When Matchbook Romance frontman Andrew Jordan received an e-mail from Bad Religion guitarist / Epitaph Records head honcho Brett Gurewitz, he figured his friends were playing a practical joke on him. They weren't.
"That happens a lot," Gurewitz told Pollstar. "I'll e-mail a band and I won't get a reply. I guess they don't think it's legit." Gurewitz shot off the e-mail in 2003 after downloading the group's "Ex Marks The Spot" from a fan site. He fell in love with it and flew from Los Angeles to Matchbook's hometown of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to watch the band perform at the city's Chance. He was sold.
"It's a big Cinderella story," Jordan told Pollstar. "We weren't even trying to get signed. We were just stoked on playing music." Matchbook - which was then known as The Getaway - used the Internet as a tool to promote its music. The group networked with other unsigned bands by posting MP3s and show announcements on message boards and guest books of various punk sites.
"It's a bit of a testament to the power of the Internet and how things have really changed," Gurewitz said. At the time, Matchbook was playing local gigs and doing weekend stints primarily in the Northeast. Immediately after signing to Epitaph, the group was thrown to the wolves, playing its first proper U.S. trek: the Vans Warped Tour.
Jordan described the experience as an "extreme shock" and "mind boggling." But it didn't take long for the guys to get the hang of life on the road. "We walked away from that saying, 'Club tours are going to be a cinch,'" he said. "It was actually good for us."
True, the seven-week experience wasn't exactly a piece of cake.
"We had to pull our equipment across grass fields by ourselves, we had to fix our own stuff, we had to drive ourselves ten hours through the night; it was out of control," he said. "Some musicians say, 'If you can do Warped Tour, you can do any tour.'"
Since then, the band - consisting of Jordan, guitarist Ryan "Judas" DePaolo, bassist Ryan Kienle and drummer Aaron Stern has toured with the likes of The Ataris, Yellowcard, Fall Out Boy, Mest, Taking Back Sunday and more.
Aside from doing three back-to-back Warped Tours, the four-piece headlined the inaugural Epitaph 2005 tour, which was booked through Matchbook's agent, APA's Andrew Simon.
"A lot of bands are very indifferent about their label," Simon told Pollstar. "They were really proud to headline that tour."
Simon is building Matchbook one step at a time. In order to grow the band's fan base, he is trying to keep ticket prices low. How does he do it?
"We ask that [opening bands] don't want huge guarantees for support," he explained. "My guys don't do huge catering or huge riders; they keep it pretty simple. They also try to keep their expenses on the road pretty low."
Simon describes the members of Matchbook as professional and true to their audience.
"They'll go out and sit by the merch booth and sign autographs," the agent said. "There's no separation between them and their fans. I think they're genuinely honored to have every kid that's there."
Meanwhile, Gurewitz said Matchbook is currently the label's biggest rock act. He added that touring is by far the most important element of marketing at Epitaph.
"We rely on the group to be willing to work hard and tour," Gurewitz said. "Matchbook has certainly done just that. Without these bands working hard on the road, we don't really have a chance. It's very competitive out there in the world of CDs."
The group recently finished its upcoming album, Voices, which is a follow-up to 2003's Stories and Alibis.
For now, Matchbook Romance is taking a break until its next engagement in March. The band will headline the Take Action! Tour featuring acts including Silverstein, The Early November, and Amber Pacific.