,
the studio album we did for like $10,000, Lea says. Our own money back in
Texas. We never thought it was going to be the CD to be in the spotlight.
It was kind of almost like a demo CD to get a deal and make a real CD. So,
in my eyes, yeah, it doesnt really represent the band. As much as I would
like it to. I still think its a very good album. Its just, in my eyes,
those songs could have been recorded so much better. Yet, it got three
stars in Rolling Stone and a lot of the critics really liked it. Im
just kind of surprised. If it was done the way I really wanted it to be
done, I think itd have had more potential.
later, the band is getting its chance to at least partially rectify that
problem. The group left Epic and decided to release a concert disk called
Causing A Catastrophe Live. On it, the band gets to revisit and
improve on several of the songs from the debut album as well as doing two
terrific new songs previewing their next album, and a lushly beautiful cover
of Mazzy Stars single Fade Into You.
love Mazzy Star and its a beautiful song, Lea explains. We dont like to
do covers very much. We were bored on the TV show and decided that its a
beautiful song and we were just wanting to do something new in our set.
Its a very simple song, and I thought it would be interesting for a guy to
sing it. The crowd just ate it up and weve kept it in our set ever since.
Flickersticks tunes mix quirky lyrical ideas with smart rock chops and
wailing playing. But just because the songs have titles like Direct Line
To the Telepathic, Execution by the X-mas Lights and Chloroform the One
You Love, dont think the band is a joke. I write all the lyrics, Lea
explains. Im sure that there are people that think its funny. Its odd,
because I really hate bands that make jokey lyrics. Like, Chloroform the
One You Love is just too easy. It was an old song. It was sort of a true
story in reverse
about people taking advantage of one another by being
under the influence. There were some women who thought it was really
derogatory, and I was like the true story of it is, it happened to me. I
just switched the genders. But, I really dont care. Eminem keeps getting
away with saying what he says, so I think Chloroform the One You Love is
new songs, particularly the glorious rocker Believe, point to more good
things coming down the pike from this band. They are still touring and in
the early phases of putting together a follow-up disk, for which Lea isnt
sure exactly which direction the band will go in, only allowing that he
expects parts of the album will be harder than the debut, but more of it
will probably be softer. It seems like a contradiction, but actually thats
what makes Flickerstick so cool. They are unpredictable with the will and
the ability to go down any number of musical avenues.
smiles at the thought. We were getting a lot of the radio play for our
singles and a lot of program directors were like, I dont know what to do
with you guys. You guys arent really rock sounding or modern rock, but
youre not pop. Youre not singer-songwriter. You arent cheesy rock.
Youre not psychedelic. They said you guys have a really unique sound and
thats really hard to come by. I thought that was a very big compliment.
Unique. The tag fits. Flickerstick arent just some pre-fab five set up
for a boob tube event. They are a band with ideas and chops. They have
game. Dont be surprised if youre still hearing of Flickerstick years
after Justin and Kelly and Simon are
All rights reserved. Posted:
November 21, 2002.
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