GREENSBORO’S FAILURE ANTHEM: SUCCESS THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY
Musicians have been told that we, our current society, live in a “postmusic business” world, that the internet and the digital revolution allow artists to control their own careers without the need for managers and labels, that there’s no room for an Atlantic Records or a Brian Epstein. But not everyone is buying it.
“There are things we want to accomplish that are impossible without a label,” says Ryan Nimmo, bassist for Greensboro’s Failure Anthem, citing tour support as one example. “The industry is so fickle, and often you just have to be in the right place at the right time. You might get lucky and your video goes viral without any help. But some artists don’t want to deal with the business side. They’d rather deal with the creative part.”
The band recently signed with New York-based Razor & Tie, a label whose roster includes Yellowcard and P.O.D. “It’s humbling,” says Nimmo. “You always know what it’s really like to look up to bands, and now you share a label with them.”
“I look at it this way,” he adds, “you’re going to need investment at some point. You can either get it from a label or come up with it yourself. Either way you’ve got to find the money.”
Failure Anthem just released the video for their first single, the muscular “Paralyzed,” with their debut album First World Problems to be released in the fall. “It’s been great,” says singer J.D. Eubanks of the video’s reception. “If you have a great product, it gets exposure.”
The group came together in the fall of 2013, when Eubanks received a call from guitarist Kile Odell, who had already been working with Nimmo, guitarist Wil Andrews and drummer Zane Frye.
“I had just moved back to South Carolina from Los Angeles,” Eubanks says. “He knew me from Written in Blood, a more traditional metal band that I had been in, and he’d seen me in a video doing a cover of Matt Anderson’s “Coal Mining Blues”.
He sent me seven songs, including the instrumental for ‘Paralyzed’. We recorded all seven in one session. It felt like everything just flew together.”
“Everyone has a different road they take to write a song,” says Nimmo of the group’s creative process. “We have a ‘Hey, I’ve got this song’ approach. The songwriter always has an idea of what it should sound like.”
“They’re a great team as a band,” says Eubanks. “That’s what drew me to them.”
The band’s first live show was at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem in June 2014, opening for former Creed frontman Scott Stapp. They’ve also performed on a short tour with Puddle of Mudd, and played at the Carolina Rebellion Festival, before a recent homecoming gig at the Greene Street Club in Greensboro.
“It’s good to see an 800-seat room packed out. The Puddle of Mudd tour was like that,” says Eubanks. “We like to see the crowd happy. We try to bring them some of the theatrical element that the bands in the 1970s had. Chemistry-wise we’re growing as a band. You look out at the audience and you see people you recognize from the last show. You can see the progress.”
Nimmo said the band tries to stay true to the recorded version of the song, which can be a challenge given that the album was recorded before the band began playing live.
“The recorded version will always be what it is,” says Nimmo. “We try to resist the urge to change things live, but we still try to find things that make the music fun.”
Even though they’ve taken what some might describe as a “traditionalist” approach to their career, the group still respects the power of the Internet to get their music out there.
“We’ve been getting emails from all over, ‘Hey, I just heard your song’,” says Nimmo.
Besides landing a major label contract, the band has a formidable manager in Larry Mazer, who’s played instrumental roles in the careers of Kiss, Cheap Trick, Breaking Benjamin and Lamb of God.
“Larry is incredibly intense,” says Nimmo.
“There’s a quote that comes to mind when I think of him. ‘He’s about the signal, not the noise’. He’s what I think of when I think of a band manager.”
“He’s ‘No excuses,'” says Eubanks. “You have to learn to be patient,” says Nimmo of the band’s career trajectory. “It seems like it’s slow-going, because you’re so excited. You just have to let things work out the way they’re supposed to.”
In recent years, guitar-based rock has become a smaller niche in the music market, as evidenced by the seemingly endless number of “Is rock dead?” articles that clog the Internet (which, ironically, often gets the blame for the very phenomena that the online articles decry).
Nimmo, however, says that rumors of rock’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
“People talk about a dwindling audience for rock music, but you just have to push. People realize that there are great bands out there, but they’re not getting the attention they deserve, so they rally around them.
“There are of lot of ups and downs in North Carolina music. A bunch of bands will pop and there’s a scene. It’s awesome that venues keep the scenes going and give bands a place to play. Rock is getting its nails back in.”
“Rock is coming back around, it’s more alive than it ever has been in the last ten years” adds Eubanks. “It’s great watching friends become successful and seeing bands support each other. It’s good to hear about people who are checking out bands.
“We’re just going to keep playing shows and building our fan base. If the music is that good, people are going to grasp the message.” !