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Houston, Texas, United States | INDIE

Houston, Texas, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock


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"Dangerous Men"

Dangerous Men
Atmospheric rockers Pale leave L.A. for Houston - and a record deal.
By William Michael Smith Wednesday, Apr 27 2011

"I've got that sinking feeling / This town's got a ceiling" — Pale, "That Sinking Feeling"

Nothing stirs our self-righteous Houston-centric blood like grisly Bukowski-esque tales of local musicians living and dying on the edge in that West Coast den of iniquity and glitz, Los Angeles.

And what makes the story of local alternative rockers Pale — Calvin Stanley, Robb Moore, Stephen Wesson, Travis Middour — even better is that our boys may have been knocked down by the City of the Angels, but they got up off the mat and waded back into the fray.

After two years trying to get a major-label deal, the band broke camp at the North Hollywood house they all shared and headed back to Houston last fall. Stanley was the last to give up hope, hanging on in L.A. three more months, working the old networks trying to put a record deal together, looking for the big break. He's been back in Houston four months.

"We gave L.A. our best shot and we got so close we could taste it sometimes," says Stanley. "We had so many industry people interested in us and coming out to our shows, but the deal we wanted just never materialized. But I just couldn't convince myself to give up."

Stanley and Moore describe their time in Los Angeles as exciting and disappointing.
"We had all this support, we played great shows and we always seemed to be right on the verge of something big," Stanley reflects. "You're playing a show and you look out and Wayne Kramer or Dave Navarro, people like that, are in the audience, serious industry movers and shakers, and you just shrug your shoulders and say, 'What else do we have to prove to you?'"

"L.A.'s a skanky whore of a soul-sucking town," adds the less diplomatic Moore.
In fact, the band has been intertwined with Los Angeles for some time, having played a showcase for Columbia executives in 2003. During their most recent residency, Pale even attracted Madonna's former manager Caresse Henry, who seemed determined to put the band over the top.

"She came out to see us and loved us," Stanley recalls. "She was very friendly and supportive and just wanted to help us in the worst way. She was great at coming up with strategies to get us exposure and get us signed. And then she just abruptly broke contact."

Henry committed suicide on April 2, 2010, adding to the band's sense of being snakebitten.

"Yeah, Caresse's suicide was a huge blow," says Stanley, "just another one of those things that said 'Go home.'"

Returning to Houston, the band moved into a studio they constructed in a house on the Bolivar Peninsula — "a real Zeppelin kind of studio" says Moore — and recorded In the Time of Dangerous Men, which Stanley calls "our first global release."

The album is on A Blake Records, a joint venture between the band and L.A. industry player Blake Barnes. According to Stanley, there's something of a dream team of industry veterans helping to move the project onto the global market.

"Blake has hooked us up with Glenn Friedman, who's worked with acts like the Who, the Stones, the Beatles, Anita Baker at Music Umbrella, to license our songs and get our music into films," says Stanley. "And he's arranged some heavy-hitter PR people for Los Angeles and London. It looks like we're going to have 8,000 TV ads placed, a real full-on major ad campaign."

"We all try to keep that Kings of Leon model in mind as we plan," says Stanley. "Everyone on the team seems to believe that's doable."

Stanley describes his songwriting for the album as half a plea to his bandmates not to give up on themselves and half homage to the Houston scene, which he describes as friendly, supportive and accepting.

The band produced a fully professional video for new song "Catastrophic Skies" in hopes of getting the song placed in the third installment of the Twilight movie franchise. Coming close but not making the cut created what both men describe as "a heads-down atmosphere."

"We were so close with that video," says Stanley. "First we got passed over for Thom Yorke, and the second round we were nosed out by Muse. It just broke everyone's hearts when we didn't make the soundtrack because that was how we hoped to make the record break out. It was a very low time for all of us.

"But we had 58 different people volunteer their time to help us make the video, and none of them asked for anything except the opportunity to be in it and help us," Stanley recalls. "Houston is such a low-ego town. That could never happen in L.A."

Stanley also credits the band with one other huge supporter, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, whom Stanley knew from their teenage years in The Woodlands.

