"I was the guy in high school who didn't want to be noticed," frontman Dallas Smith of Vancouver rock act Default confessed to POLLSTAR.
One would never have guessed. Even at the early club shows promoting Default's TVT debut, The Fallout, the singer told the crowd the band would be at the merch table after the set to sign autographs.
The former sheet metal cutter with the straight-ahead stage presence (the voice coming from the boyish frontman is captivating enough) admitted he wasn't always comfortable onstage.
But even as he got his bearings onstage, a trial by fire, Smith said, "I know the boundaries of cheese." He won't even stage dive. "Too early '90s-ish," he claimed. "I will go to the edge of the crowd and I'll stand up on the barricade and get right in there."
While Smith didn't anticipate being a lead singer of a band, he doesn't have to get into any acting mode to pull it off.
"It's something I have inside and it just comes out. It took me a while to get over the 'I don't know if I should do this.' I'm still getting used to it all."
A while is approaching three years now. Smith, guitarist Jeremy Hora and drummer Danny Craig (bassist Dave Benedict joined after the TVT deal) formed the band, then called The Fallout, in the summer of 1999 and started writing songs in preparation for live shows.
The Fallout debuted at China Beach in Langley, B.C., the day before New Year's Eve 2000 to an audience of some 200 people. While they were mostly friends and family, Smith remembered, "I was shitting in my pants." All but two of the songs from that set are on the TVT album, which is now nearing platinum in the U.S.
In January 2000, the band, armed with hook-laden rock songs, went into the studio with Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, who had heard the band's very first demo from engineer Joey Moi. He agreed to produce the independent album, generously paid for by a $20,000 loan from Smith's father (now paid back in full).
Before even releasing it, the members did a name search and discovered multiple Fallout acts, so they switched to Default.
Craig, who had been in other touring bands, knew some local promoters who helped Default get gigs, notably, Rob Warwick of Rock.It Boy. Before they knew it, they were playing larger clubs like the Commodore, opening for Matthew Good and the Headstones.
Vancouver rock station CFOX was spinning the song "Deny" and also placed that song on the Vancouver Seeds 2000 compilation CD, along with "One Late Night" and "Slow Me Down." That CD sold out a couple of pressings. The band's indie CD, The Fallout, also sold some 2,000 copies. As the airplay increased and shows got bigger, record companies came calling.
Craig said Default's lawyer, Jonathan Simkin, mailed the CD to labels but, somehow, the one to TVT's Lenny Johnson ended up in the big demo pile. One day, his assistant, Josh Freni, knocked the bin over and in picking up the submissions, decided to play a few, one of which was Default's. He liked what he heard and played it for Johnson, then flew to Vancouver to see a rehearsal in Craig's garage.
"Lenny asked us to do certain songs," Smith recalled. "He heard the voice on CD and when he showed up, he saw me and didn't believe that it was actually me. We played what he asked and the next thing we knew, we had a record deal."
The band then hooked up with Nickelback's manager, Bryan Coleman of Union Entertainment Group.
"He seemed like a really friendly guy and very honest," Smith explained.
Since Kroeger was busy with Nickelback, Default recorded its label debut with the help of Rick Parasher (Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains) in the spring of 2001 in Seattle.
The band also had to decide on a booking agent, having taken Canadian gigs "here and there" from Alex Griggs at S.L. Feldman & Associates and Ralph James at The Agency Group.
"We met Ralph and we heard from our lawyer and everybody we trusted that he was the guy to go with," Smith said.
They signed with Steve Kaul at The Agency Group in the U.S. about eight months later.
Default's first tour was headlining dive bars starting in July 2001. September 11th forced the band to take some time off. It set out again at the end of the month, opening for Nickelback all over America until the end of the year.
Sales of The Fallout took off in mid-November, consistently moving about 20,000 units a week in America (spiking at 35,000 at Christmas) and continuing well into 2002. Two singles later, it has sold more than 850,000 units.
In January, the band opened for Nickelback for two weeks in Canadian stadiums.
"It was a good learning experience on the bigger stage. You can't just stand there," Smith said.
The group then embarked on a theatre tour with Bush. A promo tour of Australia followed in June.
Back home, Nokia sponsored the band's summer headlining tour in North America between festival dates.
Default recently canceled its European tour because Smith came down with the flu, but, just finished a short college tour in Canada. The band will return to Australia to perform on the M-One festival tour in October. Dates in Japan and Southeast Asia will likely follow.
The rescheduled European tour will be announced shortly.