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"New EP shows stalwart band Craig has grown"

Scott McLennan
Entertainment Columnist

In building a name for itself, the band Craig has never come across as taking itself too seriously. There has been a humorous touch to its shows, its promotions, and its music.

But together now in one form or other for nearly a decade, and a couple of years after establishing itself as one of the top draws along the Worcester club circuit, Craig shows sign of growing up on its latest batch of music, a 4-song EP.

Craig’s trademark melting-pot style of pop-oriented rock is intact, yet now has a bit more polish to it. Singer Sam James, who joined the band last year when “Big Paul” Chase headed off to a solo career, sparked some not-so-subtle changes in Craig’s sound.

Drummer Chris Conte said the band was even tempted to change its name.

But why squander so much goodwill? Especially since the legion Friends of Craig fan base is digging the new tracks after sampling them on the band’s MySpace page and its own Web outpost,

Tighter songwriting is the main difference between new Craig and old Craig. In the past, the band was happy to simply play through a tune’s weak spots, a convenient out for a band embraced by jam-band fans. But now, Craig is coming to terms with its pop sensibilities.

“After Paul left we did a few shows with Sam and we knew we had something going on and there was an evolution happening with the band. We were moving from focusing on what we could do on our instruments and getting more into songwriting. We wrote 12 songs right away with Sam. The four we thought were best we recorded,” Conte explained.

The band set up at Tremolo Lounge in West Boylston with recording engineer Roger Lavallee and laid down the textured tones of “Foggy Notion,” the groove-pop–leaning “Believe,” the country-tinged “She Sleeps,” and funky blues-rocking “Nu Nu.” Though a short blast of new Craig, the tunes reveal how the band has kept its tastes broad even as it has tightened its delivery.

James, who has opened for the likes of Blues Traveler and Robert Randolph, is one of those big-sounding, open-hearted singers who can take full control of a song while leaving room for Paul Courchaine’s guitar work, Neall Russell’s bass grooves and Conte’s tempo-shifting beats.

Conte said he didn’t feel like Craig was taking a risk with its new material. Rather, the band was simply growing.

“And our girlfriends really like the new songs,” he said.

James’ more pronounced pop sensibilities jelled well with the rest of Craig’s adventurous musical spirit. Conte said that everyone in the band enjoys a good musical workout.

“We still touch on every genre possible,” he said. “We like to see ourselves as songwriters who can grab onto any genre.”

While running through the genres tomorrow at Tammany Hall, Craig will also be passing out free promotional copies of its new EP. Later in the month, the songs should be available for downloading on iTunes. - Telegram & Gazette

"Learn from these guys - How one hard-working band gets its name out there"

By Charlene Arsenault

Bands want to be heard.

It’s only for so long that your buddies who hung out in your basement and drank beer will keep following you around. Self-promotion is an acquired taste, and one that few local bands develop. Here, we chat with the band Craig, which has gotten the art of promotion down to a science. With a newly defined sound and a strong following, Craig’s an easily recognizable name around these parts. Craig’s playing at Trumbull’s in Spencer on Friday, Aug. 11, and before and after Johnny Lang at The Boardwalk Inn at Hampton Beach on Saturday, Aug. 12. Craig also plays a benefit show for the Marine Corporation on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 181 Lake Ave. The show starts at 3 p.m.

Worcester Magazine: Sometimes bands complain about not getting exposure, as if they are so cool that they should be “discovered,” yet barely lift a finger to drum up interest — especially from media outlets. Why does this mentality exist, and what do you think it is that bands/artists - particularly in Worcester — are particularly bad at, in terms of promoting?

Craig’s Chris Conte: I’m not really sure; this is a tough question for us to answer. I think that in general we just try to grab every opportunity that we can. There are a ton of free and easy avenues to use in this area such as, e-mail and the local media. But trust me, it is a lot of work. We try to stay in contact all week and make sure that we are always using them. Then when the time comes for something bigger, or someone comes up with a cool idea, we sit down and plan it out. I will say that it is important for a band to be comfortable with themselves, and all on the same page. Things move so much easier this way. I think it is important for a group to accept that, by playing out or pushing a CD, they are simply providing a service, or selling a product. If you want to do well and have success, you have to treat your band like a business when it is required. Save the art and selectivity for the look and the music. Run the rest like a business.

