Monty Are I’s Guerrilla Marketing for Bands: 101
By
J. Gordon
11/15/2006 10:00:32 PM

"it’s another way we can attach to them; it gives us personality as a band. We’re not just guys playing music..."

OK, it’s like this: You and your buddies have this band, see. You know you’re onto something pretty cool because you’ve been playing out and getting a decent response. You know it’s cool because this music comes from your heart and it means something. You think you might have a future and you want to take it to the next level. But what is the next level, and how do you get there?

Breakout band Monty Are I, currently touring on their first major label debut, Wall of People [Stolen Transmission], have figured it out and are sharing the secrets here with you on nighttimes.com. Having started not too long ago as a bunch of high school kids from Cranston, R.I., today this young band not only knows the ropes to making it in the music business, but they’re continually reinventing the methods of how to compete. Oh, and in case you think there’s some magic easy formula, you also need to know that they’re working their asses off.

We caught up with Steve Aiello, lead vocals and guitar for Monty Are I, to teach us a few lessons:

LESSON ONE: BE SURE YOU GET ALONG
“Having a good friendship really goes a long way. Me and the bass player, Mike had been literally playing together since sixth or seventh grade. Four of the five of us have gone right through from elementary school to high school together.”

NT: And you’re not sick of each other?

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that! [laughs]. We all grew up together and lived like four streets away from each other. It’s kind of like we were just always around each other playing music. We decided to take it seriously in 2001 when Andrew joined the band. You have to start a band with people that you actually like. You all might not be the best players, or someone might be better than you, but it doesn’t matter. You’ll grow together and become better musicians. You don’t wanna be five years deep and have something you’re mad about for years.”

LESSON TWO: FORGET THE EGO AND GET TO WORK
NT: You've spent a lot of years hitting the contests, playing the opening slots and free shows--as grassroots as you can go. There was no coddling by businessmen and producers who did it all for you....

“Yeah, I remember at first feeling frustrated. You see other bands doing more things and getting bigger around you. But as things started to come around for us, I started thinking ‘Why am I feeling this way? We’re doing it the right way for us, even if it’s at a slower pace.”

LESSON THREE: CAPITALIZE ON THE NEW MILLENIUM
NT: It’s an exciting era of MySpace and Purevolume. Just five years ago, the only option for bands was a basic website. Now, videos, music to stream, download, add to a personal page—it’s all so accessible. It’s all right there: your blogs, pictures, your articles, fan videos. It seems like you guys have totally capitalized on that. You guys even have your emails and your AIM IDs posted. What is it like to be that interactive? Are you that in touch with your fans?

“We kind of consider ourselves an online juggernaut. We made those screen names specifically because we want to keep in touch. All of our street team--we call them ‘the family’--we try to keep them close to us and as hands-on as possible. It just makes it all better.”

LESSON FOUR: BUILD AND NURTURE A STREET TEAM
NT: Organized street teams of rabid volunteers are an effective use of fan power, energy and enthusiasm when you don’t have a lot of money to work with. I know Monty Are I’s street team is amazing. Can you tell us how you’ve done it?

“Andrew is our street team leader. We call him ‘Momma,’ [laughs] because he’s like the momma of the street team. He’s really the one online the most, interacting with the fans. He wants to know what’s new, what the team and the fans are feeling about what we’re doing. If there’s something like a contest running, he’ll get their take on it, getting reactions, seeing what works and what doesn’t. And they get to interact with him, too, so you know, it comes full circle. It helps them out and it helps us out. It’s cool to get other people involved. They have a vested interest in us and their hard work and our hard work combined will pay off.”

LESSON FIVE: LET YOUR MUSIC START AN UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT!
“Kids will like a concept of a video, and they’ll run with it and make posters and bring them to the show, or T-shirts, or they make their own videos,” Steve says.

He tells the story of an owl named “Hootie” that cropped up in a video, and now, kids regularly bring owls to shows, wear them on T-shirts, etc. They feel like they belong on a deeper level and that they’re actually participating.

“It’s cool because it’s another way we can attach to them; it gives us personality as a band. We’re not just guys playing music. It’s kind of funny, you think about how the more mysterious a band is, the more deep and enticing they seem. Um… we’re kinda not like that! We’re just trying to put ourselves more out there.”


LESSON NUMBER SIX: WORK YOUR ASS OFF
NT: Sure, Monty Are I has been touring relentlessly, and will continue through the winter. Does this allow time for anything else?

“We never stop writing. We’ve just started working on a Christmas song that we’re gonna be releasing on purevolume in a couple of weeks. It’s gonna be sweet! Like, Tim Burton meets Guns ‘n Roses! We had to record it on the road so it’s not the biggest production, but I just finished doing vocals and I’m wicked excited about it! It’s dark, but dark like a Nightmare Before Christmas kind of thing.

“We’re releasing a New Years Resolution video on our website, too. We just like to bombard everyone! We might even do some acoustic stuff and release that online.

“We’re also doing something called The Subway Series, where we’re going to all major subways and recording songs in the subways—we’ll probably be showing some of that stuff too. We’ll do it in the New Year. We recorded one in New York and it was awesome! It was so much fun. Stuff like that’s important, you know? To show people who actually listen to your music that it’s not just a façade-- that we actually do care about it and can do it outside of the studio.

