It's a familiar story to those around the Indianapolis music scene. Local band makes good. Local band gets national recognition. Local band travels country. Local band ends up breaking up.
Breaking this sad cycle, at last, is Indianapolis-based Extra Blue Kind, who've been getting national attention (the CMJ Top 40), playing stadium shows with the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and Everclear and recording an album that's getting praise from critics.
Lead singer David Hazel says the band's achievements have come because the group has insisted on remaining independent from national labels and because the band places such a high priority on songwriting and touring.
"We had this incredible luck in Indy and a lot of notoriety but we hadn't had to do much for it," Hazel said in a telephone interview last week. "Around that time, we made the decision to stay independent and start grinding away and putting hard work into it. It's kind of an oceanic thing. We rode a wave in Indianapolis and it was time for us to start paddling back out again."
When Extra Blue Kind was founded several years ago, the band was, in Hazel's words, "weekend warriors," content only to play local gigs. "At one point we had five shows in Indy in one week," he says. "That's not sustainable. Plus, we just wanted to get out on the road."
The biggest problem for the band was finding a suitable booking agent in order to snag prime showcase slots and prestigious opening gigs. With that done, and a deal with Opulent Records in the bag, the group has played almost non-stop around the country.
"We have a very unique situation" Hazel admits. "We just played as many shows as we could get and getting our name out as much as we could. The guy who runs the label e-mailed someone from IndianapolisMusic.net and asked for a list of the five most promising bands in Indianapolis. After listening to the five, he was interested in us. We're the only band on the label, so we get all the attention and all the resources. It's not your usual record label. It was a combination of luck and meeting the right people."
The Tide and The Undertow, EBK's full-length album, was produced by local legend Vess Ruhtenberg and mixed at Echo Park studios.
Hazel writes 85 percent of the band's material, most of it alone but also in collaboration with drummer Randee Eimer. The result is an album that national critics have compared to The Cure and The Pixies.
Their successes have come at the price of hard work. EBK began touring nationally in early January and have played throughout the Midwest, South and East Coast. The high point was a show at New York's legendary Knitting Factory.
"Just about every place we played was the first time we played that city," Hazel says. "If you're somewhere in the United States on a Tuesday night, you may as well play a show. We ended up playing a handful of shows that were moderately attended, but we had some really amazing shows, such as the Exit Inn in Nashville. We're doing a lot better than we expected for the first time out. You expect to lose a lot of money on the road, especially at first, but we've been doing OK."
EBK's show at the Emerson on Saturday will be the band's first local show in some time. "To be honest, I'm nervous about it," Hazel says. "We've got a new guitar player, we're sounding better than we ever have and we've played 39 shows in five weeks. The band is sounding tight. And we're not having any personality problems in the band, amazingly. I don't know what to expect [from the Emerson show]. It's been awhile since we've played Indy. As soon as we started not playing Indianapolis so much, people started finding us on Myspace and asking us, 'When are you going to play an Indianapolis show?' It's funny. I hope to see a lot of new faces."
Hazel says, "My life has become completely different now that we're touring full time. It's a lot to ask of someone to be on the road permanently, but everyone in the band is hungry for it. It feels great that we're going strong and still ready for more."