An Interview with Florida rock band: Double Cross
I had the pleasure of interviewing the members of Double Cross recently. They were very candid about their new release, their Internet strategy and share some of their valuable experiences within the music industry. They are somewhat veterans in the new online music world with a web history that dates back to the old Mosaic days! Wow! Read on for more interesting facts about Double Cross.
[Cowboy Surfer] Tell me about your upcoming release Give?
[Double Cross] Give is definitely our best work to date. The range of songs is diverse, with everything from ballads to speed metal, and even a spanish/classical-style guitar piece. The goal with this album was to do everything it took to get it all right before we wrapped it up and shipped it out for duplication. That means it's taken well over a year since we first stepped into the studio last spring, but
it's been worth it. There are always things you find wrong later on, but we've tried to fix all the little things that bug us about the last couple of CDs we've produced. And it's important to always push yourself to a new level. This CD is a breakthrough in terms of technical musical ability. You have to do that in order to retain interest. Too many bands that produce record after record of the same-sounding sludge have gone the way of the dodo. It's always got to be new, and one step further than the last one, while maintaining that delicate balance of not alienating those who've enjoyed your previous work. We're always learning and changing, and the material we write reflects this. This CD will be the next evolutionary step for Double Cross, hopefully in the right direction.
[CS] What is your Internet strategy?
[DC] Well, we use the Internet as a communications tool, to get the word out to our fans. Like an electronic newsletter. We like to pride ourselves on being one of the first bands to have a webpage. We can't officially confirm that of course, but our site has existed in one form or another since around 1993, back when "Internet" wasn't a household word, and Mosaic was THE browser.
It's also been useful in getting us some industry contacts, new fans, and solicitations from radio stations and labels. A lot of the people who come to the website may not necessarily have a chance to see
the band live, so we have to make an impression and hopefully win them as a fan. A big part of that is getting your music out: that's why we've been offering RealAudio for a long time, and now MP3. You have to keep up with changing times, of course.
[CS] Has having a website helped you?
[DC] Yes, immensely. Our live performances are in Florida, but we've had people from all over the world hitting our site, and we've gotten some really good reviews from magazines, particularly in Europe, and even some radio play, purely from the website. A DJ in Latvia spun our last CD, Stoned Kitty, in it's entirety on his show, and sent us a copy of the station's playlist showing it blocked in for an hour. That was really cool. And this guy found us on the Internet. Our newsletter goes out to several hundred people around the US, as well as quite a few in Canada and Europe.
[CS] What do you find to have been the most effective in getting the
word out on Double Cross?
[DC] Live performances. Live performances are ALWAYS the way to go. Everything else is a hard sell. But when you can get on stage and work it, people can't help but see the talent. Of course, getting people to come the live performances takes something else, which is why we have the website, and our newsletter, "DC News."
[CS] What made you start a print newsletter?
[DC] Well, we wanted to keep people coming back to our shows, so we figured it would be a good idea to get people to give us their name and address, so we could let them know when the next shows were... we needed to fill some space on the first one, so we wrote a little article. Next time, we had more article than we had, so we expanded it a little, and then had extra space to fill... It just kept growing until suddenly every month or two we're producing an 8-page newsletter with all kinds of commentary articles and a humorous serial fiction column written by the lead singer... It's just so much more than band news now, and people are always telling us they love getting it.
[CS] What are the difficulties you face in the music business?
[DC] There are quite a few. Geography is one. Our bassist recently had to move Nashville because of work, which puts a damper on doing live shows, as you can imagine. We still try to play out as much as possible, which usually means about once a month now. On top of that, it's really difficult to book gigs in central Florida... there are very few clubs that are booking pure rock format bands, and the ones that do have a few "regular" bands that they rotate. It's been difficult to break in. We've lost a few of the good area clubs to karaoke... who would think that karaoke would be more popular than seeing some good bands? I guess it's just a lot more cost-efficient for the clubs. Not to mention that there are just so many great bands around here. It's easy to get lost in the crowd. The worst thing you can hear as a band is "We loved your (audition/set/CD) but we (just don't think it will fit our format/already have another band/don't have any open dates right now)." That's life in the big city, when you're talking about an area that is a music hotbed. Look at all the great bands out of Florida recently: Matchbox 20, Limp Bizkit, Creed... Collective Soul got their big break on Orlando radio. There are hundreds of bands in the area hoping to be the next big hit, and only a few decent clubs to play at. If you haven't gotten your foot in the door, it's too late to make an impression to the people that matter around here. So you just keep doing what you're doing and hope that someone takes notice along the way.
