"Hard work. Sweat equity. Pounding the pavement. Making connections."
The opening lines of Love.45's bio might as well be the band's manifesto. Two years ago, the act issued its self-titled debut on Rock Ridge Music, the imprint co-owned by 3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson. Love.45 was brimming with at least four or five potential singles, including two that were already proven hits on KTCL, and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Love.45 would soon be one of Denver's biggest breakthroughs, by now well on its way to platinum status. Instead, it's back where it began: pounding the pavement with a new, three-song demo and no label.
"Everything just kind of steamrolled all the way to the top of the hill," says singer/bassist Danny Elster of the band's trajectory. "And you kind of figure that you'll plateau for a little bit, but there was none of that. It was straight up and straight down. And on the way down, there were no answers as to why the roller coaster was out of control."
So what the hell happened?
"Ultimately, our belief is that they just didn't promote it," Elster says of Rock Ridge. "Whether that was a lack of money or a lack of interest or belief, we'll never know. We never got those answers. It just became so frustrating. There was really no way to get any answer out of anybody, no matter how many times we asked. It was, 'We'll talk about that later' or, 'We're doing this, that and the other thing,' but none of them were what we thought they needed to be doing to promote the record correctly."
It's not like Elster and his bandmates -- guitarist/vocalist Mick Shivers, guitarist Paul Trinidad Jr. and drummer Jim Messina -- were asking the label to build a scale model of the Empire State Building out of matchsticks or anything. In some cases, having Rock Ridge just pick up the phone would've sufficed.
"There was no followup on anything," Elster remembers. "You know, 'How's the record doing? How are the spins going?'" And as the band discovered, the promotional problems were not limited to the Mile High City. While on an East Coast stop with Shinedown last year, Elster was talking with a local radio rep when Rock Ridge's disinterest became abundantly clear. "The guy was just flippin' on the record," Elster recalls. "He was like, 'Great record. Awesome record. Can't get my DJ to play it.' I said, 'Why not?' He said, 'Because your label doesn't follow up on anything.' Here we are, 2,000 miles from home, and I'm getting the same story. Here we have this record that's kicking ass in Denver, and all they had to do is parlay that into the next towns and cities with the most minimal amount of support. And for whatever reason, they didn't do any of it."
The irony wasn't lost on Elster. One of the reasons Love.45 had chosen to sign with Rock Ridge -- beyond the obvious fact that the imprint is co-owned by Henderson, the band's mentor/champion -- was because Tom Derr, the label's chief and former VP of marketing and artist development at Universal, seemed to have the promo side of things down cold. "Just a little attention would have been nice," says Elster. "It's like the girlfriend who never fucks you. You're like, 'C'mon, man. I'm gonna fuck somebody else if you're going to keep doing this. I'm a good dog, but if you don't throw me a bone every now and then, I'm going to leave the fucking porch.'"
Still, the old dogs didn't seek out a new bone right away. It ultimately took a hard nudge from their managers. "When our management company basically called us up and said, 'Guys, this is the deal: We've got to go in a different direction,' and the reasons were all 'Your label doesn't care. Your label doesn't care. Your label doesn't care,'" Elster recalls. "Once they figured that out, they told us, 'Okay, we can keep you on this active roster and you'll just be a face on a website, or we can let you go so you can entertain something else.'"
So late last year, Love.45 finally approached Rock Ridge about parting ways. The label hedged at first, but the band's attorney finally convinced the company to let the band out of its contract, with one caveat: Rock Ridge would retain rights to the master recordings for two years, preventing the group from getting any more mileage out of the record.
Freed, the Loverboys went back to jump street and put together a plan. Within four months, they'd written three new songs and saved up enough cash to return to Seattle's London Bridge Studios to record them with Geoff Ott, who'd overseen both the Seattle Sessions EP and Love.45.
"We all felt that if we did it once, we could do it again," Elster explains. "The bottom line to the whole thing is write good music and get it to as many people as you can, and eventually something good will happen. We figured, well, we've done it once, so we know the formula. Obviously, the most important thing is the music. Can we do that again? Can we write better music? We all thought we could. So we started over again. But it's not really like starting over, because we're so much higher up the ladder than we were two years ago."
He's right: With the success that Nickelback has had in the past year and with the emergence of bands like Hinder, the climate is even more conducive for a band like Love.45 than it was back then. And if the act's new disc, the noticeably edgier A Demo Diary, is any indication, the group still has plenty of fight left in it.
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"We're going to be there swinging until we get knocked out," Elster says. "And I don't think that will be any time soon. I'm just not at a point emotionally or spiritually or anything to just give up like that. We didn't come this far to quit because something didn't work out. If that were the case, there would be no Nickelback. There wouldn't be a lot of bands."
For some folks -- the same ones who consider Love.45 and their ilk to be a bunch of candyasses -- that wouldn't be a bad thing. "But there's four million people who don't feel that way," Elster says, then laughs. "A lot of people hate Nickelback. There's just four million people who love them."
And that's enough love for Love.45.
Upbeats and beatdowns: Big ups to Prayata, Hot IQs, the Photo Atlas and the Swayback, bands that all made the trek to NYC last week for CMJ's Music Marathon. On the way there, the Swayback, which just released its four-song Forewarned EP, rode the airwaves at Chicago's WLUW for several hours. "They let us raid their CD stacks and play whatever we wanted while sipping whiskey from a flask," reports frontman Eric Halborg. Nice work, gents.