[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s a dad of a 12-year-old, I am constantly amazed as to what sort of bands my daughter is latching onto. What is the pattern? What is the theme? If she’s not hearing acts on the radio, which is controlled by 20 or so artists, where is she hearing them? Aside from the occasional familiar name (like Panic! At the Disco), most of these bands are entities I’ve never heard of — bands with names like Never Shout Never, Falling in Reverse, Paradise Fears, Stereo Skyline, and Denver’s Breathe Carolina, which comes this Monday to the Wilbur Theater in an appropriately all-ages show with guests Candyland.
Although you might have heard of some of these acts, I am condescending enough to contest that I haven’t. That was until I was reminded of Breathe Carolina’s 2011 dance-pop hit “Blackout” and had one of those a-ha! moments. But otherwise, I had no idea.
It seems like I’m not the only one who has been in the dark. Although Breathe Carolina once had a huge radio hit and have been working hard to remake their image from an angsty “Myspace band” to a credible EDM-flavored club act, they have gotten nothing but radio silence from hip outlets like Pitchfork, one of many media authorities to ignore the band’s 2014 release Savages.
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Produced by Ian Kirkpatrick (Neon Trees, the Ready Set), Savages is a messy beast of an album that updates Breathe Carolina’s sound from its Garage Band-esque “electronicore” roots to a slicker, busier sound that is a little bit Las Vegas residency, a little bit Drake, and a little bit Warped Tour. The coterie of guest on the album—from karaoke darlings Karmin to metalcore singer Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria) gives a little hint as to the album’s lack of editorial prudence.
But who cares? Breathe Carolina aren’t trying to make music that pleases the Robyn crowd, and they aren’t really trying to court grown-ups anyway.
“We had a Top 10 hit that went double platinum — you would think that would get people to look at you not as a ‘Myspace band,” says Breathe Carolina producer and guitarist Tommy Cooperman. “We are one of the only acts that turned it into something. A lot of bands couldn’t translate it to fans at shows or sales.”
Although Cooperman only joined the band this past year (his previous project was Los Angeles’ It Boys!), he has been a member of Breathe Carolina’s circle since the bands early days. Citing leader David Schmitt’s practices of “friending” everybody who looked at his Myspace page, and soliciting interest from like-minded folks with personal messages (sometimes spending entire days on end on Myspace) Cooperman believes that Breathe Carolina’s incredible persistence in their web game is what put the band in the same class as other Myspace graduates like Hollywood Undead and LMFAO.
So what kind of numbers are we talking about here?
Breathe Carolina boast 28,000 connections on Myspace (not bad considering how many people have deactivated their accounts), 199,000 followers on Twitter and a whopping 1.2 million likes on Facebook. To put things in perspective, that’s 10-times the number of likes that an old dude’s band like Supergrass has. In fact, it’s almost as many likes as Charli XCX. Still not a believer that these nu-generation bands are working outside the system somehow? Never Shout Never has almost 4 million likes. Falling in Reverse? Two mil.
“I think for anyone in the market now, it’s a digital age,” says Cooperman. “If you are not killing it online, then it’s really hard to say that you are transcending numbers anywhere. It’s the first thing any promoter looks at, it’s the first thing any radio programmer looks at and it is the first thing anyone you want to tour with looks it. It’s just a perfect gauge of who you are reaching out to. People pay thousands and thousands of dollars to reach those numbers through third-parties, so if you already have those numbers yourselves then I think that is a really good start to transcending it into fans at shows. We’re all online 23-and-a-half hours a day. We all run the social media. At no point in time is it just David (Schmitt) on Twitter.”
Ah, quantizing social presence. These sound more like the words of a Harvard Business School graduate than a rock star. What ever happened to the days of excess when our heroes would just lie in a puddle of swill? But doesn’t this kind of electronic pounding of the pavement lead to a little online burnout?
“No burn out,” Cooperman reassures. “It’s 2014. It just is what it is. You’re on Twitter; you’re on Instagram all the time. You might as well be talking to kids that are fueling your band. It’s a business and you have to run it like a business. Sometimes we don’t want it to be but it’s our jobs. If people don’t know about you then they can’t even judge you.”
So who are these kids that are fueling this band? A band that isn’t on the radio much and isn’t in the established media much either? According to Cooperman, these 14 to 18-year-olds fall in to three camps. First there are the kids that know about them from their affiliation with the Warped Tour circuit, a.k.a., the kids who will wait out in the rain for tickets. Says Cooperman: “Jason Derulo doesn’t have the kind of fans that camp out all night. I don’t think that radio connects you to fans like that.”
Then there are the kids that just know them from “Blackout,” and that’s enough. Finally, it’s the EDM kids that are showing up at the shows. Lots of little camps. Lots of broken wings. All looking for a sight of the band that does more than most to pay their young fans attention.
“We talk to all of them,” says Cooperman. “We list them if they don’t have money. We are all about talking to them about everything, taking their opinions on everything, I think that had a big part to do with it. Kids stumble on us, and once they stumble on us they form a relationship with us because we gave them the time of day.”
But… but… but… I say… how do people stumble on a band that just hangs out online all day? The answer is a lot of things. It’s all of the above. It’s YouTube. It’s related search algorithms. It’s marketing campaigns of bands talking about other bands online, such as a recent Instagram event that Breathe Carolina participated in where they blasted out posts about other bands.
Breathe Carolina might be online 20 hours a day, but their fans are, too. And that leaves just enough time to play a packed-out show.