If the keys to succeeding in the music game are tenacity and a keen understanding of the business, Blue October is well on its way. The band has both in spades.
Blue October was formed in Houston in 1995 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Justin Furstenfeld, his brother, drummer Jeremy Furstenfeld and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Delahoussaye. Guitarist/vocalist CB Hudson and bassist Matt Noveskey joined soon after.
The group released an independent album in 1997 that caught the attention of the major labels, and was signed to Universal in 1999. The first rough patch came when the band was dropped by Universal in 2002 after releasing just one album, 2000’s Consent to Treatment.
Things turned around again though, after a pair of indie albums sold well and picked up major airplay in Dallas and other Texas cities. Universal offered to re-sign the group.
Frontman Justin Furstenfeld told Pollstar Blue October went back when Universal called because he and the band have a lot of respect for the company and understand its initial decision to let them go.
“Rap rock was huge and nothing [else] was selling but Matchbox Twenty. We were a little heavier than Matchbox Twenty and not as heavy as Korn or Limp Bizkit,” Furstenfeld told Pollstar. “You make the best rock album you can and throw the cards where they lie. It’s a business, so we hold no grudges.”
The next big bump in Blue October’s road to success came just as the band’s latest album, Foiled, was heating up. Furstenfeld, sporting the dress shoes he wears on stage, was running the bases at Brighthouse Field in Clearwater, Fla., last May after a performance. When he slid into home plate, he broke his fibula and tore several ligaments, forcing the band to reschedule a number of dates.
The band hit the road hard at the end of June after Furstenfeld had recovered, playing a slew of shows including Lollapalooza, and everything seemed to be on track again.
Then, in November, the singer re-injured his leg while performing and the band was again forced to postpone dates so that he could have surgery and take time to heal properly.
Furstenfeld said the decision to sit things out when he and the band wanted to tour was a difficult one, but support from the band’s management, Rainmaker Artists, and booking agency, Monterey International, made things easier.
“They’re always behind what’s best for us and what’s best for our families,” he said.
“The long and the short of it is Justin’s well-being and his recovery is the most important thing,” Kevin Daly, the band’s agent, told Pollstar. “Justin had hurt himself pretty good. Clearly they had to take time off and reschedule and give the leg time to heal.”
The decision may also have been made easier by the knowledge that whenever the band did return to the road, its fans would be waiting. The group enjoys an almost cult-like following that has helped sell out venues across the country like Austin’s Stubb’s Bar-B-Q and The Avalon in Hollywood.
Daly says the band’s intense connection with its fans is one of the reasons he signed them.
“When I went to see their live show for the first time, there were 800 kids in a town that I’d never heard of singing every single word to every single song,” Daly said. “Including songs that they had not yet recorded. It was amazing.”
Furstenfeld said he thinks one reason for that is many fans think of Blue October’s live shows, where the band’s sound differs markedly from its albums, the same way he and the rest of the band do.
“It’s like a big group therapy I guess. Everybody in the band has been through all the stuff that I’m writing about, so it’s like getting stuff off of our chest every single day. I think that just carries over into the crowd. They see us letting it all out, so why don’t they?”
Furstenfeld added that he thinks a lot of the band’s success comes from its understanding of what it takes to build a successful long-term career.
“We’ve definitely paved our grassroots way of touring for the last 11 years, hitting every radio station we possibly could, hitting every board meeting that we possibly could, every show that we possibly could.”
Daly agrees the band seems to know exactly what it needs to do to maintain its success.
“The thing the general public doesn’t know is that they’ve been doing it for 10 years, and that’s always been their work ethic,” Daly said. “They’re oftentimes up at six doing the things that bands need to do and don’t get to bed ‘till two or three. And [they’re] back at it again the next day.”
Blue October is out on a tour that will see it on the road through the end of the year. Furstenfeld says he couldn’t imagine things being any better.
“It’s going great. We’re selling out every club. It’s just unbelievable.”
As far as what the future holds, Furstenfeld is pragmatic yet mildly optimistic, saying the band plans to “just tour, tour, tour; release singles as they come out and hope for the best.”
Ever the sharp-eyed businessman, Furstenfeld ended the interview by expressing his delight at Pollstar being the band’s first cover.
“Pollstar is actually the coolest magazine that we can have a cover on,” he said. “Because it doesn’t go out to the fans – it goes out to the industry.”