2010 is shaping up to be another huge year for the band Comic Book Heroes. In just the first two months alone, their music and visuals will be part of the soundtrack to the NASCAR 2010 Season as well as the Winter X-Games. They will also be included on the Warped Tour-sponsored “Wonka Music Factory” portal on MySpace.
Later this year they’ll resume touring the country, playing festivals, amusement parks and other major venues, and in between they’ll head into the studio to work on a new album.
They’ll also be graduating high school.
Yes, CBH as they’re known to their fans, are just teenagers, four lads from Wyomissing, PA. But they’ve already had a career many bands — with members twice their age — would envy. And by all accounts, they’re just getting started.
The guitar-driven rock quartet is manned by Steve Kowalski (bass, vocals), Collin MacGregor (drums), Ned Goldman (vocals, guitar), and Steve (Koz) Kosciusko (guitar, vocals). All are friends for years and come from musical families. They bonded over a love of music and formed the band when they were the ripe old age of 11, and have been steadily leaving their impression on the music business ever since. Now at 17 and 18 years old, the band members stand poised on the threshold of adulthood, with a career that belies their ages, and a host of impressive accomplishments under their belts including:
• Their single “Catch Me If You Can” became a Top 15 single on Radio Disney and entered heavy rotation on AOL Pop Radio (with 2 million listeners weekly)
• “Catch Me If You Can” was also downloaded over 160,000 times on iTunes as one of its “Discovery Downloads”
• Being featured in video performance on the Nickelodeon channel Noggin’s hit show ‘Jack’s Big Music Show.’
• Placing #1 for Best Rock Song on OurStage.com’s monthly fan poll voting (OurStage.com is the largest independent music Web site on the Internet, carrying the work of more than 80,000 independent musicians)
• Scoring a major endorsement by legendary guitar manufacturer Gibson, which featured the band on its blogs and websites, and continues supporting the band today
• Selection as a finalist for Taco Bell’s latest edition of its “Feed the Beat” promotion , which provides free food and marketing support to America’s up-and-coming rock acts
• Playing high profile gigs nationwide, including the America Music Awards official afterparty, Radio Disney concerts, and festivals including SXSW, CMJ, and the Warped Tour
• Sharing the stage with world renowned acts including REO Speedwagon, Steppenwolf, Smashmouth, and countless others
Pretty impressive for a ‘bunch of teenagers,’ huh? Well no one knows that better than Cakewalk’s artist relations manager Jimmy Landry.
Jimmy was an A&R rep for Capitol Records in 2008 when he was brought to South By Southwest music festival to evaluate talent. “I had already heard quite a few bands, and nothing really stood out to me,” he recalled. “Band after band came on, I was half paying attention after a long day. At one point I was in a club in the very back of a packed room that used the most horrific-sounding PA, but this singer caught my ear, so I moved towards the stage to get a better look at who was singing.”
It was Ned and CBH.
“I expected to see a seasoned, older band with a grizzled lead singer,” he continued. “They weren’t at all what I expected. They even had stage presence. It was clear they’d been around, it was pretty amazing.”
Landry was immediately taken with the group, arranging to meet them later that night after the show for a discussion about getting them into a studio for some fine-tuning and a chance to record an EP in a professional studio. The result was their “Take a Seat” EP, featuring the singles “Catch Me If You Can” and “Move Out Of The Way,” both of which would later open many doors for them as they moved forward.
By that time, all their hard work was starting to pay off and the band was getting attention and airplay from major media outlets. CBH was named a “Next Big Thing” artist by Radio Disney. Their video was also put into rotation in Disney’s XD channel, and by August, 2009, “Catch Me If You Can” was a Top 15 Single on Radio Disney and one of the Top 50 Songs of 2009.
Things were happening fast and furious for the group, and the boost given by their Disney exposure directly led to even bigger opportunities.
The ride continues…
2010 has picked up right where they left off. In February, they solidified arguably their most high profile gig to date. “Move Out Of The Way” was selected by ESPN as the featured song for the network’s coverage of the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, starting with the season opener, the legendary Daytona 500. Portions of videos for both “Move Out of the Way” and “Catch Me If You Can,” and six original songs will also be featured throughout the 10-month, 35-race season, in music, videos and promotions for the racing series.
Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, event and studio production, commented on the selection of CBH: “NASCAR racing is a sport with sights, sounds, and speed that lends itself to rock and roll music in a very natural blend. With their fresh look and huge sound, Comic Book Heroes will add an exciting element to our NASCAR coverage in 2010.”
Feinberg, a big music fan, caught CBH on the radio one morning while taking his kids to school, and the rest is history.