WM: Sometimes it’s hard to strike a balance between over-saturation and getting the name out there; how do you find that balance?

Craig’s Neall Russell: I think it helps to throw a bit of creativity into the marketing at times. We try to come up with new ideas for everything we do, whether it’s new flyers or a little humor in our e-mails. Saturation works but without any originality it’s simply boring and will be ignored. I think that if it’s fresh and interesting, people will look forward to see what we are up to at the least. Also, when we do come up with an idea to do something, it has a bit more weight if it’s completely original, and even more so if it’s something that no one else would ever do. There is a balance with this as well, as it can work well, get us into trouble or sometimes both.

WM: Tell us a little bit about what you guys go through to promote the band. Who does what, how much time does it take, and what outlets do you use?

Craig’s Paul Courchaine: We do a lot in a given week, but all share the burden. Chris takes care of most of the online work and handles most of the management stuff, but we are all involved in decisions and we all review most things that we send or hand out. As far as time goes, it’s pretty much an everyday thing. It starts with an idea that we generate together, usually while we’re together watching sports or out seeing other local bands (thereby making it a questionable state of sobriety). Then one of us signs up to do it and makes it happen. We try to have fun doing it and update each other often via phone or e-mail. For our flyers, we have been using Jonathan Daby of, who does some amazing work. Angela Stockdale, aka one20 does a lot of work for us, handling the “Craigettes” page and helping us with a ton of other stuff. Pete Caputa of Whizspark has been helping us a lot as well with our e-mail clients, which we would die without. And of course we try to maintain contact with the local media: Worcester Magazine, the T&G and The Pulse and via e-media:, and We also really believe in supporting the local music scene. When we’re not playing we always try to get out and see the other acts in the area. I think this is very important for a band and is interestingly one of the things that we enjoy the most.

WM:What has been the most successful?

Craig’s Sam James: I think the most successful things that we have done is utilizing myspace. We use it to promote our shows, display our music and learn about other bands and venues. But, more important, making friends. We’ve met or followed up with a ton of people on myspace since we started using it. It is one of the best, and yet the cheapest, marketing tools a band can have. Between the four of us we make sure that our content is current and that we are joking with our fans on a daily basis.

WM: What’s the funniest/most clever marketing gimmick you’ve used so far?

Russell: This is an easy one. A year or so ago, a few of the local media moguls put together music mixers for local bands, promoters and club owners to hang out together and mix it up. This was an awesome thing for the local music scene. The location would change monthly, and so would the attendees. People would have a few drinks and talk about upcoming gigs or pass out CDs, etc. After our first few mixers, we realized that this was a perfect opportunity to let everyone know we were out there. We decided that we would draw attention to ourselves using a few visual tactics. At one point it dawned on us that we should try to capitalize on the fact that people began wondering what we were going to do next. We decided to put Chris up on eBay as ad space. We vowed to cover him with the flyers of whoever won. The e-mails went out to the community and the bidding started. It was fun to know how many people were interested in who won the Craig auction. In the end, it was Dan Hartwell of 3-D Entertainment who won. At some point during the mixer while Chris was covered in Locobazooka! flyers, I realized that this was not only a cheap marketing idea for the band, but we actually got paid for it. Good times.

WM:What advice would you give to a new band trying to make a name for itself?

Conte: When we are marketing ourselves, we are trying to convince people to listen to us or go to a show, but we are ultimately trying to make friends. We never exclude anyone because we feel our music is for everyone. We try to maintain contact with as many people as possible and never portray any negativity on the band’s behalf. Although this seems simple, it is mandatory for a band expecting to build a fan base. It starts within the band and holds through to the other bands, clubs, fans or media outlets you work with. If you start marketing your band from here, you’ll always be making progress. Visit for more info on Craig. o

Charlene Arsenault may be reached at
- The Worcester Magazine

"Craig takes entertaining very seriously"

February 2005 - The guys in Craig don’t seem to take much seriously, except music. In fact, they take their band very seriously — spending 20 to 30 hours a week practicing, playing gigs and working on their website.

