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"Playing the Game"

Playing the game

It's an early Saturday afternoon inside Zia Record Exchange, where the members of the band Searchlight have just stepped onto the record store's tiny stage. Around 50 folks have come out at this early (at least for rock 'n' roll) hour to hear the quartet tear into a fully amplified, 12-song set of hard-edged pop songs that stake out the terrain between the straight-up bravado of Foo Fighters and the arty emo template of My Chemical Romance. Frontman Adam Michaels is wearing his best black zombie T-shirt in honor of the event: his band's performance and CD-signing celebrating the release of the Resident Evil: Extinction soundtrack album (which includes tracks by Poison the Well, Shadows Fall and The Bled).

The band is tight, professional, drawing casual Zia shoppers closer to the stage. For 30 minutes, Searchlight lays siege to people's eardrums. Afterward, a table is set up for the band members to autograph CDs and publicity photos. Friends, family and fans approach, proud of the little band from Las Vegas now making waves in the scene. These four dudes, meanwhile, are a lot more gracious than any zombie -- particularly Michaels, who, after breaking down his band's gear, sat down for an interview.

Michaels has been writing music for as long he can remember. Like any shrewd artist, however, he understood it takes more than songwriting ability to make it in the music biz. So he girded himself for the moment when he had to invade someone's personal space. That space belonged to John Reese, manager and producer of bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and The Used. Armed with an acoustic guitar, Michaels simply stalked Reese's house in Lake Havasu, waiting for the industry player to push his garbage cans to the street. Michaels made his move, and asked for an audience.

"He told me to first take out the trash, and then I could perform for his mother-in-law," says Michaels, looking back on the encounter with amusement.

Reese, it seems, was impressed enough to pass on a name to Michaels: former Used drummer Branden Steineckert (now with Rancid), who was looking for bands to produce. Again, relying on his space-invading skills, Michaels got backstage at a Used show and introduced himself to the drummer and up-and-coming producer. Steineckert was impressed with Michaels' demos, but told the upstart singer/songwriter he needed a band.

"I knew getting a band together wasn't going to happen in a place like Lake Havasu," says Michaels.

Desperate to make a break for it, he asked buddy and bass player Kevin Abdon if he wanted to move to Las Vegas. Why not? The Killers and Panic! at the Disco had just emerged from there, after all. Surely there were more musicians chomping at the bit, eager to collaborate with a promising singer/songwriter and bassist.

Without much of a plan, Michaels and Abdon scraped together money for the move. They sold hundreds of Star Wars toys on eBay and worked multiple jobs (fashioning air-conditioning ducts, cleaning carpets). They rented a big truck. Arriving in Las Vegas, Michaels found it difficult to land a good job at first. He was supposed to draw caricatures at Circus Circus hotel-casino, but when he showed up for work, his rock 'n' roll appearance was too much. They asked him to cut his hair and wear a man's wig. He ended up working at Home Depot.

The writing came a little easier. In search of a band, Michaels put out MySpace ads, which is how he and Abdon secured drummer Ricky Torres. Guitarist Matt Hopkins, on the other hand, they met through a friend in Las Vegas. United, they took their name from a small town in Southern Nevada most famous for being home to the U.S. Senate's most powerful Democrat, Harry Reid.

"We were doing alternative rock, and for some reason we were not getting that many responses. But everything fell into place with Ricky and Matt," says Michaels.

Not everything went so smoothly. Abdon almost lost his job while mastering the fine points of Resident Evil 4 for hours at a time and calling in sick to work. Of course, all that videogaming paid off in a big way. "I was literally just playing a single chord before practice began, and the song came together accidentally," says Michaels. "I thought to myself and asked the band, 'How stupid would it be to write a song about Resident Evil?'"

Eventually, Searchlight got 11 songs together, recorded "a horrible demo" and sent the mixed results to Steineckert. After that, the band put together a smaller four-song EP to send, which impressed him more. Finally, he invited Searchlight to hang out on his lake boat, and to watch a video of the band performing live.

"I know this is sudden," Steineckert finally wrote in a text message, "but I want to record you in Utah."

Working closely with Steineckert, Searchlight quickly realized the song "Contagious" had an epic quality to it that would work well in a movie. They recorded it along with a few other songs, and in the studio, the feeling the song conveyed was indescribable.

"Everyone was amped," says Michaels. "There was an amazing vibe."

Steineckert texted his old buddy Milla Jovanovich, for whom he had played drums in her music projects. He let her know he was working with a Las Vegas band that had written and recorded an epic rock song inspired by Resident Evil. After all, she was set to star in an upcoming Resident Evil flick set in a post-apocalyptic Vegas. She had Steineckert e-mail it to her, and she loved it and said she was going to pass it on to the producers.

