Driving Force
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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Speeding Twoards Stardom"

Read the story online: http://www.idsnews.com/subsite/story.php?id=25970

By Nate Bethea

The Driving Force once had a name that no one could pronounce and conducted auditions in a dorm room. Now they're working with a legendary producer and preparing to record their debut release on a major label. Too bad you've never heard of them.

In an unassuming vinyl-sided house on South Jefferson Avenue, the five members of The Driving Force are taking a break from rehearsing to talk to Weekend about a trashy shirt they won from a toy crane at Denny's, the kind of device rigged against all chances of getting a prize. It was a late-night whim two nights before they had to change their name to sign a record contract -- they had been working all night coming up with ideas and none of them had stuck.

"We got it, and we were like, 'If we get that T-shirt, let's open it up and maybe it'll have our name on it,'" keyboardist Jeff Palmer said. "So we get it, it drops, we open it up and it's this horrible NASCAR shirt. It couldn't look gaudier, but across the top it said 'The Driving Force.' We all looked at each other and said 'That's the name.'"

Winning with an arcade crane may not be a massive feat against the odds, but starting a band in a town saturated with cover acts, enduring internal turmoil for two years and then scoring a contract with a major label stands out a little more, not to mention working on a debut album with the man who produced Joe Crocker, Diana Ross and Steely Dan. Though The Driving Force jokingly refer to themselves as "the best band that no one's heard of," it doesn't look like it'll be that way for long.

Coincidence and pure luck have played a major role in the band's story. Palmer and guitarist Alex Yang have been working on putting together a group since they were freshmen, and they managed to recruit singer Greg Cahn after seeing a handwritten flyer he posted, the only one he posted on all of campus.

"(Cahn) came over to my dorm, and we had a video camera set up," Palmer said. "We played with just guitars and keys. Right away we looked at each other and we knew that we had found the voice we were looking for."

Singing aside, Cahn also helped out The Driving Force through coincidence when he talked to an alumnus that he ran into at the Alpha Epsilon Pi house. The man said he was in the music industry, so Cahn gave him a business card, expecting to hear nothing. Except this time, he got a call back.

"We had been let down numerous times with different stuff," Cahn said. "I just gave him my name and our Web site, but three weeks later (Yang) got a call."

The alumnus just happened to work for a company called Full C Records. He requested a demo, which the band fortunately had on hand -- Yang had been taking a class with telecommunications professor Russ Castillo and had gotten five songs recorded for free for a demonstration.

However, there were frustrating personnel issues at hand -- their previous bassist had quit to stick with another band, and their replacement was driving down from Michigan every weekend to fill in (bassist Chris O'Brien was later recruited through auditions). Also, Cahn was incapacitated by mono for a period of time, which hindered their ability to write and perform.

"Because we were short a member 99 percent of the time, a lot of last year we were stale. We were stagnant," Cahn said. "Although we were getting shows in bars, we weren't getting any new material done."

After hearing their demo, Full C Records wanted to sign them immediately, but Palmer said they were skeptical about giving up their rights and entering a contract when they had never even met their supposed producer face-to-face. They immediately hired an entertainment lawyer; they wound up canceling a session booked in Indianapolis and met their new bosses, who got them into the studio relatively quickly. Unfortunately, Full C Records wasn't happy with the result, nor did they like their hard-to-pronounce name at the time, Elysium.

"We sent it out to them in California, but they didn't think it was ready for a national release," Palmer said. "The production value wasn't going anywhere."

However, their contact passed their demo to a friend at the North American Recording Merchandise convention. That friend passed the demo along to Gary Katz, the producer behind nearly every Steely Dan album (among many others). Katz felt he could improve the quality of the demos; Palmer and Yang flew out to Connecticut and recorded additional vocals one weekend, flying back just in time to make it to a test.

"We did the tracks, and I think we liked working with each other," Katz said. "They were happy with the way it turned out, as were the people out in California. I got to hear more material, and we liked working together, so we said we'd finish the record."

Katz stressed that the band develop a home base in Bloomington, which is no small feat considering the competition. According to the band, it's no problem to play shows and win over the crowd -- the trouble lies with playing original material.

"When we play Sports, 70 percent of our set is 1980s songs, like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi," drummer Neil Clark said. "At 1:45 a.m., when people are at the height of their evening, and we start playing one of our original songs, they're like, 'What is this? Let's go downstairs and check out the DJ.' When we play cheesy '80s songs people go crazy, but by the time they go home, they're like, 'I saw a great cover band tonight.'"

That's not to say they haven't played entirely original shows. They played all of their own songs when they opened for Seven Mary Three in April as well as twice at the Bluebird when opening for Freakshow and later Mike and Joe. It's been slow going, but they're integrating their own songs into their sets at bar shows, even if it means playing them early on in the night.

Katz doesn't doubt that the potential is there. When asked if he thinks the band can make it nationally, he says "absolutely." Their manager told me that national and international distribution is in the works -- their label has been in distribution talks with several major labels -- and Katz isn't surprised.

"You make good music, and it takes on a life of its own," Katz said. "If I didn't think that their time could be meaningful with this project, I wouldn't do it."

Though it took some time for the pieces to come together, the men of The Driving Force feel like they're finally on the upswing.

"This place is so hard to get people to listen to original music," Cahn said. "In three years, we haven't found the answer, but we're gonna find the answer. We've had horrible lows, and we're going to have amazing highs. We're working with a legendary producer, and we have a label that believes in us. I'd say we're doing pretty well on the timeline." - Indiana Daily Student WEEKEND


Discography

Our Debut LP is currently in production for a 1st quarter release in 2006 on Winedark/Universal-Fontana Records. It was produced by Steely Dan producer Gary Katz and mixed by Hugh Padgham at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in NYC. (http://electricladystudios.com/)

Our first single, "New Day" will hit radio in early 2006.

WATCH A VIDEO by copying the following link into your browser's address bar:
http://portfolio.iu.edu/jhpalmer/The_Driving_Force_-_New_Day_Video.mov

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

With influences ranging from Incubus to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Pearl Jam and even The Doors, Driving Force is a powerful rock band that is very conscious of its audience. Not a group to run the gambit of eclectic tastes and songs that bore an audience, DF always makes sure the crowd goes home happy, no matter the venue or situation.

We're signed to Winedark Records, a new label through Universal-Fontana Records based out of New York. www.winedarkrecords.com