POSTED ON AUGUST 7, 2013:
Still rocking, two decades later
When Smile Empty Soul played a headline show at The Vanguard on June 26, many thought the key to that show would be seeing the band that dominated alt-rock radio from 2003-2005 returning to a smaller stage after previous tours had taken the band to theaters, arenas and festival shows. The band that stole the spotlight for most people in attendance was a band that's been recording and touring consistently for 20 years: Boy Hits Car.
By fusing hard rock, alt-rock and middle eastern influences, the band that formed in Northwest Los Angeles in 1993 has spent two decades refining its sound and stage presence while building a relatively small but loyal following. In fact, June's show at The Vanguard drew Boy Hits Car fans that heard about the show from as far away as Little Rock and Houston.
When the band's intricately heavy grooves met with a tight yet intense delivery, it was easy to see why those fans drove so far: This is a band that puts every ounce of its energy and passion into the music with every show. So when the band came looking for a show while routing back across the U.S., not only did The Vanguard jump at booking the date, but I jumped at the chance to catch up with founding member Cregg Rondell to find out more about the band.
Perhaps what's most interesting about the Boy Hits Car story is how the band has come full circle as an independent band, yet continues to rock on with the same vision and intensity as when it began.
When catching me up on the band's story, Rondell said there was a lot of history.
"The group formed in '93, so there's a lot of background stuff that we could steer into, but at this point we're really just supporting this record," he said. "We toured with Taproot for two months in the spring, then did the Smile Empty Soul tour, and right now we're routing back to New York to play a big radio festival with Drowning Pool."
Digging back into that history briefly, Rondell explained that the band formed in Los Angeles in the early '90s and got its initial break when it landed its first national tour in 1995.
"We've pretty much always been an independent band, similar to what we are now," he said. "We just kind of plugged our way through the '90s and got a record deal in '99 or 2000, and we had the machine behind us for a couple of years, then we ended up on our own again. Now, at this point, I'm the only original member."
Boy Hits Car
courtesy boy hits car's MGMT
When digging a little deeper, you'll find that Boy Hits Car released its first album, My Animal, in 1998 via an independent label, distributed through NMG music. Just a few weeks after the album's release, the band lost its distribution but continued on undeterred, stirring the interest of a number of major labels with its independent debut. Eventually, the band signed with Wind-Up records and recorded its self-titled major label debut and hit the road even harder, landing some great exposure on the Sno-core tour, supporting System of a Down and Incubus in 2000 and Fear Factory and Kittie in 2001. The rest of the year was spent playing national radio gigs, supporting Stone Temple Pilot in Europe and playing most of the major European rock festivals.
By the time the band was ready to record its third album, it decided to part ways with Wind-Up and released The Passage independently in 2005, followed by a re-release on Rock Ridge Music in 2006. The band continued to tour, playing the 2006 Sno-core tour with Seether and Shinedown and acting as the main support for two legs of Flyleaf's headline tour that year.
An independent release of the band's fourth album, Stealing Fire, in 2011 marked a new creative peak for the band and has seen it continue to work the road steadily. Even so, it continues to fly under the mainstream radar roughly twenty years after forming. The irony of that scenario lies in the fact that the group has consistently toured with some of the biggest names in commercial alt-rock, winning over fans at every turn.
When discussing the band's status and the pros and cons of being an independent act, Rondell said, "It gives us more control as a band, definitely, but there's also something good about have a label behind you and having money to really promote the band. That really jump-started us I a way, so now we're driving to Syracuse to play a radio festival show. I can't say that would have happened without having a label and money behind us to push us back then.
"The problem we see now is with Facebook and social networking," he continued. "There's no better time than now to be able to promote yourself, but it's kind of a double edged sword, because there's so much out there right now."
Even so, Boy Hits Car is seeing a new resurgence of popularity behind Stealing Fire and a touring schedule that has put the band back on the road across the country. When asked about the band's response and the current audience, Rondell stated "It's been great and it's been all across the board. We see our old-school fans that are in their 20s and 30s, and we've seen some younger fans in their late-teens and early 20s start to really get into what we do, mostly from our two months out on the road with Taproot."
Looking forward, Rondell and his band mates are already writing for the band's next album, though it may end up on hold for a bit.
"We released the last album independently in the U.S., but we licensed it oversees and we've seen a really good response," Rondell said. We'd really like to find a label or licensing deal to get Stealing Fire released here in the U.S. and be able to build on that before we put the next record out."
Even if those pieces don't fall together, Boy Hits Car will continue to persevere on as one of the independent bands that turn heads everywhere it goes with great songs and a brutally intense live show.
When defining the band what it's all about, Rondell said "We're all lovers of music and art and self-expression and we still just want to connect with people who want to share in that and the beauty of art and music and self-expression."
That connection is exactly what brings fans in to see the band from hundreds of miles away, why the clubs are quick to accept a chance to book the band and why you shouldn't miss it when Boy Hits Car returns to The Vanguard this Thursday night, August 8. Tickets are only $7 and Brand New Machine (a new hard rock band from Dallas) and Baron Von Swagger will be opening the show. If you want a taste of classic grunge crossed with alt-rock and a distinctly middle-eastern undertone, you won't want to miss Boy Hits Car as Rondell and his cohorts rock Tulsa's "Best Small Music Venue."
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