Searchlight got the call a week later. The film's producers said they wanted "Contagious" on the soundtrack CD and for the end credits. And the rest is history.

Well, actually, um, that history has yet to be written. "We haven't gotten any calls from labels!" says Michaels. "Hopefully, we'll hear back from somebody soon."

He doesn't sound too disappointed. He's been busy, what with Searchlight's recent appearance on the red carpet at the world premiere of Resident Evil: Extinction at Planet Hollywood, and interviews with music and horror-film websites.

"It's great to write a song about a subject like that and then get as much recognition for it as we have," he says.

Searchlight is back in Utah this week, recording another song with Steineckert: "Man Half Alive." Michaels says this one isn't about zombies -- rather, a superhero slowly losing his grip on reality. Paging director Bryan Singer!

"The song takes a more realistic approach to what a somebody with special powers might go through mentally," says Michaels. "The song is actually about a bad guy not saving the day, talking about how he screwed up, how it's affecting him, and kind of flipping out about it."

If it's anything like "Contagious," chances are we'll hear it played during the end credits of a Magneto movie.



"Searchlight's "Contagious" Breakthrough"

By Spencer Patterson

Video games and action figures: How to parlay geekdom into a career in music. It wasn’t one of the dozen industry panels offered during last week’s Amplify!! music conference, but the members of Vegas outfit Searchlight can teach a course on the subject to anyone interested in learning more.

“I’m a dork,” frontman Adam Michaels concedes proudly Friday night at Jillian’s, where the local foursome performs as one of 10 competition finalists. “I love comics and video games, and I have a tattoo from a video game [Devil May Cry] on my arm. Everyone is who they are, and I don’t care what anyone thinks about it.”

Michaels shouldn’t, considering his passion for gaming has led Searchlight to the precipice of stardom. Though unsigned, the two-year-old rock band has landed a song, “Contagious,” in movie sequel Resident Evil: Extinction. The track’s subject matter? Why, Resident Evil itself.

“I wrote it after playing one of the Resident Evil video games. Who does that?” Michaels asks rhetorically, his voice quickening excitedly as he thinks back on hours spent battling armies of darkness in Resident Evil 4. “It meant a lot to me. Some people write about relationships. I write about what hits me hard.”

“Contagious,” an emotive, hard-edged, radio-ready tune that builds to a thundering finish when presented live, will appear both in the end credits of the movie (set to open September 21 nationwide) and on the soundtrack to the film (set to drop September 18), according to the band.

“We’ll be at the record store on September 18 to see our name on the back of the CD, though we probably won’t have the money to buy a copy,” jokes bassist Kevin Abdon, and he knows a little about financial sacrifice, having sold his Star Wars and Lord of the Rings keepsakes to finance his and Michaels’ move from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, to Vegas in October 2005. “I sold more than 200 toys, basically my whole collection, to get here.”

Once in town, the Havasu duo met guitarist Matt Hopkins and drummer Ricky Torres through MySpace and, with the help of producer Branden Steineckert (ex-drummer for The Used), the tight-knit quartet has recorded a self-titled EP capped by “Contagious,” a tune that could soon garner major-label attention.

“I’m very close with my brothers and my family, and that’s how I feel a band should be,” Michaels says. “Whatever happens, I know I want to spend the rest of my life playing music with these guys.” (
- Las Vegas Weekly

"Frog Legs"

CityLife stopped in on June 30 to see what all the fuss is about. The first band, Searchlight, is a melodic emo quartet (with modern rock overtones) from Vegas on a bit of a tear these days. The band claims it just signed a contract to have its song “Contagious” included in the end credits of Resident Evil: Extinction, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and has a nationwide release date of Sept. 21. (Interestingly, another Vegas-born band, The Crystal Method, has a song called “I Know It’s You” that appears in the film’s theatrical trailer.) While emo-lite isn’t exactly our cup of tea, Searchlight sings in tune, plays in tune and is more professional than most of the bands in Vegas. - City Life

"The NExt Big Thing...Who Will It Be?"

Pick by Award-Winning Rock Journalist Jarret Keene

Searchlight: Modern-rock quartet Searchlight, on the other hand, is making a killing by playing videogames. Lead singer/guitarist Adam Michaels was inspired enough after playing a round of “Resident Evil 4” that he wrote a song in tribute to the game called “Contagious.” The band submitted the song to the producers of the soon-to-be-released sci-fi/horror flick Resident Evil: Extinction, which is set in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, and now “Contagious” will be played during the film’s end credits and appear on the soundtrack CD. Not bad for an unsigned band. (Imagine what could happen if these guys actually inked a major-label deal). Searchlight is a young band with the drive and determination necessary to make it big – really big. And the songs are soaked in sticky, sugary melodies, which helps, too, right?

