Although I won't say that Oklahoma City's bands are better than ours, the City has been cranking out a few that are perhaps a bit more accommodating to commercial packaging. Whether by nature of the music scene, the bands themselves or just having different connections, OKC's got something a little different going on.
Take, for instance, current rising act Stone Cold Sober. The band doesn't have any outstanding background story; like many others, it's a group of five guys that have been playing in various bands for a number of years and have recently found what seems to be the right chemistry. What's different is that the chemistry they've found has been stirring interest and has provided a debut disc that's rough and tumble enough to keep its rock credibility, yet polished enough to be radio ready right out of the gate.
Lead singer Dave Perkins explained to me last week that the appropriately-named song "Small Town" is about "growing up in the country and kicking it with friends. We're all from small towns. A couple of the guys are from Yukon and I'm from Noble, and we just thought 'What a great name.' It really just talks about the way we hang out and party and that we work as hard as we play."
If this sounds like a common theme, it's not all by chance. First of all, the guys are writing what they know, which is always a good start. Most music fans know when you're selling BS rather than the truth. Second, it's a common theme that we've heard recently from another OKC export, Hinder. And although we might give a collective cringe at the mention of the band's name, Hinder has scored a couple huge hit singles, toured the world and made a name for themselves.
In truth, Hinder provided more than a little inspiration for this story. Drummer Wes DeWitte was on the road as drum tech for Hinder and saw the band achieve many of its goals. As a result, he decided to reach for his own and return to OKC. He went to work in a recording studio and started recruiting what would become Stone Cold Sober. By starting with guitarist Justin Strange from Shadowbox and Perkins from Veehr, the group began with a strong core. Once rounded out with Wes's brother, Dave DeWitte, on bass and Strange's cousin, Brent Sawyer, on guitar, the quintet was complete.
What has really added to the dynamic of the band, however, was that all five members contribute to the writing process. "In my previous band, I was the only songwriter. All five of us are writing now, which made it a lot easier to put together a solid record," said Perkins.
Roughly two years into the project, the group now has its debut CD in hand, running with the title track as the lead single and has a couple more tucked in its back pocket. Although two years may sound like a long time coming for the band to release its debut, the experience gained has proven to be worth the wait.
With tracks produced by Brett Hestla (former Creed drummer, currently working with Corey Lowrey in Dark New Day) and John Humphrey of Seether, Stone Cold Sober was able to gain some valuable insight from a duo that's been inside the recording machine and know what radio's looking for. The group also emerged with a pair of singles that should add longevity to the debut disc and could help the group find its way to a label deal.
Although the elusive "deal" may sound like dreaming big, the band has already made some major steps by gaining the attention it needs and deserves by landing two songs in movie soundtracks. The first, "Bring It," was produced by Humphrey and originally submitted for use in the Punisher 2 soundtrack. Although the band's submission reached the top 10 out of over 4700 submissions, the song fell short of being chosen. What wasn't expected, however, was that Lion's Gate would keep the song under consideration for future use.
Ironically, the band didn't find out the song had eventually been tapped from the studio or management until Perkins saw the movie in a Red Box Video display at a McDonalds. Once a foot was in the door, however, another opportunity presented itself, and the band got another song, "Maybe Someday," placed in the end credits of forthcoming film, The Familiar. Produced by Hestla, the band not only landed a placement in the flick but will also be filming a video for the song to be included in the DVD's special features.
As for now, the band is running with title track "Small Town" as its lead single. According to Perkins, "We'll probably release 'Bring It' eventually, as momentum builds, then 'Maybe Someday' if we get that far.
Overall, Stone Cold Sober has scored a pretty impressive hat trick for an independent band that is just now releasing its debut. If the trio of potential singles, as well as album tracks like "Stone Cold Over" and "Fool For the Last Time" are any indication, the band looks primed for an assault on modern rock radio. Any of these songs could stand comfortably next to bands such as Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Smile Empty Soul, or even Seether on modern alt-rock stations like The Edge or The Buzz in Tulsa and OKC, respectively.
Granted, that may not be a sound every band aspires to, but the work ethic and production values are something that should be considered by anyone who's seriously looking to make headway in radio and get some regional and potentially national attention. Independent or not, Stone Cold Sober's Small Town looks like it could be one of the primary players in this year's pool of independent Oklahoma CD releases.
If you want to find out what Stone Cold Sober's all about, this weekend is your chance. The band holds it's Tulsa release party for Small Town at Flytrap Music Hall Saturday night, July 18, sharing the bill with local hot shots Crooked X. The bill will be rounded out by Oklahoma City compatriots Xit27 and local punk rockers First Lady Assassins. Doors open at 7pm for the 8pm show and tickets are $10.
Here's what we've got to look forward to this week:
Thursday's big show to kick off the weekend is the return of Sonic Youth to Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are $30 at the door to catch up with these rock icons and Awesome Color opens the show at 8pm
Friday, July 17, gives us a handful of shows to choose from. Corey Morrow provides the weekend's Texas country fix at Bob's with South 40 serving as local support. If you're looking for something in the same genre, but with a little more attitude, you can slide over to Mercury Lounge for Red Eyed Gravy and Jackson Taylor.
Meanwhile, Main Street is busy on Friday with Eric & The Adams playing Lola's, The Marquee hosting Eleni Mandell, Jordan McCloud and Artificial Fire and Soundpony opening the weekend with night one of the Poor & Loud Fest.
Saturday, July 18, sees Soundpony continue and conclude its little fest and Arnie's hosts and old friend in axe-slinger Steve Pryor. Meanwhile, a trip across town to Dixie's Tavern will provide a preview ABoT Music nominee for best male vocalist and best metal/hard rock band with Chuk Cooley and Demon Hammers. Of course, the night's main event is the aforementioned Crooked X/Stone Cold Sober show at Flytrap at 8pm.
If you're looking for a different vibe and a good cause, however, your best bet may well be to settle in at Lola's at the Bowery. Local guitarist/songsmith Jesse Aycock has helped plan the "Songs for Laura" acoustic benefit show in this classy and quaint little room. A $10 donation is suggested, with proceeds going to cancer research. Aycock will share the stage with Jared Tyler, Noelle Hampton, Elam Blackman and Forest Sun, all of whom are amazing songwriters in their own right. The "Songs for Laura" benefit disc and shows were inspired by the loss of Forest Sun's mother to cancer, adding to the gravity of the event.
Sunday caps off the weekend with Pro-Pain providing a metal fix with Mantic Ritual, Eyes Without Pity and The Way It Was at the Marquee, while Soundpony covers the indie crowd with The Royals. The Jazz Hall provides some class with Jaunita Ellington and Thesa Loving for a 5pm matinee gig.
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