Steve and Collin are thrilled obviously thrilled to be part of it all, drawing parallels between their music and the sport. “Our music is fast and loud just like a NASCAR race, which makes working with ESPN a perfect fit!” they said.
But the pairing of CBH music with adrenaline-pumping action sports wasn’t limited to NASCAR. Thanks to their selection as a finalist for Taco Bell’s Feed the Beat promotion, CBH was one of four bands chosen out of 100 finalists to have their music played during the 2010 Winter X-Games telecasts and highlight packages. Feed the Beat finalists were chosen by a panel of judges based on performance and musicianship, originality and material selection, and overall appeal and personality. The fact CBH made the ‘final four’ and the X-Games broadcasts is just further confirmation this band is on the right track to long-term success in the music business.
Following the Blueprint
Catching the ear of a professional A&R rep or executive at a major television network are certainly strokes of luck, but in reality they are byproducts of the band’s hard work. CBH was just following a blueprint for long-term, sustained success that’s sure to see them outlast many of their contemporaries who fall into the category of here-today-gone-tomorrow pop stars: Logging the miles, playing all over the US, writing all their own songs, and playing all their own instruments.
Off the road, CBH practices hours each day, plays all their own instruments and writes their own songs, a refreshing change from today’s crowded field of processed teen and tween overnight sensations, American Idols and popularity contests.
Their studio in the basement of drummer Collin’s house, is comfortable yet no frills. Framed pictures of Allman Brothers Band albums and Led Zeppelin photos line its walls. Guitars are strewn about, along with mic stands and amps. It’s decidedly low-tech compared to the big-money world of professional recording studios.
The studio is a metaphor for their life. Not flashy, but solid. Professional, yet with few of the trappings of success you might find in a budding rock star’s studio. A V-Studio 100 sitting, for the moment, on a table is one of the few items that offer a glimpse into their world and indicates this is a band that ‘has some heat.’
Heat notwithstanding, their families keeps them grounded, focused on what’s important, balancing their rock star lives with the responsibilities of being typical teenagers.
And speaking of family, something the band already has going for it that couldn’t be taught or learned is pedigree. Collin’s father is bassist for the legendary classic rock band Foghat. But as Collin is quick to point out, “We’re all from musical families. We all played instruments from when we were very young.”
“It’s been an organic thing,” says band manager Lisa MacGregor of the group’s success, referring to it as a product of hard work, tons of practice and sacrifice.
And sacrifice they have. They all left school to pursue music full time, even passing on college scholarships to make music professionally.
Their studies continued on-line, and all will finish their high school requirements this year. Although they won’t be going to a traditional Senior Prom, that’s just fine with the guys.
In the end, their success may come down to simply taking advantage of what was in front of them. Unlike older generations, CBH grew up with technology — their local high school has a guitar lab as part of their music department, and SONAR is its centerpiece — and, like most teens, they love gadgets and computers. Their self-built studio got larger and more sophisticated as their fanbase grew and the band honed its reputation as a live act.
With the national attention and air play from the likes of Radio Disney, iTunes and OurStage.com, along came access to better instruments and equipment. “We all have SONAR 8.5, and are really getting into the guitar plug-ins bundled with SONAR,” said Ned, who explained that their friends back home are less impressed by the band’s fame than their ‘toys.’ “They’re jealous that have copies of SONAR, they all want them.”
As the band matures, so does their sound and the need to use equipment to reflect such. “We’ve known Jimmy for a long time, and he knows what it takes to help us sound our best. When he landed with Cakewalk, he turned us on to their killer software and now we’re using the V-Studio 100, both on the road and in the studio.”
Learning how to use higher-end equipment and technology like the VS-100 will only help CBH grow as artists, putting together more professional recordings and enhancing their sound. In fact, it won’t be long until we get to see just how far their sound has come: their next release is due out this spring and was produced using SONAR 8.5.
“I can’t wait until this new disk comes out, I’m really excited for these guys. They’ve come a long way and this is their time. And in a year or two, they’re just going to be scary. Their progress has already been incredible. But when they start getting more and more comfortable with some of the professional technology at their disposal, look out,” says Landry.
In the meantime, CBH will keep doing what’s gotten them this far. More big things are on the radar for CBH, including closer work with ESPN and NASCAR and possible live appearances at certain races. Of course they’ll continue to work the road, and hopefully get another CD recorded with some of their new toys.
And there’s also finishing high school.
The sky’s the limit for these young Comic Book Heroes. Not heard of ‘em yet? Well, trust us when we tell you that if you find them coming to a venue near you, you’ll definitely want to catch them if you can!