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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 6/14/04 |   |

Upon returning from their inaugural mini-tour of Japan, the members of Story of the Year went home just long enough to get some sleep, then boarded a plane to Pittsburgh for the first in a series of cross-country radio shows.

Despite the expected exhaustion, bassist Adam Russell was still wired from the reception the band received in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka.

"Japan was the most amazing experience of my life. It's quite possibly my favorite place on Earth," he told Pollstar. "I've never seen fans that into it. I've never seen a crowd that had such a percentage of people that just didn't give a shit about who was looking at them. They were just completely into the music."

That's not to say that Story of the Year is ever met with cool indifference in the States; in the past two years, the band has been winning fans and accolades based on its acrobatic live show. Reviews from the first handful of radio shows this season have mentioned the band as a highlight, and given it more ink than established acts.

"I have not seen a live show that is as intense as their live show," The Agency Group's Ken Fermaglich, the band's agent, told Pollstar. "They've got amazingly athletic members of the band who do incredible things on that stage, back flips, all sorts of crazy stuff with guitars. I've never seen a show like that. It's like a three-ring circus onstage.

"You take the live show and you combine it with melodic, and yet alternative and punk rock kind of songs, and you've got a deadly combination."

According to Russell, Story of the Year has tried to set itself apart from the pack since the band's days in St. Louis. From setting up its own street team to releasing an EPK, home video and EPs, the band held on to a DIY approach that took it to the top of the regional scene.

"We got to a point in St. Louis where we really couldn't do much more there. We'd played every venue, won all the contests we could possibly win," Russell said. "So we moved to Orange County (Calif.) to start over and immediately got an awesome response."

Perhaps the most important contact Story of the Year made was Goldfinger guitarist/singer John Feldmann, who is also a busy producer and something of an A&R guy. Goldfinger took the band on tour, which helped build SOTY's national audience, and then to the offices of Maverick, which almost immediately offered a record deal.

"As soon as we got done with the record and hit the road, we couldn't believe the response we were getting," Russell said. "The record came out, the single hit, the video started reacting. Next thing we know, we're creeping on the Top 10 on radio.

"There's never a week where we don't hear good news. Everything's built so well and we built such an awesome foundation that it's just good thing upon good thing upon good thing."

Much of the band's success can arguably be credited to the influence of Feldmann.

"He is, hands down, one of the hardest working people I've ever met in my life. Up to the point when we met him, we had this attitude that we were the hardest working band on the planet, that we were going to make this happen and no one was going to stop us. Then we met this dude and he's like, 'Good job. All right, I need 30 songs.' He pushed us to another level that we had never come near."

He introduced Story of the Year to Freeze Management's John Reese, who manages Feldmann's producing career. (They've worked together on other bands in the past, including The Used.)

Like Fermaglich, Reese was drawn to the band for two reasons: Great songs and a strong live show.

"When you have those two things together, it's just a matter of time before you connect the dots. Our company spends a lot of time and energy on setup before we put records out. We do a tremendous amount of touring," Reese said.

"With Story of the Year, I think we spent nine months just touring nonstop. Before the album came out, I think they had already played 400 shows. So it wasn't like a lot of bands that just put their song to radio and hope they have a hit."

After a run of radio shows through early summer, Story of the Year will jump onto the 10th anniversary edition of the Warped Tour.

"For any band, especially up-and-coming bands on their first record, it doesn't get any better than the Warped Tour," Russell explained. "There's really no better way of taking your music out to fans within your genre and similar genres as effectively. It's the best exposure you can possibly get. Plus, it's like punk rock summer camp, so it's a hoot."

The rest of the year will see the band (Russell, vocalist Dan Marsala, drummer Josh Wills, and guitarists Ryan Phillips and Phil Sneed) headlining another tour of the U.S., then heading to the U.K. and several more dates in Japan.

"One of the other great things that's happening with this band is that it's evolving globally, not just domestically," Fermaglich said. "Japan is going through the roof. The U.K. is going through the roof."

Still, Reese said, the success hasn't reaped any of the rock 'n' roll casualties that are so common in young bands. Two of the members are each getting married right after Warped Tour ends, and a couple other members are in the process of buying houses.

"None of them have drinking problems, none of them have drug problems," the manager said. "They're real guys who take this seriously. The self-destruct level on this band is zero."


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