Members of American Pearl, Los Angeles’ latest and most promising rock offering, have been there before. They know what it’s like to be in upstart bands, have major labels circling with deals in hand, only to have their hopes dashed.
Not this time. They’ve found their gem in their self-titled debut Wind-up album, due Aug. 22, and the fast-rising single, “Free Your Mind.”
“We feel great about it,” lead singer-guitarist Kevin Roentgen said recently. “We love the record, and we’ll just sort of see how it’s received.”
How can it lose? The band – Roentgen, guitarist-celebrity tattooer Kevin Quinn, bassist Rodney Rocha and drummer Noah Shain – will face a captive audience during a monthlong tour with label mate Creed and 3 Doors Down that opens Aug. 11 in Chicago.
Roentgen says they’ve come a long way to reach this point.
“A couple of us had played in bands for a few years and have been in and out of major label deals, records that never came out,” he says. “We’re just a little bit more selective with this band about booking dates and about gigs and how we were going to be perceived. Maybe we played it a little smart, and we got good people involved, starting with good people in the band and we’ve got a great manager and a great attorney. That has a lot to do with closing a deal out here.
“We started pretty low key. It was me and our guitar player, Kevin Quinn, writing songs together at his old tattoo shop. We took our time and found the right drummer and the right bass player. It was kind of weird, our first gig was actually with Everclear out in San Bernardino, so that was a big first gig.
“We’re friends with the guys in Buckcherry and did a show out of town with those guys before we did shows in L.A. By the time we played L.A., everybody knew we had gotten this band together. Our first show, somehow we got Ace Frehley out there and Marilyn Manson showed and Dave Grohl was there. It wasn’t all uphill from there. We made a nice big splash, but then you have to keep on going. We didn’t get a record deal right away; it took almost two years.”
After such sour major-label experiences, Roentgen says the band loves Wind-up’s approach.
“That’s why Wind-up looked so good, because it’s an independent,” he says, “and when you’ve got the owner coming out to see you for a showcase, you know it’s for real. They’re a boutique label that has sold about 10 million records; that’s awesome.”
Tales of urban grit, overcoming adversity and making it in a hopeless world permeate throughout American Pearl’s no-frills rock album. It was produced by ex-Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones.
“Steve had been to like four or five shows, liked the band and he’s friends with our manager,” Roentgen says. “He produced the Buckcherry record, and we knew him through those guys. We actually tried out a few other producers, but it didn’t seem to click. Then it came down to: Let’s bring in the guy who’s been a musician, who’s a great guitar player. And then we got Mudrock as well, he worked with Godsmack, and he took over the engineering/producer duties. It seemed like a great combo, and we got along great with them.”
Roentgen admits they picked Jones’ brain about the Sex Pistols, the incandescent U.K. punk legends.
“He has no problem talking about any of it,” he says. “He loved being a Sex Pistol. You don’t see a lot of people who have survived that kind of a thing; I don’t know the other guys in the Sex Pistols, but he seems to have really come through the whole thing. He’s just a real simple guy who loves music. We broke the ice right away with him; he confessed that during the time that he was a Sex Pistol that he was going home and listening to Boston and pop records. He used to hang out with the guys in Thin Lizzy, and we talked about that.”
That’s one reason they chose Jones, because he has an appreciation for both sides of American Pearl.
“When Steve came in, he sits down and says, ‘Okay, we’re going to finally do this, let’s start with this song,’ ” Roentgen says. “It was ‘If We Were Kings,’ which is one of the mellower songs on the record. Right away, we sort of knew that he was open to showing that reflective side. But at the same time, we’re a rock band; he knew we wanted to make a rock record.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Technically, my dad gave me my first record, a Steppenwolf album, called ‘At Your Birthday Party,’ but I went and bought ‘Led Zeppelin II’ when I was 8. I bought it because the older kids were showing me the stereo effects in ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and the drum solo. I didn’t know anything about music; I just wanted to sit and listen to that thing happen. When the rest of the record went on, and I had started playing guitar around the same time, it made a huge impression on me.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “My mom was taking me to concerts when I was really young; they were like ’70s pop bands, like America and Little River Band. But they don’t count. I saw the original Kiss on the ‘Dynasty’ tour at the L.A. Forum in ’79; I was a major Kiss fan. I fell right into Gene Simmons’ demographics. I don’t think I closed my mouth the entire show.”
THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “A Perfect Circle, the day (‘Mer de Noms’) came out. It’s great. I think it’s cool when a guy like Maynard can do an album like that; it reminded me of when Chris Cornell got to do Temple of the Dog and people thought, ‘Wow, this guy can really sing.’ “
BWF (before we forget): American Pearl shines on the Web @www.americanpearlnet.com.
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