Shiny Toy Guns: Loaded For Bear
Interview With Shiny Toy Guns' Jeremy Dawson
Shiny Toy Guns is a young, modern rock band whose music, fan base, live show and business acumen has led them to a deal with Universal Records.
Shiny Toy Guns is the kind of act that people want to get behind, so much so that Universal Records, which sponsored the Opening Night Party at MIDEM 2007, where 10,000 music industry professionals gather from around to the world to make the world of music run, made Shiny Toy Guns their headline act.
Shiny Toy Guns is: Carah Faye: Voices, Chad Petree: Voices – Guitars, Jeremy Dawson: Synths, Bass Guitar, Mikey Martin: Drums.
Shiny Toy Guns doesn't fire blanks.
I had the good fortune to secure a brief interview with this band that is showing us all “how it will be done in the future” during a reception hosted by Universal as part of their opening night party, before Shiny Toy Guns would headline, a huge honor, by the way. Grabbing a few minutes with this talented, dynamic band’s co-founder, songwriter and spokesperson, Jeremy Dawson, we slipped off to a balcony, away from the noise. My brief conversation with Jeremy was a shaft of bright light in the darkening evening sky ...
[MusicDish] Jeremy, I understand that you had quite a frantic trip here to MIDEM, a literal 48 hours, if you will. Tell us about your trip.
Jeremy Dawson We flew here – I had one of those psycho flights – LA to NY, changed airlines. I’m carrying over a third of the band’s equipment with me, excess bags, so I had to stop in New York, get everything off the plane, and walk clear to the other side of Kennedy Airport. So I had to get on a train, with this huge cart, to go to the other side of the airport. Then I flew to Zurich, Switzerland, again, got everything off the plane, walked to the other side of the Zurich airport. Then I flew to Paris, got off the plane, got all of the equipment, switched to AirFrance to go to Niece, and finally made it Cannes. The rest of my band had a much easier flight – LA, Frankfurt, Niece.
[MusicDish] Why was your flight, in particular, such a mess?
Jeremy Dawson My flight was screwed up because we were supposed to shoot a video for our first single in the UK, and our second single in America, but it got moved to Japan, and my flight was already changed, so I had to deal with the repercussions of dealing with a completely different flight, two days before MIDEM, and 10,000 people flying to MIDEM. So, that was the only flight.
[MusicDish] So when did you actually get here?
Jeremy Dawson Late at night last night – and immediately I had to get out of a cab and go straight to interviews until four or five in the morning. Then we had a press conference at 11:00 a.m., so there’s no room for jetlag. Thank God for French coffee…
[MusicDish] ... and for youth! You said you have two singles coming up off of your new CD, We Are Pilots. Which cuts are going to be the singles?
Jeremy Dawson In the UK, we have a split territory deal. In American, we’re signed to Motown Records. In Europe and the UK, we’re with Mercury Records. America is staying with “le disko” right now, and then moving to track 1, “You Are The One,” and Mercury is going to lead off with “You Are The One.” So in a few weeks, both of our record companies with be aligned with the same single, which is cool because then we can do a much bigger video, because we can get both labels to pay for it, which is awesome.
[MusicDish] Excellent! And when did you sign with both labels? It was quite recent, wasn’t it?
Jeremy Dawson June (2006).
[MusicDish] And Shiny Toy Guns was a busy, independent band prior to signing?
Jeremy Dawson Yes. We didn’t even have management, purposefully. I managed the band before that, until it was just overwhelming. We made the decision that we were either going to do everything ourselves or go to a major label. We had no interest in an independent label because we could do anything an independent label could. Independent labels have four to fifty employees, and I have four to fifty friends that we could throw some money to, or help them in some way. Fontana and Red offered us distribution deals; P&E deals, that we could have instantly signed.
But, the perennial nightmare of running a record company, running a band, writing songs - which would immediately not happen because we wouldn’t have time for it – and the fact that we want to be a global presence, which means that we want to share music with North Africa, with Iceland, with Siberia, and we want to share music with everyone in the United States - the way to do that is through what I call … there’s three channels, three outlets, that you can do that: television, radio, and the Internet.
We have the Internet covered, better than any record label could possibly do it. They don’t understand the Internet. They’re getting a lot better, but they don’t understand everything. But, you can’t get on the radio unless you have a very deep, years and years relationship with that program director.
