Dead on Arrival
The Fray's road to recognition was unbelievably swift. The band, which is slated to headline Red Rocks this Saturday, September 30, achieved platinum status last week, barely a year after releasing its Epic debut, How to Save a Life, which features the ubiquitous hit single "Over My Head (Cable Car)" -- and truthfully, at this point, even I am completely sick of that song. Meanwhile, the album's title track is resting in the seventh spot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, ahead of songs by Gnarls Barkley, Beyoncé and Nickelback, thanks in part to being pimped heavily by the ABC serial Grey's Anatomy.
While it's doubtful that Drop Dead, Gorgeous will ever enjoy the same sort of mainstream acclaim as the Fray, the group's story is every bit as astounding. Last month the Gorgeous ones inked a deal with Jordan Schur's freshly minted Interscope imprint, Suretone Records, after playing together for only eighteen months.
Wait. It gets better.
Not only has Drop Dead, Gorgeous landed a major-label recording contract in the time it takes most groups to just establish their names locally, but the deal is the act's second. The first was with Rise Records, the Oregon-based indie that put out Fear Before the March of Flames' debut, Odd How People Shake. The label reissued Be Mine, Valentine, Drop Dead's self-released debut, after coming across its page on MySpace.
In a roundabout way, that's also how Schur, the former Geffen Records president, found the quintet. At the urging of lauded producer Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit), who will produce Gorgeous's upcoming Suretone debut in California after the first of the year, Schur listened to some of the songs posted on MySpace and contacted the band's manager with an invitation for the musicians to fly out to California.
"Last May, Kyle came running home at lunchtime from school -- mind you, he was in eleventh grade at the time -- and he says, 'Mom, Dad, we're going to California in ten days; Interscope wants to sign us,'" recalls Barbara Browning, mother of guitarist Kyle Browning. "And we're like, 'Yeah, right.' And he says, 'No, honestly, they want to sign us, and they're bringing us out to California.' I said, 'I'll believe it when I see the tickets at the airport.' They were on the plane a few days later.
"We call it a fairy-tale story," she continues. "Honestly, because they have no connections in the industry. Everything has just happened so fast. From the time that they released their first CD, their EP that they recorded here, locally -- they had their CD-release show, and the next day they were contacted by Rise Records. It was really a dream come true. Sometimes you just get the lucky break, and these boys have had every break imaginable go in their favor."
When Barbara refers to her son and his Drop Dead, Gorgeous bandmates as "boys," she's not just being motherly. Kyle and his best friend, drummer Danny Cooper, are still kids -- both seventeen, they have yet to graduate from high school. And with the band keeping them so busy, they've now dropped out of Northglenn High School and will earn their diplomas online, says Barbara, who accompanies the group on the road along with her husband, James. And none of the other three members -- vocalist Danny Stillman, bassist Jake Hansen or keyboardist/vocalist Aaron Rothe -- has hit 21. Understandably, they've found their success a bit overwhelming.
"It's hard to even believe that it happened," Rothe declares via cell phone from a tour stop in Oklahoma. "We're all stunned. It's really surreal because it's happened so fast."
That's a colossal understatement, since many people in town have never even heard of Drop Dead, Gorgeous. The musicians haven't played in Denver much since releasing In Vogue, their latest effort, this past May -- mostly because they've been on the road with the likes of Scars of Tomorrow and Bullet for My Valentine. And the shows that they have played locally have primarily been all-agers.
Listening to the act's fierce brand of metallic screamo -- which pulls equally from wildly popular Tooth and Nail mainstays such as Norma Jean and Underoath, as well as metal-core outfits like In Flames and Killswitch Engage -- it's easy to see why Drop Dead has been a hit with the MySpace crowd. And with over 88,000 friends, a million profile views and three times as many plays on the site to date, it's not hard to figure out what Schur sees in the band, either. Drop Dead must look like a sure thing.
Will it be, though? The group improved dramatically from Valentine -- which, to be fair, was only twelve minutes long -- to Vogue, and still shows plenty of promise. The smart money is betting that with Robinson at the helm, the best is yet to come.
As for the MySpace numbers, kids are finicky, and a massive MySpace following doesn't necessarily translate into record sales. The music itself is polarizing, and despite the outpouring of support/interest the band has generated online, Drop Dead has also spawned its share of detractors. "Mimics. Posers. Recycling ideas to make them palatable to a more commercial audience. Watering down. Dumbing down," wrote one particularly passionate poster named Pancake Repairmen on Amazon. On the other hand, while acknowledging the derivation, another poster confessed to still being blown away. "Drop Dead, Gorgeous are recycled hash, and just about the most intense thing I've ever heard at the same time," wrote Johnny Bootnicks of Ontario, Canada.
I'll side with Johnny on this one.
Regardless of what happens from here, Barbara's as proud as a parent can be. "It's a remarkable success story," she concludes. "At least for Kyle, and the same for Danny -- 'cause they're the babies in the band -- they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Say they burn out in two or three years; look at the experiences that they'll have, and the opportunities."
Here's hoping the boys find themselves in over their heads.
Upbeats and beatdowns: Go Bigg-E or go home... They said it couldn't be done, but they were wrong. Props to my boy Bigolo, who conquered 3 Kings Tavern's infamous Gauntlet -- consuming a pint each of twenty different beers over the course of eight hours -- this past Saturday night. Starting at one end of the taps and working his way to the other during Suburban Home's eleventh-anniversary show at the Kings, Bigg earned bragging rights forever and one helluva hangover. Stop by the Kings this Friday, September 29, to see for yourself just how big (or stupid, depending on your perspective) a feat this is. And while you're there, be sure to catch Mustangs and Madras, City Mouse and His Kazoo Choir, Onemanna and Sputnik and Slovenia.
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