Features > Artist of the Month > November 2003
Flickerstick

 


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   After a whirlwind year of non-stop touring following the success of their major label debut album Welcoming Home the Astronauts, the Dallas group Flickerstick decided that they weren't quite finished yet. Flickerstick packed the house at the legendary club Deep Ellum Live, where they captured the raw energy of their live show in front of the sold-out hometown crowd on their first live album and called it Causing A Catastrophe - Live, Now one year after finding success with that project they embark on a new quest curiously named To Madagascar and Back - ep/dvd. This EP is just a peek of what Flickerstick has in store for their upcoming LP and having an attached DVD that gives fans all the behind the scenes footage and backstage antics that people loved watching on VH-1's reality TV series Bands on the Run definitely helps.

   While most fledgling bands strive to one day receive a Grammy, Flickerstick were nominated for an Emmy. As the winner of the breakthrough VH-1 series Bands on the Run, the group converted national viewers seemingly overnight to its style of emotional rock. With their Epic Records debut Welcoming Home the Astronauts, the band confirmed what Texas-area audiences had known for years: Flickerstick makes music that matters.

   "It took a while for some of us to realize how much of a commitment music is," says singer Brandin Lea. "But if you're just trying to do it on the weekends, it doesn’t work that way. You've got to play rock and roll with no net - which basically means you cant do it as a hobby and expect it to work out. You can't do it as a second thing; you have to do it like there's nothing else in your life. Its gotta be more important than just about anything."

   That passionate attitude has helped Flickerstick sway audiences and critics alike. The band's indie release from 2000 was given a tune-up while still allowing the strong material to retain its raw potency on Welcoming Home The Astronauts. A brief return to the studio provided the band an opportunity to freshen up some of the vocal arrangements and to overdub a few guitar and keyboard parts. Flickerstick also added two new songs, the acoustic ballad "Execution By X-mas Lights" and the emotional pile driver "Smile," which gained the band even more exposure through its poignant video.

   Veteran sonic mastermind Tom Lord Alge (Weezer, Blink 182, Marilyn Manson) was enlisted to remix the project. "He's one of the best at what he does," guitarist Cory Krieg says. "The record is definitely more rock. Live, we're just an energetic, sweaty band, and then you listen to our (original) CD and its like 'Mmmm. That's not very rock.' But when you come and see us play, you're not going to watch some crazy-ass rock and roll guys go nuts for an hour. And that’s what we want our record to sound like. We want kids to be at home in their bedroom playing air drums and air guitar."

   "I'm still a real big fan of 'Beautiful,'" Kreig reveals. "When Brandin and I wrote that song, we thought it was going to be super-indie and most people weren’t going to get it. But come to find out, its one of the most popular songs we’ve got. I have a sense of pride that this is true - that we didn’t think anybody was going to be into - turned out to be such a great song for us."

   Flickerstick originated at the University of North Texas (in Denton), where singer-songwriter Lea first met guitarist Krieg. In 1997, Lea recruited his brother Fletcher to play bass, and together with veteran drummer Dominic Weir, the quartet started to consistently land gigs as Flickerstick. Additional guitarist Rex "El Dangeroso" Ewing was brought in two years later to allow the energetic Brandin more freedom as a frontman. The band spent the ensuing years establishing a name for itself in the competitive Deep Ellum music scene, performing relentlessly while anticipating a "big break."

   The door of opportunity cracked open when a VH-1 producer happened across an unsigned band compilation that featured Flickerstick's "Talk Show Host." Originally, the network sought Brandin and Fletcher (whose parents are both professional dancers) for a one-shot program on rock and roll siblings. The show stalled in pre-production, but Flickerstick was suggested as a potential act for the inaugural Bands on the Run.

   "The producers saw a throwback to old-school rock and roll like the Stones - we're gonna fight, were gonna drink, and were gonna probably be obnoxious," Lea remembers. "They really like that end, and they knew we had the music to back it up. We knew that they kind of put us on the show because were rambunctious."

   Flickerstick and three other unsigned acts were then tracked throughout the country for eight weeks, resulting in a reality-based program that combined the elements of a Survivor and Road Rules with a bit of Star Search thrown in. Merchandise and ticket sales determined a portion of the contendors' success, while live showcases judged by the fans and music experts decided the rest. After 16 compelling episodes, Flickerstick was pronounced the victor of VH-1's pioneering series (which scored an Emmy nod in the Non-Fiction Program [reality] category).

   "I have to attribute the show's success more than just to what goes on in other reality shows, because it’s not like we were on some island doing some fantasy crap," Lea says. "We were a band before the show - we were doing our jobs; somebody just filmed it. It’s not like The Real World. What’s anybody's job on The Real World? They don’t have one. Their job is they want to get on a TV show. Our job is that were a band."

   "We were really excited to get back into the studio again," says Lea. "Especially being able to record in our hometown, and were proud of what we’ve done so far with both Welcoming Home the Astronauts and Causing A Catastrophe - Live, but were anxious and ready for the people to hear something that’s new and something that we love."