Tori Amos, Vince Gill, Buddy Guy, Bob Mould and Joe Satriani have little in common musically, but they and other guest-artist judges were on the same page when they crowned New York’s genre-bending quartet Market as Musician magazine’s Best Unsigned Band of 1997.
They’re not unsigned anymore. The group is now aligned with Interscope Records, and its first single, the alluring “M6,” has been shipped to radio, well in advance of the February release of its self-titled album.
“You know those goody bags you get at CMJ (magazine’s) festival?” the group’s DJ, Jimmy Connolly, said recently after a filling lunch at a Southern-style restaurant in the Village. “They had a Musician magazine in there and there was a best unsigned band competition form inside. I’m sitting there going, ‘Hey, you guys, there’s gonna be a bunch of guitar bands entering this thing; only guitar players read this magazine. Let’s enter. Maybe they’ll think we suck, who cares,’ and we ended up winning. How’s that?”
Wall Street investors may be enduring white-knuckle moments now, but Interscope has a solid investment in Market. In return, the band posts a potentially profitable sound – a little bit trip-hop and acid jazz, some melodic pop, a touch of Cocteau Twins and some underlining sly funk.
“Lately, I’ve been telling people we’re the American Massive Attack,” Connolly said, “but I don’t think even that or any other comparisons do us justice. We like Massive Attack and Portishead and Tricky, but we also like Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and the Sex Pistols. They haven’t come up with a name for Market music yet, I don’t think. Except (keyboardist) Adam (Kling) came up with ‘sex-hop.’ That works.”
The group’s seeds unwittingly were planted in 1993 when singer Peg Jameson, then a film student at NYU, met percussionist Phil Painson at a rooftop party.
“I was doing my senior film and I wanted a song for it,” Jameson said. “I had done some studio work and then did some stuff with Phil, but we really wanted to do this one song, so he introduced me to Adam and Jimmy. We went down there and put this track together, did a quick vocal and it was really, really cool. We did other things for a while, kind of our own stuff, but we didn’t really know when we did that one track that it would be us forming a project together.”
Then came an offer to do instrumental music for a CD-ROM game.
“From there, we took the music from the CD-ROM and burned our own CDs,” Painson said, “and I went around to different people and played it for them. People would say, ‘That’s cool, that’s nice, but there’s no vocals.’ I was like, ‘So?’ ”
Jameson eventually eased her way up to the microphone permanently, her sultry, soul-bearing vocals meshing beautifully with her band mates’ slow churning rhythms. They pieced together a five-song EP on their own and, through a friend, gave a copy of the demo to a writer at CMJ. A glowing, one-paragraph review led to immediate big-label interest.
“When we had the demo tape done,” Connolly said, “I remember driving home one night really late with Adam and we were playing the tape really loud in the car, and I looked over at him and we both said at the same time, ‘This is so dope, man.’ That was right before our first shows and everything.
“At first, when we first mailed out the demos, we got a lot of mixed reactions. We had a lot of people telling us it was missing stuff, that there were no guitar solos and ‘Can you add a sax solo here? Can you put a drum fill there?’ If you keep doing what you’re doing, somebody will finally recognize it for what it is.
“When we got the CMJ article, that’s when people from California were calling. Geffen called, Epic called, Elektra, Warner Bros. … from that one little blurb in CMJ. That’s when it hit us, ‘Oh, man, we gotta do more shows.’ ”
They plugged away on the East Village club circuit and developed a following. And through it all, Market stuck to its guns, Jameson said.
“We had one person from a label come down and hang out with us in the studio and he kept making suggestions,” she said. “Basically, he wanted us to sound like Portishead. We were doing this music before Portishead even came out. This is just the kind of music we all would’ve done regardless of whether Portishead or Tricky had ever existed.
“We all know lots of people who have their own little studio setups. They’re people who didn’t really get into guitars as kids and instead got into sequencers, samplers, synthesizers or turntables and decided to create music that way and were into music that was created that way. That’s the only similarity between us and Portishead, that we work in a studio.”
In the end, Interscope won hands down, Kling said.
“They were the only label out of all of them that was actually giving us some kind of hope, a deal, some money, some anything,” he said. “All the other labels were giving us the run-around, like ‘Yeah, we wanna do something. A developmental deal,’ or ‘We want you to do the demo again’ and ‘We want to hire a producer to work on your demo.’ Interscope was the only ones who were feeling it for what it was and not feeling it for what it could be in their minds.”
What’s their gut feeling on how radio and the public will respond to “M6” and the impending album? Each member states their piece.
Painson: “They have to realize this is good music. It’s not offensive to anybody, it’s very happy, which separates us from the Brits. We’re not caught up in our stuff, we lighten up. We have a sense of humor.”
Jameson: “If it gets a chance to get out there, if people get a chance to hear it, it’s some pretty seductive shit. People will find themselves hearing the melodies in their head after they’ve heard it only a couple times. They won’t be able to get it out of their heads.”
Kling: “I look at Market the way I look at the year. It starts out cold, it gets warmer, it gets hot and it gets cold again, then it gets really, really cold.”
Connolly: “We have serious potential to blow up the spot. If radio opens its eyes, I think they’ll find we’ve got a song for each and every station in every different market, and that’s part of the way we came up with the name. My other gut feeling is for some more blueberry pancakes.”
BWF (before we forget): Shop with Market on the Web @ www.marketnyc.com.