“Do as much as you can, for as long as you can, by yourself. Do all your own promotion, shirt designs, flyers and posters, and obviously all of your own music. If you want someone to help you out down the road like a label, that’s cool too, but that is money out of your pocket. Doing it yourself teaches you how things work, it gives you a good work ethic, saves money, and teaches you a lot of lessons that you normally wouldn’t learn.

“Honestly, until we got signed this past May, [all this hard work] didn’t really feel like an accomplishment until then. Only because no one had ever come up to us and said, ‘what you guys are doing is making a big difference and you guys have done it all on your own.’ It was kind of cool to see that.”

LESSON NUMBER SEVEN: WHEN THINGS GO WRONG, MAKE THE BEST OF IT
“The first day of the Story of the Year tour was in Columbia, Missouri, but we didn’t make it because we got hit by a big truck,” says Steve. “It tipped our trailer over—it was bad. Luckily, Story of the Year pulled through for us, made a bunch of calls and we were able to use their old trailer. We actually made it to the show, not in time to play, but we sold merchandise and did an acoustic show outside. It meant a lot to us that people came outside after and checked us out, and some of the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus guys were there and wore our shirt!”

LESSON NUMBER EIGHT: KEEP SOME BOUNDARIES
NT: As accessible you are online, it seems so easy to reach out to you. Do you ever have to say, ‘back off’?

“We try to be really approachable, but we do have to be careful. There’ve only been a few incidents, but people do sometimes start to expect more out of you. It’s never gotten to a point where it’s crazy, and we don’t really get that bent out of shape. But we have told people things aren’t cool. Like, some people ended up going to my house when my mom was there. I felt bad for my mom because she didn’t know what was going on--there were all these strangers in the yard! This stuff doesn’t really happen that much, but when it does, we’re mature about it and hopefully the other people are too. We don’t freak out on ‘em, but just try to explain how it is.”

LESSON NUMBER NINE: WATCH WHAT YOU SIGN!
“Don’t sign anything without having someone look at it! We signed with a manager we thought we were cool with. It ended up not being the best situation for us and we weren’t happy in it, but we did it because we thought this guy had a lot of power. It was the wrong move and we should have gone with our gut instinct. He wasn’t evil or anything, we just didn’t see eye-to-eye. And we should have had somebody look at the agreement before we signed. It didn’t destroy us as a band, but it definitely brought us down a little bit. But we try to keep positive and know that we did learn from that.”

LESSON NUMBER TEN: MAINTAIN YOUR INTEGRITY AND PLAY THE MUSIC YOU WANT TO PLAY
“We were really, really lucky to be produced by Matt Squire (Receiving End of Sirens and Panic! At the Disco), who pushed us harder and farther than ever before. But it was all still very much our music.

“Write the music that you wanna write. Play the music that you wanna play, and for sure don’t write or play music for anyone else because ultimately, you’re gonna be unhappy. What’s cool about our situation is that we never made any compromises and that’s always worked to our benefit. That’s why we went with Stolen Transmission, our label now. We would showcase for labels and they’d be like, ‘oh that’s awesome!’ and the next thing out of their mouth would be, ‘you oughta try doing this…’. That would really piss us off. All the labels obviously had the upper hand because we were still unsigned, but as soon as they said that, it didn’t matter because it was a huge turn-off for us. We wanted someone that was stoked about us because of who we were. Stolen Transmission said they just wanted to amplify what we were doing. That made us excited. We never compromised anything that we thought was important.”


THE NEVER-ENDING LESSON: TOUR ‘TIL YOU DROP
“We’re touring forever!” Steve laughs.



In October, Monty Are I came through St. Louis with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. This month, they’re at the Pageant Nov. 17 with Story of the Year. And they’re back again in December to the Creepy Crawl for a co-headlining US tour with Dropping Daylight. Check them out at one of these dates:

With Story of the Year, Anberlin and Greely Estates:
Thu November 16 Chicago, IL House of Blues
Fri November 17 St. Louis, MO The Pageant
Sat November 18 Mt. Pleasant, MI Rose Arena

With Dropping Daylight, The Summer Obsession, the Outline and Permanent Me:
Mon November 27 Baltimore, MD Fletcher's
Wed November 29 South Hackensack, NJ School of Rock
Thu November 30 Allston, MA ICC Church
Fri December 1 Hartford, CT Webster Underground
Sat December 2 Johnson City, NY Magic City Music Hall
Mon December 4 Charlotte, NC Tremont Music Hall - Casbah
Tue December 5 Jacksonville, FL Jack Rabbits
Wed December 6 Tampa, FL Orpheum
Thu December 7 Atlanta, GA Masquerade
Fri December 8 Augusta, GA Sector 7 G
Mon December 11 Corpus Christi, TX House of Rock
Tue December 12 Dallas, TX Gypsy Tea Room
Wed December 13 San Antonio, TX The Sanctuary
Fri December 15 Salt Lake City, UT Avalon Theatre
Sat December 16 Denver, CO Hi-Dive
Mon December 18 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
Tue December 19 St. Louis, MO Creepy Crawl
Wed December 20 Minneapolis, MN Varsity Theatre
Thu December 21 Chicago, IL The Beat Kitchen
Fri December 22 Cleveland Heights, OH Grog Shop

Photo of Steve Aiello from the website, www.montyarei.com

 

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