And, who has those relationships? The radio promotions directors at the major record labels. You can’t get onto MTV unless you have a relationship with MTV or Viacom, that goes back years deep. Who has those relationships? The major label guys. You know, the guys that are in charge of promotion for radio and television at Universal, some of them have been there for three weeks. But, before that they were with Arista and before that they were with Sony, and before that they were with Columbia. And they know Joe Blow at KNRX 93.5 and have taken him to dinner a hundred times, knows his wife, sends him a birthday card…
And, let’s say that we have a good song, in everyone’s opinion. That song will never see the light of day until our guy takes it to Mr. Joe Blow, whoever, and takes him to dinner and places the record in his hand and says, “I need you to do something for me. Oh, you like it? I know that it’s an unknown band.” I can’t do that. I’m an independent band, and no matter how hard we work or rework, it means nothing to a program director who’s making a few hundred thousand dollars a year for a huge Clear Channel station.
And so, we embarked away from the DYI into the world of the major record company, after a huge bidding war. It was not a financial bidding war. It was a very exclusive, directional record deal that would put … we would never leave the driver’s seat on any element of anything. Every font, every aspect of artistic development and marketing, strategic alliances … certain platforms of marketing that standard record companies would do, we would develop the platforms on our own, and they would provide the resources and the manpower to execute those ideas and designs.
[MusicDish] Are you able to control your band name, web content, and things like that?
Jeremy Dawson Everything. Everything. And they trust us. They trust us because we made the record and mastered the record, and we were the number one most requested song on K-Rock, without a record label and without distribution, without a single unit on the selves of even a Mom & Pop store. It was a strategy that we did to never, ever let the record leave our trailer. If you want buy a Shiny Toy Guns CD, come to the show, ten bucks. But all of the little stores came, “Hey, man, we’d like to buy 30 copies.” We said, “No.”
[MusicDish] So you had no distribution.
Jeremy Dawson No, on purpose. Because I wanted to go to a record company and not say give me a million dollars. I want you to give me the reigns on the steering wheel and the gas pedal and a check book, and let us continue … just continue forward, and help push us through. To right: Mikey Martin
If I’m gonna talk that game and demand something that’s not normal, and a sizable advance to upgrade our vehicles and equipment and allow us to travel to places like Iceland and Siberia, we had to have everything aligned perfectly. We come to the label and say, OK, this is the band, this is our show, this is how many tickets we’ve been selling in every single city we play in the United States already, this is our album, which is done, it’s mastered. Here’s the artwork, we just don’t have any cellophane. Wrap it. Ship it. Everything was done.
[MusicDish] How much touring have you been doing?
Jeremy Dawson Last year we did 287 shows.
[MusicDish] How long have you been touring as Shiny Toy Guns?
Jeremy Dawson Three years.
[MusicDish] So, you had numbers to show the labels.
Jeremy Dawson Absolutely.
[MusicDish] Let me ask you about your songwriting, Jeremy. You’re the songwriter for the group?
Jeremy Dawson Chad and I.
[MusicDish] I know that this is a generic question, but I’ve seen your music described as “future-forward rock,” pop/electronica/rock, slash slash slash … how do you describe your music?
Jeremy Dawson If you were to take a guitar, a symbol, a symbol that represents a guitar, a bass, a drum, and a singer – Rock n Roll - and your take a synthesizer, an iconic symbol representing zeros and ones, the digital world of technological methodology of creating music, and if [they were] a man and a woman, and they were to become one and have a child, we are that child.
[MusicDish] And who is your biggest audience?
Jeremy Dawson Grandma and seven year olds, and everything in between. It’s a layer cake. It’s the most interesting thing in the world. If you go to a Shiny Toy Guns concert, up front will be the row of screaming 15-year-old girls. A few rows back, college kids. Move on back, some of the parents of those kids. The kids don’t even know that their parents are there … not just to check up on their kids. They drop off their kids, drive around the back and park, and come back in because they like the CD, too. And, in the back, the punks, the kids who wouldn’t be seen seeing us, but they came, too. There are such colorful layers.
We go to the merch table every night and talk, and hang out with them if they want to, maybe do an autograph thing, and get to know the people who come to the show. They are every shape and size and color and age and demographic. Every demographic – it’s really, really cool.
[MusicDish] How do you promote yourself to radio? How is Universal targeting Shiny Toy Guns to radio?
Jeremy Dawson The label has us targeted specifically to modern rock right now.
[MusicDish] What’s your live act like, Jeremy? What can the music biz folks expect to see tonight at the opening show of MIDEM? Is there one thing about your live act that you would say is different, outstanding or notable?
