The mantra of "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" didn't die out in the '70s as far as Oklahoma City rockers Hinder are concerned. And they are doing as much as possible to resurrect it.
One member has a nickname derived from an activity commonly associated with groupies. Another has had his nether regions set afire for the amusement of a reporter on the tour bus.
Hinder's Universal debut is titled Extreme Behavior, which is nothing if not an honest description of the band's down time.
"We grew up watching Guns N' Roses and M(tley Cr(e on MTV," lead singer Austin Winkler told Pollstar. "We always wanted to be part of that. Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun. It's not supposed to be dead and boring. You're not supposed to go to a concert and be pissed off. You go to a concert to get drunk and get chicks and have a great time with the band." And from all accounts, Hinder lives up to that credo.
"We're a fun group of guys and whenever we come to town we make that known. Sometimes we do get the occasional terrified house manager," Winkler said, before launching into a story that lent a new meaning to the term "great balls of fire." But don't let the extracurriculars fool you. This band works, and works hard. Winkler estimates that in one 12-month period, Hinder performed more than 300 shows on the road.
"So you wake up at 10 a.m. and slam a screwdriver. The music - and it is hard work, touring is no cakewalk - is the one thing, and maybe the only thing, we do take seriously," Winkler said.
"The guys are all on the same page and hungry to be a very successful and very big rock band," he explained. "Whenever we're not doing music, we might be lighting Mike's balls on fire and taking advantage of being dumb."
The Agency Group's Ken Fermaglich and Steve Kaul, Hinder's co-agents, discovered early on that the band, comprising Winkler, guitarists Joe "Blower" Garvey and Mark King, drummer Cody Hanson and bassist Mike Rodden, is anything but dumb.
"We took a meeting with the band and we were blown away initially because they came into our office and really had a business-minded sense of touring and putting on shows," Fermaglich told Pollstar. "They were promoting the shows themselves. They would go to the radio stations and buy spots, create them and get them on the air to help sell tickets.
"They were doing things that promoters at the top levels do, but they were doing it as an unsigned artist. We were impressed with that early on." Hinder made the strategic decision from the start to gradually build a fan base in Oklahoma City by playing less often but turning each show into a must-see event, according to Winkler.
When the time came to make its first record, Hinder borrowed $45,000 and headed to Canada. They only got six songs down, but it was enough for a demo that was heard by the right people, including Kevin "Chief" Zaruk, Nickelback's tour manager who now manages Hinder. And it sparked a minor bidding war among record labels.
"Somebody from Roadrunner heard it over the phone and was interested in seeing us play," Winkler said. "We played two showcases in our hometown for Roadrunner with our fans going apeshit, and we were excited.
"We were literally a day away from signing. Then, Tom McKay from Universal heard about a 30-second snippet of 'Get Stoned' and freaked. He flew to Oklahoma City the next day. We probably spent about $4,000 on his bar tab.
"He flew out the next morning and then a guy from Atlantic flew in. I guess people were starting to get hold of 'Get Stoned' because of the demos we had done and a lot of people were throwing deals at us."
Zaruk and McKay got one of those demos into Fermaglich's hands. "They had the beginnings of a very strong live show early on," the agent said. "When I saw them for the first time it became apparent that despite the fact that it was still very early in the album cycle they knew, Austin especially, how to work an audience. That's usually not something that you can teach."
According to Fermaglich, the story of Hinder isn't just sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll excess, it's an artist development story.
"The audience that's coming to see this band isn't coming just because of 'Lips of an Angel,'" he said. "They're coming because they bought the record and they like every song on this record. That's a telltale sign of something much greater than one song, and that's the exciting thing.
"I'll go one step further - it's almost a throwback to the old days when you bought the album because you liked it as whole, and then you bought the ticket and saw the band when it came to town."
Hinder continues the life of the road warrior for the foreseeable future. After opening three shows for Aerosmith in December, the band will spend the first part of 2007 in Europe, including Amsterdam. "You might never see us again," Winkler said, laughing.