When a teenage Escape the Fate fan offered to get the Las Vegas band's music in front of Brett Gurewitz, head of pre-eminent punk label Epitaph Records, the local quintet responded with a "sure, whatever kid."
"This 17- or 18-year-old wrote me a MySpace message saying, 'Hey, I have an aunt that works at Epitaph and I really like your guys' stuff. Would it be cool with you if I send it over there?' '' guitarist Omar Espinosa says. "But you hear stuff like that all the time—'I know somebody who knows somebody so I can hook you up.' "
Before long, vocalist Ronnie Radke began receiving calls from someone claiming to be Gurewitz, which he promptly dismissed as a buddy pulling a prank. "I didn't f--king believe it was him, so I kept hanging up. I thought it was a practical joke, straight-up."
Eventually, Gurewitz convinced Radke he was legit. "He'd been trying to get a hold of us for months," Radke, a Vegas native, says sheepishly. "He said he almost gave up."
Instead, Gurewitz sent his assistant to scope the group's live show—"on MySpace you can have a good song but not be a real band"—then, upon receiving a solid report, flew to town to scout it out for himself at Jillian's. "I thought they were really good, instantly," Gurewitz says.
Soon after, Escape the Fate met with Gurewitz in Los Angeles and became the first Las Vegas-based band to sign with Epitaph, a label with a 25-year history dating to the 1981 debut EP by Gurewitz's own Bad Religion. The Vandals, NOFX, Rancid and the Offspring are just a few of the bands to pass through Epitaph's ranks.
"I was in love with all those bands; it's definitely stuff I listened to growing up," says Espinosa, a 21-year-old Californian who moved to Las Vegas two years ago. "And Epitaph is doing so much. They're pushing super hard for us."
On Tuesday, Epitaph released Escape the Fate's debut five-song EP, There's No Sympathy for the Dead, recorded in Virginia with producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette, whose credits include the Stone Temple Pilots, Iggy Pop and Chevelle. At the same time, the Vegas five-piece—whose sound blends melodic emo and growling metal—laid down tracks for its debut full-length, due September 26.
In the meantime, Espinosa, Radke, guitarist Brian "Monte" Money, bassist Max Green and drummer Robert Ortiz can be found on the road, headlining shows, opening for Roses Are Red and hopping onto the Warped Tour for a couple of weeks this summer. Their next Las Vegas gig is scheduled for June 28 at Celebrity.
"I think they're gonna be huge," predicts Gurewitz, pointing to their recent stint on MySpace's front page as proof of their fast-growing popularity. "They're so rocking and the songs are so catchy. I think it's the new rock sound. It has punk-rock energy, but it has the sophistication and sexiness of '80s hair metal, which is a cool, dangerous combination."