In just two short years, Getaway Cruiser has gone from a favorite in hometown Ann Arbor, Mich., to signing a big-label deal with 550 Music and releasing a new album produced by the in-demand Butcher Brothers.
But anyone who thinks the rock quintet hasn’t paid its dues would get an earful from guitar brothers Chris and Drew Peters.
“People who say that can come stay at Motel 6 with me for the next few months,” Drew Peters said recently, “and they can stand with me on the side of the road when our van breaks down and we’re waiting for someone to come and help us at 4 in the morning. And they can pay for all the repairs we’ve had to put into that thing.”
He speaks from experience, as does Chris Peters, who recalls an even more humbling event when they were recording their self-titled debut LP.
“We were heading to the studio one day in Philadelphia,” he said, “and there’s this one main drag, a million cars going by. We ran over a hunk of metal and sliced a hole in the gas tank. It poured gasoline all over the highway; it literally shut down the highway. We’re standing there going, ‘Wow, we’re f—ing up Philly right now.’ That kind of thing keeps it all in perspective for you.”
The brothers Peters and lead singer Dina Harrison, drummer Dan Carroll and bassist Mark Dundon are behind the wheel of a truly American rock ‘n’ roll vehicle. The group’s album, released June 2, has it all under one hood: tuneful rock, R&B grooves and classic guitar-pop, blended with a variety of unusual instruments, from the accordion and talkboxes to the Mellotron. For good measure, the Butchers brought in Kool Keith and Fugees member Pras to help out.
“I’m Fine (I Find)” is the leadoff single, but Getaway Cruiser really drives home its versatility in an awe-full cover of Tony Toni Tone’s “Let’s Get Down.”
“Getaway Cruiser is an American rock ‘n’ roll band,” Chris Peters said. “Rock ‘n’ roll, by definition, seems to be white kids listening to black music and listening to their own music and mixing it all together.
“That’s obviously what Carl Perkins was doing; he was melding the black blues music he loved with the white country music he loved. The Beatles and the (Rolling) Stones were listening to lots of Chuck Berry tunes, amongst other things. Our generation is much the same; for us, it’s Big Daddy Kane and Whodini mixed with Kiss, The Who and the Stones and Van Halen.”
All those influences came from living in Ann Arbor, not far from the punk and Motown of Detroit and the blues and industrial rock of Chicago.
It wasn’t long after the band formed in 1996 that a 550 Music representative, eager to sign a rock band in the area, had read about them in a Detroit newspaper article about the local scene’s most promising artists.
“It has happened quickly and, in some instances, a little bit quicker than we all expected,” Drew Peters said. “We had someone from (550 Music) come out to see us at like our fifth or sixth show when we were opening for Tuscadero in Detroit, and our live show wasn’t anywhere near we wanted it. We had probably eight songs together by that point; we were just getting the ball rolling. Over the next couple of months after that, we developed a relationship with them and we really liked the people there.”
After years of obscurity in other bands, it’s nice to finally be in the big leagues, the brothers say.
“We bust ass,” Drew Peters said. “No one can ever say that we haven’t paid our dues because from the get-go we worked really, really hard, harder than most bands that I know personally, just by trying to get on every show that we could get on, working on our songs, demoing all the time.
“We’re on the phone all the time, talking to our label and our management about things. We have our hands in every element of this band, from songwriting to promotion, the whole deal. It’s definitely very time consuming. It can wear you out a little bit.”
That work ethic could take them a long way, but Chris Peters said they will tread carefully.
“It’ll be a lot of work and we need to get out there and be strategic,” he said. “I would like to be a band that belongs to people, that has an audience. Some bands can become MTV bands or whatever before they become a band that really has an audience, and that can be trouble. You can name a million bands, like Nada Surf; they were sort of an MTV thing, and it’s really a hard base to work from. Whereas, if you look at a lot of the Minneapolis bands, like Soul Asylum, they have that home base.
“We’ve got a really good thing going in Ann Arbor and its spreading into Detroit and Grand Rapids and Chicago. That’s our idea … to spread slowly.”
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