Nevermoure, Don Henley, Nevermoure
band claiming to be "The Future of Music" citing the Backstreet
Boys as an influence?
As the pulsing green and red spotlights behind the stage replaced the
yellow buzz of The Brewerys house lights, Nevermoure burst out of
the dressing room in a full sprint, each members hair freshly gelled
and clothes glamorously mussed. Adam, the bands charismatic front
man, screamed in true cliché rock star fashion, "Hello Raleigh!
Is everybody in the house ready to rock tonight?"
Everybody in the housethe bartender, the sound check guy, three
friends of the next band on the ticket, two childhood friends of Adams,
a completely whacked out drunkard gyrating spastically right in front
of the stage, and meclapped about as apathetically as nine people
could at a rock show. (Well, the drunkard was trying to clap loudly, but
he couldnt quite muster the necessary coordination and almost stumbled
to the ground in the process.) This apparent lack of fan appreciation
failed to faze the pop-punk quartet though, as it chugged through its
30-minute set list with astounding vivacity.
Ritchey, the lead guitarist and the anointed "rebel" of the
group with his multiple piercings, hair dyes, and general penchant for
mayhem, wildly axed atop a speaker, his head merely inches from the clubs
low, dingy, and surely asbestos-ridden ceilings. Adam grabbed his mic
stand, jumped off stage, and sang in the middle of The Brewerys
dance floor. Shawn, the oldest (at 23) and most talented (barely beating
out Ritchey and demolishing Adam and bassist Big Dawg) member of Nevermoure,
wailed on his drum set with foam oozing from his mouth and sweat drenching
his bare chest.
The crowd may have been exceedingly thin, but as the Blues Brothers would
say in their thick Chicago drawls, Nevermoure is "on a mission from
gawd." After the set, I asked Adam if he was disappointed with the
low turnout, and he replied, "Hey, we play the same in front of six
people as we do in front of six thousand [a number they played to once
at the Pocono Raceway]. We have to do it to be successful." Besides,
as he mentioned before the show, with a dreamy gaze that exhibited his
authentic passion for champagne wishes and caviar dreams, "We have
fucking huge goals, man. We want to be on lunch boxes, have action figures,
the whole damn works."
One month and five days earlier and just a shade over 2,795 miles away
in Sacramento, California, Don Henley and other members of the Recording
Artists Coalition (RAC) sat under the yellow buzz of the State Capitols
very own house lights. The crowd in the building on January 23rd was considerably
larger than nine people, and there wasnt even a guitar or a drum
set on the premises. Instead, the large number of attendees at "Artists
Lobby Day" wanted to get a better understanding of how music industry
contracts would be executed in the future.
Legislators, members of the press, and lobbyists jam-packed the Capitol
as the RAC argued in favor of the newly proposed Senate Bill 1246 (SB
1246) that would repeal an exception to California Labor Code Section
2855. This special exception, passed in 1987 after an enormous lobbying
push by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), stipulates
that musicians must produce seven albums for their respective labels or
risk legal action. Because of touring, scheduled media events, and the
general pomp swirling around each album release, artists average an album
every two years, so the seven-album exception essentially keeps them under
contract for 14 years. In contrast, other Californians with similar "service
jobs"architects, actors, designers, dancers, among otherscan
only sign contracts that run for seven years or less.
Proponents of SB 1246 call the status quo "indentured servitude"
because as Henley, the president of the RAC, noted, "Recording artists
have been singled out as the only group of working people who are not
afforded equal protection under California law." Lacking the ability
to look for new contracts, and more lucrative ones at that, in a fair
amount of time, signed musicians feel as if the major labels control them
with an unnecessarily long leash. With the backing of the AFL-CIO, the
California Federation of Labor, and the American Federation of Television
and Radio Artists, the bill now has a wide base of support. As State Senator
Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), who penned the proposed bill, said, "Weve
got pipe fitters and building trade laborers and all kinds of unions coming
out in support of this battle as a workers issue now." In Murrays
estimation, all workers, artists and steelworkers alike, from Malibu to
Allentown have a vested interest in seeing the passage of SB 1246.
About a five-hour car drive away from Allentown sits Altoona, Pennsylvania
and its famous railroad Curve that has historically differentiated it
from all the other roughneck industrial towns in the state. The city that
now houses 129,144 people, including at one point, all four members of
Nevermoure, was founded in 1849, and in that heyday of locomotive transportation,
the Altoona Curve provided a key link between the eastern and western
United States. Almost a hundred years later, during World War II, the
Curve retained so much importance that, according to one of the citys
websites, the famous stretch of tracks made Altoona "one of the top
ten German targets for nuclear warfare."
These days, however, Al Qaeda has most likely left Altoona off its target
list. Sadly, so have many entrepreneurs and businesses. The citys
unemployment rate is a full percentage point above the national average,
and the per capita personal income of $23,352 is more than $5,000 lower
than the average American households. The same website noted with
painful simplicity, "Now that our city is moving into the future
and trains are becoming obsolete we are not growing as much as we used
to and our city is less important."
Altoona is a town with a steely ethic though, and economic prosperity
or not, this city breeds heroically hard workers who toil every day with
few tangible results. Kids who grow up in such an environment typically
travel down one of two paths: they either embrace lives of eight-hour
work days, two beers, and a good nights sleep, or they search for
any way out of town. Count the four members of Nevermoure among those
in the second group. None of their dreams involve the phrases "nine
to five" or "high probability of receiving workers compensation."
"Unparalleled fame" and "boatloads of cash" are more
These dreams of escaping the monotony of industrial town life took Adam
Marino to Penn State University, where he studied art and advertising.
