The Kid was livid. Two days after the San Antonio Scorpions were eliminated from the North American Soccer League's semifinals by the Minnesota Stars, the rhythm guitarist of the Heroine, SA's hardest-rocking band, was still bitching about it.
"I'm still pissed and depressed," The Kid told his friend Randy Bonillas on a late October night at Fitzgerald's Bar. He went on to describe how forward Pablo Campos blew it when he head-butted an opponent and earned a straight red card that sent him off the game, leaving the Scorpions at the mercy of the visiting team, which came from behind for a 2-1 victory.
But all I had to do to redirect the focus of this most hardcore of soccer fans was ask a simple question: How was the tour?
The Kid smiled, as did the rest of the band, with the exception of lead guitarist Dibby Disaster, who was tied up in some personal matter ("The day this band is on time in this town, the Mayan Calendar prophecies will happen," said bassist Gulie Vargulish.) The band members, who have performed together since 2005, were ecstatic to be back home after a grueling tour that kept them on the road for most of 2012. As of this writing, the Heroine has performed 93 times around the nation this year, including shows with labelmates Alien Ant Farm, showcases at South by Southwest, and festivals playing alongside Marilyn Manson and Queensryche's Geoff Tate. In the middle of it all, they found time to do some recording with producer Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach, Death by Stereo, Ill Niño, Helmet) in Los Angeles. It is all part of a new era for the band: now with EMG (with global distribution by INGrooves Fontana) they're out to deliver in a huge way.
"We're ready," says singer Lynnwood Presley King (all of the band's members use stage names). "It's a different kind of stress now, but bring it on."
Jimmy Swan, the head of EMG and a fan of the band, had been trying to lure the quintet for years. In 2007, he even printed a pamphlet for a SXSW showcase listing the Heroine as part of his roster. "Dude, we're not on your label," King told him at the time. "We just laughed it off.
But five years later, here we are."
By the time the Heroine's deal with 1st Amendment Records expired in April, EMG had grown considerably, so King decided to call his old friend and fan.
"I told him we wanted to give Playing for Keeps another chance," said King, who was disappointed with the album's lack of distribution when it first came out in 2008. "I said, 'Please give us a chance to meet you.'"
Swan agreed, and the band went to Dallas to meet Swan and his partner Jacob Cap ("the money guy," said King). But the band didn't just want to show up: they wanted to kick ass, so King "went to Kinko's and put together the most amazing press kit you could imagine."
The mammoth press kit was made up of seven small books with photos, liners from industry professionals, bios, tour history, and a marketing strategy.
"I drove five hours alone rehearsing my pitch on the way up there," said King, who, once in Dallas, pitched the band at the meeting for seven hours. He knew Swan was sold on the band, but at the meeting/listening party for Playing for Keeps, Cap was a hard nut to crack.
"I didn't feel [Cap] liked it," said King. "I kind of felt, 'Oh, man, they're not going to sign us.'"
"I was hesitant to sign them," said Cap, matter-of-factly. "I liked their energy and I liked them as people, but I immediately knew we needed to develop their sound."
However, that night at dinner, King pulled out his final card: the press kit he had slaved over the night before and its detailed business plan.
"It was amazing, I never saw a band do something like that," Cap said. "Their business sense and overall professional attitude convinced me they were the band to sign. Very rarely you see a band that can balance their business side with their art."
EMG's first decision for the band was to comply and give Playing for Keeps another chance. The remixed new version (minus the cover of the Violent Femmes' "Kiss Off" on the original version) was released in February, and the next thing the label did was put the band in touch with Baumgardner, who was exactly what they needed: a producer who knows when to say "no." Five days in the studio resulted in the band's upcoming first single, "Coming Home," a mid-tempo song about life on the road. It took another day to mix it down.
"He was very easy to work with, but the coolest thing about it [was] we finally had someone who gave us directions," said King.
"They work really hard and are super professional," said Baumgardner, who first saw the band live after members of Cruz (a band from São Paulo, Brazil, that Baumgardner had produced) urged him to catch their act.
"I don't remember whether I saw them at the Roxy in Hollywood or at South by Southwest this year," said Baumgardner, "but I do remember that they were just awesome and I wanted to work with them. I've been busy and they've been touring, but hopefully we'll be able to meet soon and do the rest of the album."
The label is confident they can get significant radio airplay in major markets for the single and that their legendary live shows will have an even greater effect once the album is out.
"When I saw them live [at SXSW] and saw the way the crowd reacted, I knew we had something special," said Cap. "This band is destined to success because every single person in it works as a team."
Before that happens, they must perform a special concert Friday dedicated to a departed friend and mentor.
"This is another homecoming for us," said King, who said the band wants to dedicate this show to the late White Rabbit owner Rick Sciaraffa, who passed away in 2007. "He loved us, and we loved him. At times when we felt kind of stuck, he always encouraged us to keep going. Playing again at the White Rabbit, where we first got our chops, is very special for us."
They will play some of the new songs, like the single "Coming Home" and "Who Do you Love," about a woman cheating on her man. And even though they're now aiming higher, the band's attitude hasn't changed.
"Let me put it this way," King says. "One of the new songs, 'Make Your Move,' says it all." The song is a fast, upbeat rocker that describes what the band is all about.
Welcome to the show/ We are glad you made it out/ It means a lot to me and the band… / Good times, good friends, / I'm doing this for you. / You know I'm a hard working man/ So come on in and let the fun begin/ I want to see you dance/ I want to see you move/ Leave your worries behind/ your troubles at the door/ Let's make this place/ our dance floor.