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Published on August 1st, 1996 | by Gerry Galipault


Sugarspoon finds a fork in the road

A band spends years together, toiling on the smoke-filled, whiskey-drenched club circuit in relative obscurity, only to be discovered by an enterprising manager who has Svengali visions dancing in his head.

They record their first album, a single takes off and the band suddenly transforms into an eight-year overnight sensation.

Sound familiar? Of course. It’s one of the most common tales told in the rock world.

Here now is a new one you may not have heard before: Tampa, Fla.-based Sugarspoon formed quickly, concentrated on creating high-quality demo tapes instead of cutting its teeth on low-paying live gigs, used its big-label connections to secure a recording deal and is only days away from the Aug. 13 release of its self-titled debut album (on MCA).

Welcome to the 1990s.

“Most bands that are pursuing original music would like to do it this way,” drummer Mark Henry said recently. “I don’t think this is totally unheard of, but there’s one key ingredient: They have to have really strong songs. Of course, if you do it this way, you better be sure that you’re an adequate musician and can pull it off.

“We’ve got a real good band here and we’re real comfortable, and we’re real proud of our live performances. We’re ready to go and back it up live.”

Few concertgoers in the Tampa Bay area may know of Sugarspoon, but they will shortly. The rock quartet, cut from the same mold of Gin Blossoms and Toad the Wet Sprocket, is clearly ready for prime-time, particularly after listening to the pop-pumped first single, “Like Shine.”

Singer-guitarist Paul Sisemore, who founded Sugarspoon with guitarist Kent Bradley (and then added Henry and bassist Jeff McDonald), said the group’s path to success is so unusual that they couldn’t possibly have planned it that way.

“Kent and I had lived in Los Angeles, writing songs, and we came back about two years ago,” he said. “We were trying to do demos on our own, and we just decided we had to put this thing together. We had known Jeff and Mark for a number of years because they were in bands around town. They listened to the songs and liked what we were doing.”

It also helped that they had a manager and an attorney in Los Angeles to do the major-label legwork.

“A lot of times when a band starts out,” Sisemore said, “they spend a large amount of time not only writing the songs together but also trying to get further down the road to where you actually meet these people. We kind of already had that thing taken care of. It wasn’t really that we didn’t want to go out and play live or anything.”

Not having a local following may work to Sugarspoon’s advantage, especially if the album breaks out nationally, because the Tampa Bay area also will be hearing it for the first time, as opposed to being oversaturated with it beforehand.

“Everybody asks what kind of advice we could give to young bands, and I don’t really know,” Sisemore said. “I know, collectively, the four of us have played music and have been in bands for the last 10 years and went through the same thing, trying to make a name for yourself, thinking about maybe putting out your own CD independently.

“Who knows what’s going to happen with ours. It could really take off, maybe take a while or maybe do nothing. What we’re doing as a band now is trying to focus our energy on going out and playing live shows.”

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Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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