Brandin Lea - Lead vocals/guitar
Cory Kreig - Guitar/keyboards/vocals
Fletcher Lea - Bass
Rex James Ewing - Guitar
Dominic Weir - Drums
While most fledgling bands strive to one day receive a Grammy, Flickerstick has already been nominated for an Emmy.
As the winner of the breakthrough VH1 series Bands on the Run, the Dallas group converted national viewers seemingly overnight to its style of emotional rock. And now with the Epic Records debut Welcoming Home the Astronauts, the band is poised to confirm what Texas-area audiences have 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 can't 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. It's gotta be more important than just about anything."
That passionate attitude has helped Flickerstick sway audiences and critics alike, and has inspired the relaunch of Welcoming Home the Astronauts. The band's indie release from 2000 has been given a tune-up while still allowing the strong material to retain its raw potency. A brief return to the studio provided the band the opportunity to freshen up some of the vocal arrangements and to overdub a few guitar and keyboard parts. Flickerstick also added a new song - the emotional piledriver "Smile," which has already gained 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 Kreig says. "The record is definitely going to be more rock. Live, we're just an energetic, sweaty band, and then you listen to our (original) CD and it's like, 'Mmmm. That's not very rock.' But when you come and see us play, you're not going to watch a pop band; you're 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 bedrooms playing air drums and air guitar."
Or to put it more succinctly, guitarist Rex Ewing says, "We like to think of this version as Welcoming Home the Kick-Astronauts."
Fans of Flickerstick and Bands on the Run will still be able to enjoy the standout tunes they've grown to adore, including the haunting sing-along "Coke" and the nearly 9-minute showstopper "Direct Line to the Telepathic." The lively favorite "Beautiful" will be issued as the album's first single.
"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, it's one of the most popular songs we've got. I have a sense of pride that this tune -- 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 Kreig. 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 opened when a VH1 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, we're gonna drink, we're gonna probably be obnoxious," Lea remembers. "They really liked 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 we're 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 Survivor and Road Rules with a bit of Star Search thrown in. Merchandise and ticket sales determined a portion of the contenders' success, while live showcases judged by fans and music experts decided the rest.
After 16 compelling episodes, Flickerstick was pronounced the victor of VH1's pioneering series (which scored an Emmy nod in the Non-Fiction Program [Reality] category). The band's booty included $50,000 cash, $100,000 in gear from Guitar Center, an A&R showcase for record industry heavyweights and a slick music video that VH1 promised to spin in heavy rotation.
"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're on some island doing some fantasy crap," Lea says. "We were a band before the show ... We're doing our jobs; somebody's just filming 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 we're a band."
Now Flickerstick is focused on the old-fashioned way of winning over audiences who haven't been exposed to cable TV. In other words, it's a return to what the Dallas act was doing before being pursued by the lights, cameras and action: It's time again to write music and tour.
"People want to hear good songs," Kreig says of Welcoming Home the Astronauts. "They want something that's a little new. People are getting tired of this screaming crap. They want to hear somebody singing not just rapping. With the good songs, it doesn't matter what is popular at that time; the good songs will stand out."
He adds, "We're not trying to fit into any trend or category, we simply want to write the music that we feel in our hearts. And we just hope people will get something out of it."