Vegas Temper wants the airwaves.
Earlier this summer, the Manchester rockers went into the studio to record a pair of songs. They put the finishing touches on one of them in early September and began shopping it to regional radio, which responded immediately. Stations in Boston and Maine, in addition to Rock 101, added “Money” to their playlists, and the list continues to grow.
“It’s snowballed,” said Vegas Temper bass player Keith Willey recently during a band interview in their rehearsal space on the west side of Manchester. “We’re getting airplay up and down the East Coast, and we’re not paying a nickel for it, and I love that.” The single, currently available on iTunes and other digital music sites, is a hook-rich song that feels like a mid-’90s anthem. Anyone not singing along by the second chorus is either comatose or too busy trying to close a bar hookup to notice a band at the top of their game.
Though many area clubs enforce a covers-only policy, leaving bands feeling lucky to squeeze in one of their own tunes, Vegas Temper often ignores the rule, and there are few complaints. The material is so catchy that no one notices it’s not someone else’s.
“We play covers to make money, but we play our original stuff anyway. I say, cram it down their throat,” says drummer Mark Morin. “You gotta get it out there. We play the Brimmer and the place is packed, what better place to play your own stuff? You’ve got 200 or 300 people sitting in front of you.”
They plan to release the second song from the summer sessions, “Carry a Stone,” in a couple of months. In 2011, they’ll head into the studio to make a full-length album, again working with producer Jonathan Wyman (Paranoid Social Club, Rustic Overtones). Wyman helmed 2008’s Molotov Season. “He’s by far the only guy I’d want to call the fifth Beatle,” says guitarist Marcus Paquette. “He thinks like us.”
“We don’t even have to ask — he has the same vision,” agrees Willey. “That’s so rare.”
Wyman takes a stripped-down approach to recording, which suits the band perfectly. “It’s organic. No ProTools or Autotune — it’s real,” says Morin.
“In the studio you can do so many things and fix things and tighten it up and he pretty much left it alone,” recalls Paquette. “Jon said there was a lot of swagger in the songs [and] ‘I think it shows what you guys are like live too.’ That’s what we’re shooting for — we want to be able to play these songs live and have people say that’s great, it sounds just like the album.”
They don’t totally eschew what lead singer Chris Taylor calls “flavoring,” but, says Taylor, “we want to make sure that if we take it out you don’t miss it.”
The walls of Vegas Temper’s basement rehearsal space are full of flyers from past shows, multi-band affairs that featured some of the area’s top talent. The dates begin to trail off around mid-decade, and many of the bands are now defunct.
“I don’t really feel there’s much of an original music scene around here. It’s kind of weak right now,” said Willey. “Four years ago it was really hopping.”
A 2004 Lacuna Coil show at the now-shuttered Hog’s Trough included 10 supporting acts. “It was a big handful of bands that were really good enough to play on a big stage. It wasn’t pay to play or anything like that,” says Morin. “A lot of these shows you see here were local bands. This was the kind of stuff you could do … there are still good bands and it seems like it’s picking up, there’s a bit of a resurgence, but it certainly went downhill for a while.”
“There are certain ones that never stopped,” says Willey. “Prospect Hill is killing it and putting out new tunes, there’s us, Craving Lucy, My Sister Will, Streamline, Spaulding.”
The band isn’t ready to give up the fight, focusing on melodic rock that draws from seminal sources — Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots — as well as more recent bands like Godsmack and Theory of a Deadman. “We shoot for something that rocks a little bit and has the melody and hooks,” says Willey.
“We are not trying to be Dream Theater or Avenged Sevenfold,” deadpans Paquette.
A few music business professionals have picked up on the Vegas Temper sound and could help take them to the next level. The band’s new manager helped guide Godsmack early in its career, and recently handled business for metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage. And although they can’t divulge specifics, another big announcement could come this weekend, after shows at the Black Brimmer and the Keene Pumpkin Festival.
“We’re not saying too much, because you never know what happens,” cautions Willey. “That would look bad if I said something and it didn’t come true.”