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Transmatic: Another Internet success story

By and large, there’s a lot of throwaway music taking up valuable space on the Internet. Download it at your own peril.

Transmatic is different. More than a year ago, the Indiana rock quartet posted an MP3 of its track, “Blind Spot,” on the music Web site Not only did it stand out above the crowd, it piqued the interest of Social Distortion bassist John Maurer, also a executive.

“I’m sure people are going to doubt and question and wonder if (Loud Energy) really had a big influence on us,” vocalist Joey Fingers said recently, “and I can assure you they did. It’s for real.

“I can’t speak for the other Internet companies that are doing similar things to Loud Energy, but I’ll tell ya, several guys at Loud Energy are for real. They really went all out for us, and we were surprised. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t. They took a real chance when they hooked us up with (producer) Brad Wood and paid for us to go up to Chicago and record.”

A five-song EP led to a deal with Virgin-distributed Immortal Records. The band’s self-titled debut album was released Nov. 6 and is quickly cutting a wide swath at rock radio.

Why did Fingers, guitarist Zack Baldauf, bassist Andy Carrell and drummer Kirk Frederickson take the risky Internet route? Simple, Fingers says.

“Hell, we were out in the middle of Indiana,” he said, laughing. “Our manager was one of three people we knew who knew someone in the business. Other than that, we were trying any angle we could to get in, and it just so happened that the Loud Energy angle is what did it for us.

“If we had been in L.A., and say, my cousin was working at Geffen and my girlfriend’s brother worked at another label, and we had all these other contacts, I’m not sure we would’ve done it this way. But when you’re out in the middle of America and you’re feeling kind of ostracized from the industry, the Internet is a good way to get your stuff out.”

Once the band got its message across, it was only a matter of time before label executives came calling.

“The A&R guy at Immortal, Jason (Markey), when we finished our EP, he was the first person to hop on a plane and come see us,” Fingers said. “We really didn’t have to think about anybody else once we met him. It felt like the right thing, sometimes you get that intuition, and so far we have no complaints.

“It’s all about songs. Songs first. I think the industry runs off of songs. We’re not good-looking guys, and I don’t think we have this incredible star charisma thing, but what we do believe in is trying to write songs people can enjoy – or some people, obviously it’s not for everyone.”

The whole recording process, led by producer Neal Avron (Everclear, SR-71, New Found Glory), was an illuminating experience, Fingers say.

“I just wanted a chance to make a record, a real record,” he said. “A full blown album with a real producer at a nice studio and not be worrying about money and time. Even though we were still worried about money and time, working with Neal and getting to record at Sunset Sound where Prince did ‘Purple Rain’ and Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin had recorded in there, it was pretty incredible.”

Even more remarkable is that Transmatic did it all without creating a huge buzz back home.

“We had a small following in Indiana, and small is the operative word there,” Fingers said, “but we didn’t even get to play out a whole lot before we got sucked into the machine. I have friends who have played with their bands for years and are struggling, and I feel kind of guilty, because we played less than 20 shows and suddenly we got a record deal. But I don’t feel too bad, because I’ve met bands out in L.A. and they’ve told me they didn’t even play one show and got a deal.”

Whether Transmatic, with its catchy, introspective songs, will rise above the crowded field of rock groups is anyone’s guess. Life’s too busy and short to worry about such things, Fingers says.

“I worked at a record store for a couple of years and I listened to a ton of music,” he said. “I got to see it come through the channel, you know, start off with a buzz about it in Billboard and seeing what got out to MTV or VH1. I was consistently amazed by what made it and what flopped. Sometimes there’s a sure thing, like that Lifehouse song (‘Hanging By a Moment’). The first time I heard it, I was like everyone else, I thought, ‘That’s a hit song.’ Every once in a while, a song like that comes along, but everything else, you never know what the public is going to buy or connect with.

“So how do I think we’re going to do? I really don’t know. I’m trying not to have any expectations. I’m just trying to enjoy it, enjoy making a record and going out and playing music at least for a year or so and have this be my life. That’s good enough for me, and whatever comes out of it, it’s beyond my control.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I’ve got to cheat on this question. I kind of ‘borrowed’ my first record from my dad, Jim Croce’s ‘Greatest Hits’ when I was like 5 or 6 years old. I knew all the words from front to back. That was the first musical influence on me that was profound.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “I think I was 3 years old, and I do remember bits and pieces of it. My mom dragged me to a fair in Indiana, and it was Anne Murray and Kris Kristofferson. I remember being under the tent and there was a lady singing on the stage.”

THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I had a job in the office of a factory for about a year. The owner of the company, he and I really didn’t get along very well, so it made for a very uncomfortable situation. Of course, he fired me, which ironically at the time I hated him for it but in retrospect, he did me the biggest favor ever. I guess I just got tired of seeing him taking advantage of people. After that, every job I’ve had since, I look at work in a completely different light. I appreciate things.”


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