Adventure Galley at the WOW Hall on Sept. 9. Photo by Trask Bedortha
Setting Out on the High Seas
Adventure Galley sails into the spotlight
by Molly Templeton
Though the news was pretty obvious last Thursday when a camera crew showed up at their swiftly arranged WOW Hall show, as of last Monday, it’s totally official: Eugene’s Adventure Galley won MySpace’s Rock the Space 2 contest. More than 17,000 bands entered a song apiece in hopes of winning a contract with MySpace Records and a pile of Fender gear. After a couple of rounds of judging and voting, AG’s “Addict” came out on top.
A little more than a week after they got the news, four of AG’s six members strolled into Monroe Street Café looking awfully calm. As keyboard and synth player George Schultz tells it, the whole thing was “just kind of out of the blue.” He saw an ad for the contest and figured it couldn’t hurt to enter. The call came a few months later: The band had been selected — “by a judging panel made up of industry professionals and MySpace Records executives,” say the contest rules — as a semifinalist. In the semifinals, bands faced off in bracket-style voting. AG made it to the finals, along with five other bands from around the country. “Last Tuesday,” Schultz says, “I was obsessively checking my email to see if we won, and logged off, and logged back on five minutes later and got the email.”
Yelling and running around the room ensued. Not that you’d guess these guys do a lot of yelling and running around. Over the course of a 30-minute conversation, Schultz and drummer Brock Grenfell do most of the talking; vocalist David Mills barely says a word but smiles faintly; guitarist Aaron Johnson, behind sunglasses and flaking streaks of yellow face paint, breaks in to tell the story of how he and Mills originally formed the band. Though none of the bandmembers are older than 21 — the “elusive” sixth member, Grenfell’s little brother Forrest, is still in high school — they project an attitude of mellow confidence. Schultz is the gregarious one, the one who’ll tell all the stories; Grenfell reins him in when those stories get a little too colorful for a young band about to land in a much bigger spotlight.
The attention began with their show last Thursday. The band couldn’t come out and say they’d won the contest until Monday’s official announcement, but they could, Grenfell says, “hint very heavily” that there was a reason for the short-notice show, which was filmed for a promotional video (earlier in the contest, the group shot a similar video atop the Lorax Manner). Next, Schultz says, “We’re going to be signing a contract, and so in the next nine months we’re going to start working on an album and probably have that released in the next year or so.”
The album will be the band’s full-length debut. Thus far, they’ve released one EP, The Right Place to Be, eight songs of their energetic, danceable, synth-decorated brand of indie rock. Asked to put AG in a genre, Schultz says, “I think technically it would be post-punk.” “Addict” is thick with catchy melodies and half-shouted singalongs, all set to an insistent beat and embellished with a synth part that twines through the song, giving it an airy feel despite Mills’ sonorous tone. It’s a little like The Killers, a little like Franz Ferdinand, and entirely infectious.
Adventure Galley began, Johnson says, when he, Mills and two other musicians recorded three songs “and did nothing with them.” Without a drop of self-consciousness, Johnson says, “People thought it was the coolest stuff ever.” But the band, in that incarnation, played only two shows, both in Bend. That’s where they found Grenfell. Schultz, already a fan of those three songs, met the band at a UO college party about two years ago and joined soon after. A year ago, the band’s bassist left and was replaced with Jesse Suihkonen, who played his first show with the band on the Fourth of July last year. “I feel like everything has come together a lot better since he came in,” Schultz says.
Grenfell and Schultz are aware that signing with a label means they may have to give up a certain degree of control, but they’re optimistic about the people from MySpace Records being “artist-friendly.” Grenfell says, “As far as I understand it ... we mostly just get to pick what we want to do, and they just have to put their stamp of approval on it.” The grand prize includes a “standard recording agreement” with MySpace records, with a $10,000 advance and $10,000 in Fender gear. The latter probably comes as a nice touch for a band that’s had their own gear stolen twice in the last two years. “We’re due for good karma,” Grenfell says.
Though a contest win is no guarantee of success, last year’s winners, California’s Call the Cops, have been out on multiple tours since winning, including a month on this summer’s Warped Tour. Adventure Galley’s goal — apart from “taking over the world,” which they joke was the theme of the WOW Hall show — is pretty reasonable: They hope to play the Sasquatch Music Festival next spring. “Even if for the first year we do it we’re just on a small stage or something like that — just getting onto the festival circuit, getting the name out there so that the next year when we come back we can take it by storm,” Grenfell says.
With such a major opportunity in their lap, it’s possible Adventure Galley won’t be a local band for long. Though both Grenfell and Schultz are UO students, they say they’d take time off to tour. “You can go to school when you’re older,” Grenfell says.
“It’s our big shot,” Schultz says. “Why not take advantage of it?”
Adventure Galley’s next Eugene show is a house show with Pony Village and The Blimp at 9 pm Saturday, Sept. 25, at the Basement (13th & Washington). Their EP is available at House of Records. “Addict” is also in EW’s Next Big Thing contest.
Additional reporting contributed by Vanessa Salvia. A version of this story originally appeared at blogs.eugeneweekly.com.