[CS] Are you looking for a record deal or will you be taking the indie route?
[DC] Who isn't looking for a record deal? If Sony showed up tomorrow with a contract for Give"I don't think there would be a moment's hesitation to sign it. But this is our third self-produced CD. Very professionally recorded by Mark Ignoffo at Reel Time Studios, who engineered Moon by the Smashing Pumpkins. He worked on our last CD as well, and I think if there is another CD forthcoming after Give is done, he'll engineer that one too. He's definitely got a groove with the band, and we work well together. He knows what it is that we're looking for in the studio.
But back to the question. We'll be content to pound the pavement, go to record stores and radio stations, and sell all we can at live gigs, just like the last two CDs. Self-producing a CD isn't a profitable venture, it's a labor of love.
[CS] Tell me about your previous albums Stoned Kitty and Windows?
[DC] Windows was the band's first foray into the studio. It was done on a shoestring budget (as much as a couple of poor college students could scrape together), but was surprisingly good for all that. The lyrics are about our experiences at that point in life... college parties and bad
relationships. Although the moda of playing epics was started in pieces such as "After Hours," "Trouble in the City," and "Another Lonely Day In Paradise." Altogether a grammy-winning piece of work it was not, albeit better than quite a few garage band debut CDs we've heard. The local press seemed to agree with us; it was pretty favorably reviewed. We got quite a bit of airplay for the title track on Canadian radio, along with a few decent royalty checks.
Stoned Kitty was a more mature recording effort. More time and money was invested, from recording to the artwork and everything in between. It was a more polished musical effort, for sure, and again, it's gotten good reviews just about everywhere we've sent it. It was another step of growth for the band, although the tongue-in-cheek feel of the title track and efforts like "My Pilsner" showed that we could still play and have fun at parties. We also dabbled more on unique alternative music like "Ever Present Past" and tipped a hat to epic pieces in "Yesterdaze," a pragmatic look at child abuse.
[CS] How would you describe your music?
[DC] We've always considered it to be straight-up rock. Our playlist covers 4 decades and everything from "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Paint it Black" to "Enter Sandman" and "Heavy," so there's a wide variety of styles that we cover. One word that shows up in most reviews of our shows or recordings is "diverse."
The band started out doing a lot of covers of the great 80's hair bands; Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Tesla, Poison... over the years we've matured more toward the sounds of Collective Soul; a little more polished and technical, more thoughtful lyrics. Rich's voice has been described as a mix of Metallica meets Candlebox meets Collective Soul meets every 80's hair band... an immense range. We've actually been told that we sound more like some bands than they do themselves. That's what I would call a compliment.
And with Slider (bassist Mark Shilladay) listening to Rush and Yes, Rich listening to Metallica and Queensryche, Clive hooked on Bryan Adams and Mozart, and Kevin loving everything in between, it a wonder we agree on anything at all.
[CS] Who are the bandmembers and how are they involved with the band?
[DC] Clive Leung is the lead guitarist, and one of the founding members. I guess he's also the only truly original member of the band. Mark Shilladay, the bassist, came in after Clive and former drummer Rob Mendoza formed the band, so he's been around since the beginning too. Richard Lingenfelder has been doing vocals, and plays guitar as well. And Kevin Taylor on drums rounds out the lineup. Kevin has more cymbals than anyone we know, and he uses them all. In fact, we've had some problems getting his double-bass kit into some of the clubs we've played because the stage has been too small. But with three engineers, we've always managed to figure something out.
[CS] Tim, how are you involved with the band?