The name Craig comes from the pseudonym that drummer Chris Conte used for receiving telephone calls at an old job. It was coined by the same friends that make up Craig — guitarists “Little Paul” Courchaine and “Big Paul” Chase, and bassist Neall Russell. These four friends formed Craig ten years ago when they were students at Holy Name High School in Worcester and have been playing together ever since.

Meet the band and it is obvious that these guys spend a whole lot of time together. They rehearse two nights a week at Becker College and play gigs weekly, including a Wednesday night residency at Tammany Club on Pleasant Street in Worcester. Little Paul and Big Paul even live together, working as musicians and music instructors.

Big Paul explains that playing every day and listening to each other are requirements for the jam-rock style of music that his band plays. Craig isn’t a band whose songs all sound the same. Their versatility enables transitions from original funk tunes to covers by the likes of Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, The Talking Heads and Radiohead (just to name a few).

The band has a number of dedicated F.O.C.s (Fans of Craig), so they try to keep their shows fresh. Not only has the band written 20 originals and learned over 30 covers, but there are jokes, contests and plenty of opportunities for the audience to get involved. Plus, Craig’s members are accomplished musicians and often improvise during live performances, reworking their songs and covers.

“The same songs can go in a lot of different directions, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally,”
Little Paul says.

The band emphasizes reaching out to their fans. Their website,, is one way for them to keep in touch. It is constantly updated with recorded music from their most recent gig, pictures and information about upcoming shows. Featured now is information about Craig’s show on February 17 at Tammany Hall, and they have some surprises in store that not even a seasoned F.O.C. will be prepared for.
For more information about the band, check out - The Pulse Magazine


Craig - The EP



Since 2003, Craig's style of live entertainment has been a force to be reckoned with in Central Massachusetts. With varying musical backgrounds, Craig is a modern day rock band. Highly energetic and entertaining, their music is progressive, groove-oriented, heavy, poppy, and classic, all rolled into one. This experienced rock band has wowed audiences all over New England, playing over 100 gigs a year. With singer/songwriter Sam James (vocals/guitar) added to the band in 2006, the band is rounded out with founding members Chris Conte (drums), Neall Russell (bass/vocals), and Paul Courchaine (guitar/vocals). The group of twenty-somethings have a knack for getting noticed, and with a very loyal fan base and highly publicized promotions their shows always have an energy unlike any other.

The three founding members formed the band while attending high school in Worcester, MA. Paul Courchaine went on to earn a degree in music, while Chris Conte completed a music minor. The three continued their extensive practice and performance schedule through even the busiest times, recently sharing a bill with American Idol finalists Kevin Covais and Melissa McGhee. The addition of Sam James in February of 2006 completed the group, and added an experienced and respected musician to the already talented group. Fresh off an extended east coast tour, Sam has performed alongside such well-known artists as Third Eye Blind, Robert Randolph, John Popper, Rusted Root, Chuck Berry, Kid Rock, and the Pussycat Dolls. He has also performed on the Fox 25 morning news.

Craig was Worcester Magazine's 2005 Turtle Boy Music Award winners for both Best New Band and Best Live Band, and received several nominations in 2006. They were also one of Boston Globe's Spotlight Picks. They have been featured in the Worcester Telegram, the Worcester Magazine, and the Pulse magazine.

Charlene Arsenault, the events editor of Worcester Magazine described the band as a hard-working, promotion powerhouse, "With a newly defined sound and a strong following, Craig's an easily recognizable name around these parts." (Worcester Magazine, Volume 31, Number 47).

Their live shows are something of a legend in Central Massachusetts. Hila Bernstein of the Pulse magazine tried to explain just what it was that brings people out to Craig shows. "The band has a number of dedicated F.O.C.s (Fans of Craig), so they try to keep their shows fresh…there are jokes, contests and plenty of opportunities for the audience to get involved. Plus, Craig's members are accomplished musicians and often improvise during live performances, reworking their songs and covers." (The Pulse, Entertainment Beat, February 2005)