This is what we want to do with our lives 

The tried and true formula

for building a successful indie rock band starts with concentrating on your own backyard.

Even with the equalizing aspect of the internet, more often than not, most of the artists who are getting attention in the national press, or licensing their material to the film and television industry are close to – or have already – maxed out their potential fanbase in their hometown.

However, if your group is more interested in making a name for themselves on a larger scale, then perhaps it’s not worth wasting too much time playing king of the mountain. There are some groups who are literally superstars of a sort in foreign countries, but can’t reliably fill a 200 seat club 15 minutes from their practice space.

One young local band that seems to be doing an impressive job of juggling the desire to earn fans (and money) in the Savannah music scene with the far greater demands of winning over complete strangers miles from home is Passafire – a dedicated group of musicians whose coalesced in the shadow of the Savannah College of Art & Design.

You’ve never heard of Passafire? Well, don’t feel bad. They’ve kept a surprisingly low profile, despite enjoying a large following of fellow SCAD students. By and large, they only gig at one venue in the area, Locos Deli & Pub, which – owing to the fact that they are legitimately a full-service restaurant rather than strictly a bar – can and does allow folks under 21 in to catch live music (this has been a help).

But quietly, on their own, the band has formed a corporation, partnered with an energetic young manager, built their own project studio (which they use to record polished, radio-friendly tracks that are – at least sonically – heads and tails above most home recordings). They’ve also forged lucrative working relationships with more established bands of their ilk up and down the East Coast, shot three High Definition music videos, and managed to get several original songs featured prominently in both network television commercials and extreme sports DVDs.

These would be impressive feats for any unsigned band, but the fact that the group has achieved so much on their own while attracting so little mainstream attention in their own town makes their situation all the more unique.

They know it takes more than hometown fans to become successful, noting that they’ve been asked back to every town they’ve played. Keyboardist Adam Willis, says that’s due to hard work.

“We use to only send flyers to our shows and we now promote through live radio interviews, local newspapers, college papers, multiple internet sites and street teams. We’re even working on commercials to air in each city.”

Drummer Nick Kubley says that without that sort of teamwork, none of this would have ever been possible.

“We all decided a long time ago: if you want to be a part of this, it’s for the long haul. We all love playing in the group, and we are a family, including Jonathan (their manager). This allows us to be as professional as possible, and pursue this as a career.”

The group also seems to be in agreement on the general direction of their music – which is to say, they’re excited at the prospect of rejecting the types of confining parameters that can help sell CDs, but can stifle creativity.

“I think it is suicide for a band to stick themselves in one category and say all of their music will sound like that,” explains lead vocalist and guitarist Ted Bowne.

“Sure, reggae is a massive influence, but our fans wouldn’t recognize us if we didn’t throw in some rock, funk, hip-hop, and soul into the mix. We are following in the footsteps of bands like The Police, The Clash, 311, Sublime, and any others who have had the courage to step out of ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ clichés, and pay tribute to the music of an array of cultures.”

The camaraderie the group espouses carries on through to their future goals.

Says Kubley, “I can already tell you we will be touring heavily for the next 2 years whether we get signed or not.”

“And we want to continue doing that for years to come, writing albums and then touring to promote them,” adds Bowne. “This is what we want to do with our lives, so anything otherwise would be a disappointment for me.”

“I think it would be a disappointment for all of us,” echoes Willis. “We all have the mentality that we are gonna make it happen, not that it should.”

“We are all really hard workers, and we believe in what we are doing, so therefore we know that we will be successful.”

Passafire plays Locos Deli & Pub Saturday night.


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Jim Reed

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