[DC] I guess I'm the "manager," so to speak. I got involved with the band a few years ago. Mark, the bassist was a friend in college, and I was always interested in seeing them play... when they starting booking gigs around Florida, I tried to make them all, and started helping out with things, carrying gear... then I graduated to working sound and lights, then took over maintenance of the website and got them started with publishing a newsletter, and I've booked a few gigs for them as well. I've done a bit of songwriting, collaborating on two songs and penning the lyrics to a third on the upcoming CD... which throws a completely different spin on things, since I'm not musically inclined... so imagine a guy playing air guitar and singing (badly, I might add), trying to demonstrate to a band how a song is supposed to sound as I heard it in my mind when I wrote the lyrics. One of the other songs, "I Can't Breathe," wrote itself when Rich played the guitar lick for me one night and said he didn't have words for it, just a chorus. I got that lick on a tape that night and didn't stop looping it until I had everything written down. Within a week or two, they played the song for me. I was stunned. I think it's arguably the best song on the CD.
[CS] Does the band have a following outside the Florida area?
[DC] Well, we don't have an organized following in markets outside of Florida but we do have fans that email us from all over wondering if we'll ever get to their town. We sure would love to do it. Organizing a tour takes a lot of dedication, and the ability to get up and walk away from your real life for
a while... work commitments, family, that kind of thing puts a real strain on the ability to take off and tour through 7 states for three weeks. It's hard enough for one person to do that; try to get four people to schedule it.
[CS] If so, where else?
[DC] We have gotten requests and reviews all over the world, and some airplay too. So far we've had CDs ship to Mexico, Canada, Latvia, Russia, Belgium, The Netherlands, and England.
[CS] What is the meaning of the band name?
[DC] There really wasn't any symbolism behind the band name. It more or less came about one night in Daytona Beach. It was like 2am on a Saturday morning and there basically wasn't anything to do living on campus, hence we didn't want to just go back and crash, so we lounged around listening to the waves crash on the beach. Low and behold, sitting on these really corny beach chairs, staring at the stars, we started spitting out possible band names, and the name Double Cross happens to come out.
It was one of those Beavis and Butthead conversations (as college-aged men are so inclined to follow). "Huh-Huh, that's a good name." "Heh Heh, yeah yeah, that's a good name."
Too bad there's wasn't more meaning behind the name, although we've been confused with being a Christian band on more than one occasion. It also turns out there are a couple other bands around with that name... luckily we had the foresight to register it as a trademark. No matter how small-time you are, you just HAVE to cover all the legal angles.
[CS] Has the band changed from the early College Days and if so how?
[DC] Drastically. There were many, many lineup changes before the band really gelled, with different singers and as many as six members at once. When we finally settled down to the lineup for the first CD, Windows, it was pretty tight for a bunch of college kids trying to get Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science degrees. Between the band members and myself there are 4 Bachelor's degrees and a Master's... But one of the biggest changes is that the band is more serious about producing quality music, which is why so much time, effort and money has gone into this latest project, Give. We just won't settle for second best on this one. Unfortunately we've pushed the release back a few times because of that, but in the end our fans will get the benefit of the best possible collection of songs we can muster.
I think there has always been a desire to continually grow and redefine what we find comfortable, both in our playing, and in the music we create. While you won't find Double Cross playing polka nor swing music any time soon, at least not seriously; we've always strived to maintain a fresh perspective on the songs we've written, while not alienating those who've enjoyed our previous albums. The work behind Give was as much a statement to ourselves, that we could strive for the next level beyond Stoned Kitty, as it was a labor of love for our fans and friends.
[CS] What has the band learned from going the indie route?
[DC] That it's hard. Indescribably hard. And when they tell you it's 99% hard work and 1% luck, it definitely feels more like 95% luck and 5% hard work. Of course, if we ever made it big, we'd have to SAY that it was 99% hard work and 1% luck. You know, just to make it look like it was harder than it was.
[CS] Can you describe your experience at the MP3 conference in
[DC] Somehow we lost contact with the organizer of the conference, and never found
out any of the details on it, so we had to write it off, quite unfortunately. We're big believers in digital music. It's a great way to get exposure. By the way, look for a sneak preview MP3 of the title track to Give at our website (http://doublecross.net) or on mp3.com (just search on "Double Cross").
Look out for Double Cross in your area soon.