"I played some drums with him back in the day, and the next thing I know he's on the cover of [Spin] with Springsteen," Stanley laughs. "Anyway, I was trying so hard to come up with that one song that - Houston Press


Mandatory Ambulance
In The Time of Dangerous Men (2011)



Profile: Pale
Taking their name from a poem that states “life is a pale representation for what lies ahead,” Pale has earned a place in the hearts of music lovers with a sound that sticks to your soul like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.

Sonically compatible with bands like Dredg, Radiohead and Muse, life for the Houston-based quartet started almost a decade ago when they came together based on a common love of powerful, thought-provoking music. The band members each had their own diverse and sometimes very different musical influences, but ironically, this combination seemed to effortlessly mesh to create Pale’s unique sound.

“These guys are not only like brothers to me, they are the most talented group of musicians I’ve ever worked with,” states Pale guitarist, Robb Moore. “Calvin [Stanley] is our principal songwriter, and he has a keen knack for writing songs that don’t end up sounding like a carbon copy of his influences. The whole band feeds off that creativity which allows us to each add our own influences that, in the end, form the signature ‘Pale’ sound.”

Pale’s new CD, IN THE TIME OF DANGEROUS MEN is on A-Blake Records (co-owned by Blake Barnes and Pale) and is the result of over a year of soul-searching and musical experimentation that showcases Pale at the top of their game. The 12-track outing, produced by Grammy® winner Steve Christensen, is a deep, pensive look by Pale at the world around us.

Pale traces their origins back to the club days of Houston. After the implosion of Stanley’s original band, he first brought on talented drummer Travis Middour, and, soon after, added bassist Stephen Wesson who suggested they also bring in Moore. “We had all known each other from the local music scene. Chemistry developed between the four of us almost immediately,” Moore recalls.

In 2004, after rising to the top of their local field, Pale released HERE, their debut outing, to positive feedback. The album immediately gained critical praise, with their hometown Houston Chronicle calling the CD “moody and often marvelous.” The Dallas Observer cited the records’ “exceptional songwriting.” The band toured extensively on their own in support of HERE, as well as playing support slots for acts as diverse as Roger Waters and Depeche Mode.

Their next release, the six-song EP MANDATORY AMBULANCE, came out in 2007. Like its predecessor, it was produced by Lars Goransson (Fastball, the Cardigans, Blondie) and again was well received by the media. Envy magazine listed MANDATORY AMBULANCE as their National Pick of the Month, citing Pale as “a band that backs a stadium-sized sound with consistently solid songwriting and addictive choruses.” After seeing the band’s performance at a SxSW showcase, Wayne Kramer of MC5 fame, stated, “Pale is definitely on the verge of big things.” Pale was determined to take their band’s musical stance in a more lush and epic direction with MANDATORY AMBULANCE, and that’s exactly what they accomplished. The Houston Press lauded: “Calvin Stanley's soul-searching, lovelorn lyrics make him a viable candidate for best local songwriter this year.”

Pale’s live shows continued to grow, gathering fans and industry kudos along the way. The group opened for Blue October and Earshot, among others, playing coast to coast, from the Roxy in Los Angeles to the now-defunct CBGB’s in New York City and points in between.

In the summer of 2009, Pale relocated to Los Angeles to attract industry awareness—and that’s exactly what they did. Almost immediately, a representative of the Twilight movie franchise saw one of their many live shows and contacted the band about including the song, “Mandatory Ambulance,” in the then-upcoming film Twilight: New Moon. The band lost out to a track from Thom Yorke.

While in Los Angeles, Pale played all the top venues in the city and signed for management with the legendary Caresse Henry, who was known for her work with Madonna, Paula Abdul and Ricky Martin, among others. Once again, the possibility of a song in Twilight: Eclipse, then the next installment of the popular vampire film series, materialized, this time for their brand-new song called “Catastrophic Skies.” Pale recorded the song with Houston-based Steve Christensen as producer in order to submit it for consideration for the film’s soundtrack.

Early in 2010, things took a darker turn for Pale, and following the unfortunate death of Henry, the band, who had again lost out on a spot in the Twilight franchise, moved back to Houston permanently. Disappointed, but undeterred, their survival instincts kicked into high gear.

Armed with their strong new song, the band enlisted the aid of director Sean Duke and Chase Rees of Think Big Productions, as well as producer Remy Carter and countless friends and local volunteers, to create what turned out to be a lavish video for “Catastrophic Skies.” The result is an extraordinary cinematic feast with the fut