At least once a month, the music industry offers up another Next Big Thing—a new, little-known band purportedly bound for global fame. Most often, they disappoint and vanish. With all of one album to their credit, Two Door Cinema Club reeks of NBT overhype. Forming in their native Northern Ireland in 2007, the trio took their name from a mondegreen of "Tudor Cinema" quickly built a following in local clubs, rocked MySpace, scored a record deal, and released an EP, Four Words To Stand On in January 2009. The British music press was in love. A full-length debut with producer Eliot James followed. Tourist History dropped this spring, and the band has been touring the globe in support ever since.
Hey, this rock star stuff is easy!
MORE ON MUSIC INDUSTRY:
Jennie Rothenberger-Gritz: Adventures in High Fidelity: Nick Hornby and Ben Folds Record an Album
Aylin Zafar: In Defense of Lauryn Hill
Joe Fassler: Life According to Pete Seeger: No Computer, No Records, Just Singing
Tourist History—32 minutes of alterna-pop candy—is all jangly guitars and cascading harmonies, syrupy-sweet melodies over synthesizers in full-blown Depeche Mode. Babyfaced lead singer Alex Tremble has a clear, strong, high alto, but shows a limited emotional range on wax. After a half-hour of lilting optimism, it's easy to wonder if the guy has ever had a bad day. It's also easy to wonder if TDCC has enough stones for the long haul. Are they really the next Coldplay, a new Vampire Weekend? Or just another Kula Shaker, one more Next Big Thing that turns out to be a Flavor of the Month?
Music critics, thankfully, don't get to make that call. Neither do record companies. No matter how much PR and payola a band might have behind them, and no matter how passionately the critics love you in New York—or in London—hype won't get you a spot next to Jagger and Richards in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Even now, in the downloadable, mashable, post-American century, a band can go only as far as its ability to connect with a certain audience can take it. That audience would be us. Every band since the Beatles has faced the same fact. If you want the whole rock star package—the stadium-sized adoring crowds, supermodels backstage, private jet with gold-plated toilet seats—you have to conquer the American market. And the United States is big, literally, in a way that most Europeans can't quite fathom until they get here. That is, not until they have to crisscross it five or six times in an old tour bus, playing dives in every city and college town from Portland to Portland, subsisting entirely on a diet of Stuckey's Pecan Logs and microwaveable truck-stop burritos.
With Two Dollar Cinema Club's relentless cheer and relatively quick UK success, the fear is they would show up on our shores expecting a kind of coronation—something like the Beatles arrival at JFK, U2's "Angel of Harlem," or, in darker minds, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.
But talent and a hot sound only gets you in the door. There is no surefire way to the top of the charts—no matter what Weezer says. Barring Timbaland's help, though, the best plan for Stateside success is to hit the road, Jack. And stay there. Like, forever. Play hard, too. Give a rafter-shaking, blow-the-roof-off-this-dump, kick-out the jams performance every single freaking night. Even if you're sick. Even if only five people showed up, and the club owner stiffed you. Tour long enough and play hard enough, eventually, the crowds will come. Better yet, they will buy t-shirts they don't need to reward your perseverance. Americans are nothing if not generous.
Most new acts though, flinch at the prospect. After only a few months of living in a Bob Seger nightmare a lot of young bands, especially fragile imports, get a sort glazed, defeated look, and soon scurry home to make records, produce friends' records, and wait five years until they can join the Where Are They Now Club.