Move Over, Old Timers
Rock dreams just don't get any better than this: An aspiring young musician graduates from high school and two days later is flying out to Los Angeles to make a record deal.
But if Aaron Stern is dreaming, he doesn't want to wake up.
On June 26, the ink barely dry on his diploma, the 18-year-old drummer and Yorktown Heights resident, along with the three fellow members of a local punk rock band, The Getaway, traveled to the Sunset Boulevard offices of Epitaph Records, a leading independent record company, to meet with the label's executives and sign a contract.
Not bad for a band that doesn't even have a manager or agent yet.
"The whole experience really hasn't hit me so far," said Mr. Stern, who worked as a camp councelor in Coton-on-Hudson this summer. "Out in California the people at the record company made us feel pretty important.
"A few days later we were home again, back to writing songs here in the basement and playing our usual gigs," he said. "It's been that crazy."
It was only in August 2001, after all, that Mr. Stern auditioned for the drum seat and The Getaway was oficially formed. Steady appearances at places like Club Culture in Chester, N.Y., the area brought the band growing recognition, and last winter it completed a six-song demo recording that was available on the Internet.
Any ideas the band had about breaking out nationally, however, seemed to fizzle in February when they were invited by Drive-Thru Records, a small company that supports new punk rock acts, to showcase their music at a club in Anaheim, Calif.
"It was a disaster," said the band's lead guitarist, Ryan "Judas" DePaolo, an 18-year-old Wappingers Falls resident with an impressive tattoo collection. "The instruments and equipment we borrowed were terrible, so we played poorly."
Now, with new instruments and amplifiers courtesy of the record company, the band members are starting to prepare for a late October studio date to cut their first album. The other band members are Ryan Kienle, a 22-year-old bass player from Wappingers Falls, and Andrew Jordan, 21, lead vocalist and guitarist from Poughkeepsie.
The Cinderella-like discovery of the band is a good example of the promotional role the Internet plays in the underground music scene in general these days.
Brett Gurewitz, the founder and president of Epitaph, said he routinely checks Web sites to keep up wth the thousands of new bands that spring up each year.
"Punk and hard-core are more poplar than ever before, which means the big record companies are signing these bands, too, so I have to do whatever it takes to keep ahead of the wave," said Mr. Gurewitz, who has done well with the bands like The Offspring and Rancid. "But I'd never signed a band off the Internet before this."
Last May Mr. Gurewitz came upon mention of The Getaway at www.punknews.org and downloaded the band's song "Ex Marks the Spot" after noticing it had already received more than 20,000 hits. He was immediately taken by the song, he said.
"I then found the band's Web site and e-mailed them to ask if they'd been signed by any lables yet, and of course, they thought somebody was playing a joke on them," recalled Mr. Gurewitz, who is worshipped by punk fans for starting the 1980's archetypal hard-core band Bad Religion.
At this point The Getaway had written only a handful of original songs, but Mr. Gurewitz followed a hunch, he said, and flew east to hear the band play at the chance, a club in Poughkeepsie, where he witnessed 蜨 kids, jumping up and down, singing all the words to the band's songs, which absolutely blew me away."
"You just don't stumble along a band like this very often," he said. "They have three guys who can sing and they all look great. The best thing is, they're young enough to give it a go and still be young when they make it big. Me and my company are going to kill for them."
Whether the band reaches the masses as The Getaway remains an issue, though. Another band has already licensed the name for use in Canada, forcing their Hudson Valley counterparts and the Epitaph staff to seek legal remedies. Meanwhile, there's a contest on the band's Web site, www.thegetawayrock.com, to pick a new name.
In the meantime, the school year has begun. Mr. Stern, who had decided long ago that college was not for him, is sleeping in. "Aaron is only 18 and still looking for my approval," said Eve Stern Spence, the drummer's mother, over the din coming from the basement of her home here. "As far as I'm concerned, he's already a big success."
By THOMAS STAUDTER