The Payola Reserve

The Payola Reserve


The Baltimore quartet combine the folksy charms and arrangements of country rockers with an early British rock aesthetic. Truth be told, the unsigned band does so with such success that they should be snatched up by a label any day now.



Clearpath Management

If it's possible for a band to embody both vintage sound and contemporary relevance, The Payola Reserve are on a mission to do just that – purists seeking musical revelation. This is a band out to make people remember a time when music mattered.

The latest album "200 Years" positions them well on this journey. Rock, folk, country, bluegrass, pop, soul…these words all apply on paper but sound empty next to the train whistle blow of Jugband Joan, the assured city strut of Portrait Society, the forlorn harmonica of All Things Are Better In Heaven. With geographic precision this record evokes The Payola Reserve’s native Baltimore, the two-step of the Appalachians, the brass sheen of Memphis.

All of this bodes well for the band’s future. That is, if lead singer Ben Pranger could get off the freewheeling apocalyptic trip he’s on throughout one of the collection’s more irreverent songs, Around That Long. Launched in 2005, Pranger, lead guitarist/keyboardist Alberto Pacheco, bassist Danny O'Neill and drummer Ken Fisher have all the elements of dark Americana, but with a psychedelic edge and dynamic instrumentation, infusing Rhodes, organ, piano, melodica, slide guitar, dobro, castanets, harmonica and sax.

“According to your television everyone is rich,” cries the first line of Grade A Television. With that the listener is both rebuked and invited to a world littered with sirens and sawdust, a world where Joan of Arc hails from West Virginia and folksinger Bobbie Gentry is the ultimate muse. The characters inhabiting these songs are 21st Century America’s outcasts, either unwilling or unable to stomach the surreal climate of fear, anxiety and mindless entertainment.

Songs like Around That Long and Going Army whimsically address this anxiety both lyrically and musically. The former confronts apocalyptic fear-mongers with sarcastic humor, “When they say they’re getting ready for the rapture, I picture local weather-men enraged,” while Going Army employs jingle-like hooks as a satire of a well-known ad campaign. Lost Wind Craze comes closest to the emotional core of the record, its narrator “carved out, inching away, wheeling around in a lost wind craze,” perhaps the plight of a young band trying to get back what it knows is gone.

It’s fittingly ironic that the band is named after the legendary payola practices of the music industry, yet they’ve been huge on college radio without spending a cent. Their debut 2005 EP Lay in Wait received regular airplay at 226 college stations, while One Long Apology reached #176 on the CMJ national college charts, receiving spins on over 150 stations. Not bad for recordings done from a basement studio in, as they call it, “the Great American Slum.”


200 YEARS - July 2007
-full-length CD
-Rec/Prod/Mix/Mastered by The Payola Reserve: Baltimore, USA
-CMJ Top 200, Fall 2007
1. Grade A Television
2. Jugband Joan
3. Portrait Society
4. All Things Are Better In Heaven
5. Lost Wind Craze
6. Henrietta
7. Around That Long
8. Money For Old Rope
9. Horse Opera
10. Never Been High
11. 200 Years
12. Going Army
13. Ode On Bobbie

-Full Length Debut
-CMJ Top 200f (#176 - Spring '06)
-Written & Recorded by Ben Pranger and Al Pacheco
-Mixed & Mastered by Al Pacheco
1. music is not music
2. an eastern western
3. brave new radio
4. imaginary side
5. storm's gonna come
6. illegal
7. lay in wait
8. seasick on shore leave
9. anything but ghosts
10. antiquing

LAY IN WAIT - May 2005
-Debut EP
-Track Listing:
1. Everything's Fine
2. Brave New Radio
3. Illegal
4. Lay In Wait
5. Last Man On Earth
6. Antiquing

Set List

The Payola Reserve are a standout act on any bill -- always delivering a high-energy show, often not to be followed. A typical set might include:

Dangerous Lick
Grade A Television
Jugband Joan
Portrait Society
Lost Wind Craze
Ode On Bobbie
Around That Long
Going Army

Covers include selections from The Band, The Kinks, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, etc...

Energetic (30-35 minute) Opening Slot
Enduring (45-80 minute) Headline Show
Stripped down acoustic show.

The Payola Reserve are traveling musicians, and we'll play anywhere.