Flipping through the aisles of CDs (probably looking for either a Garth
Brooks or a Poison album) at a record store in State College one day in
the spring of 2000, Adam noticed an innocuous note on the stores
wall. Something about starting up a new band. Having consistently played
in a group since his fourteenth birthday, but being in between projects
at the time, Adam decided to give Mike Ritchey a ring. A couple of successful
fraternity parties and some completely generic yet catchy songs later,
the duo added Big Dawg (heretofore referred to merely as "Dawg")
and Shawn Hocherl to its lineup, and another pop-punk group, optimistically
ogling the big time, was formed.
Then came the business of deciding on a name. After reading Edgar Allan
Poes "The Raven," Ritchey asked Adam how he felt about
"Nevermore," as in "Quoth the raven
." Adam liked
"Edgar Allan Poe and shit," so Nevermore stuck until the real
Nevermore, a wholly creepy thrash band from Seattle that has since dissolved,
said that it would make the pop posers weak and weary upon a midnight
dreary if Adam and Co. did not execute a name change. Hence the completely
Carrying this new "u" and leaving college life behind, Nevermoure
has since released two EPs, toured incessantly, and, most strikingly,
become thoroughly convinced that it will soon attain worldwide success.
One of the first things that leaps off of its website are the words "The
Future of Music," written in gigantic red capital letters. Shawn,
who is much more shy than his bandmates, except when hes talking
about the drums, and who has played for marching bands, jazz bands, and
death metal bands, calls Nevermoure "the best project Ive ever
been in" because "its a pre-packaged thingwe have
our own sound, our own equipment, our own sound guy, a huge fan base
Weve got fan pages already. Its absolutely ridiculous."
His excitement in what lies ahead for the band, like that of the three
others, is palatable, but the question stands: does their music sound
as good as their hype?
"Our stuff is straight radio friendly," Adam said, with the
sleazy sincerity of a used car salesman who truly believes in his product.
"It sounds like a mix of Fuel and the Backstreet Boys or something.
Its like straight rock n roll."
An independent band claiming to be "The Future of Music" citing
the Backstreet Boys as an influence?
"I dont want to say that we dont have integrity, because
we love what we do, but itsI dont want to say that its
fueled to be acceptedbut its called popular music because
thats what the mass population of people wanna hear," Adam
remarked, stumbling over himself in a conscious effort not to use the
words "sell out." Adam realizes that this type of music also
puts him in the good graces of the labels too, because as he pointed out,
"Its just like if your boss at work says, I want you
to look like this or else youre gonna be fired, but if you do dress
like this youre gonna get a raise, youre gonna dress
how he wants." One gets the feeling at this point that Nevermoure
would put on Mickey Mouse suits and sing "Its a Small World
After All" twenty-seven times every day if that meant nabbing a record
Ultimately though, the Disney costumes might go unused, because several
high-profile labelsColumbia, Sony, Atlantic, and Maverickhave
reportedly contacted Nevermoure about a future signing. Dawg designates
the bands chances of signing with one of these major corporations
as "something that could happen in the next year."
A definitive ruling on SB 1246 should also be handed down in the next
year. Those in opposition to repealing the exception to California Labor
Code Section 2855most notably the RIAA, independent record labels,
and the monolithic Big Five record corporations (Vivendi Universal, Sony
Corp., Bertelsmann, EMI, and AOL Time-Warner)claim that they could
never derive a profit if it were not for the exception. They argue, though
the proof remains insufficient, that they start to make money only after
an artists fourth offering. To Mike Copeland, an independent record
label owner, the issue of whether or not to bind an artist for seven albums
is really quite simple: "We as an industry, its risk versus
profit. Its common sense. You take away profit, you take away willingness
Willingness to risk on independent bands like Nevermoure, that is. In
a three-page statement signed by the presidents and top executives of
most members of the Big Five, it was expressly declared that these companies
"will be unable to invest in as many new artists in the future"
if SB 1246 passes. Whether or not the industrys threat is completely
founded remains to be seen, but regardless of the ultimate veracity of
its assertions, Robin Hoods clothes do not fit Henley and the RAC
as well as previously believed. Instead of stealing from the rich and
giving to the poor, Henley merely wants to steal from the rich.
Despite the potential implications that the passage of this bill has on
Nevermoures future, the band does not worry about such seemingly
Nevermoures immediate goal (before the lunch boxes and action figures,
of course) is simple: the guys just want a consistent paycheck. The band
plays four times a week anywhere that it can, travels in a beat up RV
that breaks down just about every week (the RV did not make it to the
club the night I met them), earns just enough money for gas and occasionally
lodging with a shower, and barely gets by on a steady diet of Big Macs
and Taco Supremes.
Sure, Nevermoure has some broad conception that the record labels unfairly
exploit their artists for as much of their earnings as possible, but at
this point in their careers, each member of the band, without a second
thought, would be willing to cope with the injustice for a shot at attaining
mainstream acceptance and a markedly healthier bank statement. When confronted
about the industrys carnivorous behavior, Adam merely shrugged his
shoulders and declared, "Its unfair, but if you wanna make
it, youre gonna have to do what they say. They get you by the balls,
but thats how you get famous
. I really just dont understand
why you wouldnt want to be successful with what you wanna do."
In the same one-year time period during which Nevermoure anticipates a
nibble from the Big Five, Don Henley will probably parade his entire coalition
to the steps of the State Capitol again to preach about how the rights
of all musicians are being heartlessly infringed upon. While the music
industry sorely needs its failings exposed so that they could potentially
be eliminated, or at the very least, improved upon, maybe Henley has taken
on a particular fight that many of his voiceless constituents, including
four kids from Altoona, want him to sit out.
© Greg Veis Feb 2003
Greg Veis email@example.com
DEAN MORIARTY € Greg Veis takes to the road
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