Jeremy Dawson Hopefully. A goal of ours is to capture, out of the five senses that the human body has, two of them that are the “representers of artisticness” of music, of painting, of film … the visual and the audio, the ears and the eyes, because those things you hear and you see. You don’t physically touch it, so it eliminates other senses. If you want to capture a dual sensory situation, then your show has a theatrical, dramatic – within boundaries, it can’t be “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and it can’t be Guar, this band Guar – they grind meat and they throw it on the crowd (Laughs). It’s actually amazing. I don’t think it would go too well if our show did that … do we try to stimulate the visuals.
We try to do that with our graphics and our photography, with our web design – everything that we do. Outside of writing a song and producing a song, we try to stimulate everything visual so that you can see and absorb … our goal is to send people home, looking out the window of their car and not talking, and NOT turning the radio on, and not popping a CD in. Just thinking, “Wow, that was really cool.” That’s our goal. I’m not saying that we’re there, yet, but where we would like to get to.
Shiny Toy Guns
[MusicDish] A worthy goal … where can people find Shiny Toy Guns on the net so that they can participate in your music and show?
Jeremy Dawson Our primary are two MySpace accounts: myspace.com/shinytoyguns and myspace.com/stguk, those have music, photos, videos. Then there’s isound, purevolume, reverbnation, you know, every legitimate music site. We have a pretty massive account on there, since the conception of those sites, even YouTube.
[MusicDish] You’ve been an early user?
Jeremy Dawson An extremely early user. We were on MySpace years ago. We were a band that had 500 friends on MySpace when it was a big deal, 2½ years ago, when MySpace was this tiny, unfunded little company. You could by a banner for like 20 bucks, it was so cheap. They were some LA kids … MySpace used to be a storage facility for large amounts of data, like a garage. It was a dot.com thing. When the dot.coms went under, the company was millions of dollars in debt. Tom and his partner looked at friendster, and said, “We have a better idea.” It’s a colossal, it’s giant – the most clicked site on earth. And the most powerful website, and they’ve been very good to us.
[MusicDish] And you have a mighty powerful site on MySpace yourself. (Editor’s note: as of the writing of this interview, Shiny Toy Guns had over 13 M plays, 4.2 M views, 208,510 friends, and close to 66,000 comments on its U.S. myspace site.) Jeremy, I’d like to ask you one last question before I have to deliver back to MIDEM, which is anxiously awaiting your headline performance at the opening night show tonight. Is there anything that you want to express that, in all of your interviews, people never touch upon. Is there something else that’s not covered, or something that you think is really critical that people should know about Shiny Toy Guns right now?
Jeremy Dawson There’s something that no one ever asks us or talks about, because it has no relation to business and it has no relation to music or promotion of music, or promotion of anything. There is something that we do, and our friends and fans know that if there’s something that’s not cool in your life, and it has nothing to do with us … your at some stupid disco or rock show and you’re totally bummed out and it sucks, and it’s a personal situation. It’s happened to you, it’s happened to me, there’s been a time, like, you know what? I have NO friends. Nobody cares. Everybody hits points like that.
Those MySpace accounts are live. There’s people who help us [on our MySpace accounts], but those [e-mails] are read and watched, and they’re channeled to individual files, and sectioned off by what was written in [them]. If things are getting really bad, and your dad’s an idiot and your mom’s a drunk, write us, and we will write you back, no matter what.
[MusicDish] Why is that important to you?
Jeremy Dawson I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychologist, we’re kids. Half of us [in the band] are just out of high school. We’ve gone through the same thing: the love, the pain, the drugs, the alcohol, the broken homes, all of the things that our viewers and listeners go through now, and they latch onto the music, to feed on that. Sometimes that’s not enough – and sometimes other choices are made, the wrong choices are made to try to … to run away. And that’s something that I say: if you want, just write us, and it’s private. And you’ll get written back. And let’s have a talk.
It’s really important to us to … to be there. There’s people who were there for us, who hold us accountable. And we would be idiots right now if it wasn’t for that. We want to offer that out to 200,000 people [on our site]. It doesn’t matter; we’ll get to it. It might take a few days, but we will get back to it.
[MusicDish] Thank you so much, Jeremy, for sharing that with us. I’m sure what you’re dong matters a lot to your fans. Well, I hate to end this conversation, but you have to go. I appreciate your taking this time to speak to MusicDish during this very busy, exciting 48 hours at MIDEM. Thanks for the interview!
Jeremy Dawson Cool – thanks, Anne, we’ll see you.
Shiny Toy Guns Website:www.shinytoyguns.com
Shiny Toy Guns U.S. MySpace: www.myspace.com/shinytoyguns
Shiny Toy Guns Europe/Australia MySpace: www.myspace.com/stguk
Shiny Toy Guns Management: www.myspace.com/jimwelch2012
Shiny Toy Guns Licensing: www.mcjamesmusic.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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