Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. Two bands with millions of albums and tens of thousands of concert tickets sold. Both are signed to Fueled By Ramen; both have large, loyal followings and both got a huge boost from the Internet – or to be more specific, from MySpace.
It’s a case of lightning striking twice. The chances of that happening a third time are pretty much impossible, right? Don’t be so sure. Meet Cute Is What We Aim For, the next FBR juggernaut poised to take the business by storm. At first glance CIWWAF seems to be like dozens of other bands on the charts right now: four cute guys who write catchy power pop songs aimed at a specific audience – teenagers. However, FBR chief John Janick and CAA’s Andrew Simon are quick to point out there’s a lot more to the band than meets the eye.
“I had heard the name a couple of times and I saw a bunch of things about them on various message boards, so I checked out their music,” Janick told Pollstar. “I liked what I heard, and when they came through town, I went to go check them out. “I knew there was something there as soon as I heard them live. They weren’t very polished, but it was there – especially in the lyrics.” Simon said his association with the band came about through what was basically a case of mistaken identity, but he soon became a believer. “There were several promoters across the country that, because of my relationship with Fueled By Ramen, assumed that I was [booking] the band,” Simon told Pollstar. “I was getting calls asking, ‘When can I get a date?’ “So we started looking at them more seriously. We decided there was something really happening there. They were smart about the business. They’d already made really good inroads themselves, and it just seemed like a natural fit for us.”
CIWWAF got its start in Buffalo, N.Y., in January of 2005 when singer Shaant Hacikyan and lead guitarist Jeff Czum, who were in Cherry Bing at the time, got together with rhythm guitarist Fred Cimato, who switched to bass, and drummer Tom Falcone from A New Hope. They decided to take a shot at a band that they could call their own.
“We just wanted to do something that was fun and refreshing,” Hacikyan said. “Something different, with catchy melodies and a lyrical twist.”
Lots of drama, finger-pointing, and ugly accusations from former band mates, managers and even webmasters soon followed as a result of their decision to abandon their previous bands. CIWWAF decided to tough it out and keep going, believing they could eventually move past it.
“If you’re dealing with this kind of stuff, there’s got to be a point – like the point of no return – at which it all kind of calms down,” Hacikyan told Pollstar.
Validation came in the form of a unexpected call from Janick. Hacikyan said he’s a huge fan of FBR, admitting, “My room is still covered with all their bands” and couldn’t have been more thrilled to get the call.
“We couldn’t have picked a better label situation, because Fueled By Ramen and John were the only people that liked us,” he said. “No one else wanted anything to do with us. They took a chance.”
It turned out to be a good bet. CIWWAF’s 2006 debut album, The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch, quickly broke the label’s internal sales record, set by Panic! At The Disco, by almost 4,000 units.
Cimato left the band a few months after the album’s release and was replaced by ex-October Fall bassist Jack Marin.
But album sales and MySpace friends do not necessarily a successful touring band make – that’s where business savvy and hard work come in.
Simon says CIWWAF’s live success so far is testament to the band’s realistic view of what it takes to build a long-term career. He also says the band’s manager, Shawn Radley, deserves a lot of the credit.
“It’s about the willingness of the band to stay on the road and really connect to kids,” he said. “I think when you put that time in, you’ll reap the rewards of it.
“The results are so clear. In both the live show – as a band they’ve gotten tremendously better – and seeing more kids sign up for the fan club, selling more merch, there’s really tangible signs that it’s working.”
Janick agrees about the benefits of lots of time on the road.
“The band has really grown in their live shows,” he said. “The last time I saw them, I saw that they had become the band I knew they could be at the beginning.
Hacikyan said that the band is committed to doing things right, even if it means backtracking a little.
“We signed up for this and there are things you gotta do,” he said. “And we’ve surrounded ourselves with people in order to make that happen.”
“We’re kind of going back and taking the steps we didn’t necessarily have to take when we jumped initially.”
CIWWAF are currently out on the road fronting the Alternative Press Tour. In June the band will join the Vans Warped Tour, and both Simon and Janick are hoping to see them play Japan and Australia in the fall.