- Vegas Rocks magazine

"Local Band Lands on Soundtrack"

In the post-Apocalyptic world of "Resident Evil," rampaging zombies ravage the landscape, breeding blood and panic. In this alternative reality, no place is safe, humanity is on the verge of extinction and hopelessness, fear and desperation illuminate a primal need to survive.

It was this bleak premise that led Searchlight, an unknown and unsigned Las Vegas band, to write a song based on the video game "Resident Evil 4." The haunting balladmay well catapult the group to stardom.

Band members Adam Michaels, Kevin Abdon, Matt Hopkins and Ricky Torres were cautiously optimistic last spring after learning that their song "Contagious" might be used for the soundtrack of "Resident Evil: Extinction," the latest installment of the movie franchise based on the game.

An unsigned band collaborating on a major motion picture soundtrack is almost unheard of in today's packaged and pushed music industry.

The break came as the band recorded the song with music producer Branden Steineckert, a former drummer for The Used, in April.

"The entire time that we were recording, he was texting Milla (Jovovich), who stars in the movie, and she really wanted to hear the song," Michaels said. "When she did, she loved it and wanted to know if we would like to be part of the soundtrack. Of course, we said, 'Yes!' It's been quite a ride since then."

It wasn't until June that "Contagious" was approved by producers and slated as an official track for the film, which opened nationwide on Sept. 21.

"We couldn't believe it," Michaels said. "We never imagined that this would really happen. I mean, we talked about, you know, what if ... but no, we never really believed that the song would make it to the final cut of the soundtrack."

That wasn't the end of the good news for Searchlight. Producers for the movie liked the song so much that it's featured during the flick's end credits.

"Millions of people are going to hear the song," Abdon said. "And who knows what will come from it."

Michaels and Abdon co-wrote "Contagious" after moving to Las Vegas in October 2005. Inspiration struck when the pair were broke, scared and admittedly obsessed with the video game.

"But what it amounted to was that we saw something there that would apply and matter on a larger scale. Who would have thought that being complete dorks might give us our big break?" Abdon said.

Searchlight will play live at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19 at Jillian's Las Vegas, 450 S. Fremont St. For ticket information, call 759-0450.

For more information on Searchlight, visit
- The View News


Until the End and After (released Feb 2009; produced by Branden Steineckert).

"Contagious" single - Appeared in the Resident Evil: Extinction movie and soundtrack, radio play on several stations in Las Vegas

Searchlight - Self-titled, self-released full length album



Comic books, video games and other tales of geekdom…
A.K.A. – The history of SEARCHLIGHT

Its 2005 when singer/songwriter Adam Michaels decides to become a stalker. Alright, maybe not a stalker, but a very persistent man with a mission. That mission – pace about the front of well-known manager John Reese’s summer home in Lake Havasu, waiting for the man who at the time was working with rockers, The Used. On a fateful summer day, Reese appears.

“I approached John and introduced myself ‘Hi, I’m Adam Michaels, I’m a singer/songwriter and I would like to play for you’ – I think he was slightly surprised,” recalls Michaels. “He thought for a second, asked me to help him take out some trash and then I was performing on an acoustic guitar for John, his brother-in-law and his mother – it was pretty surreal.”

Reese told Michaels to reach out to Branden Steineckert, former drummer of The Used and currently drumming for legends Rancid, he had recently begun to produce bands at Unknown Studios in Utah. Michaels, maintaining his drive, headed to The Used show in Phoenix where he made his way backstage to find Steineckert.

So began a friendship and working relationship that would change the direction of Michaels’ career. Steineckert encouraged Michaels to start a band and keep in touch.

“It was amazing to have someone like Branden listen to my work and give me advice. I’m a fan of The Used and it meant a lot – he was very genuine,” Michaels said.

Knowing his dreams were most likely not going to grow in Lake Havasu, Michaels approached friend and future SEARCHLIGHT bass player Kevin Abdon. The plan was easy – pick up and move to Vegas. OK…not that easy. They needed to finance the move. Both Abdon and Michaels are huge comic book and video game fans – having memorabilia, game consoles with tons of games, and tattoos of their favorite characters to prove it, but they also had a great feeling about the move to Vegas and it was time to take their lives to the next level. Painstakingly, together they went through their various collections of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings memorabilia and hit eBay.

“It was more than painful,” recalls Abdon. “The house was covered with toys and one by one we shipped them out – I’m still trying to rebuild my collection.”

Weeks later, they were headed to Vegas where they experimented with a couple bands that were destined to stay put in Vegas – not quite what they were looking for.

“Kevin and I knew we wanted something different and dreamed much bigger than most of the people we came in contact with – the other bands just weren’t a great fit,” said Michaels.

Eventually they met guitarist Matt Hopkins and drummer Ricky Torres and SEARCHLIGHT was complete.

“When we first met Ricky, he had to leave the band meeting early because he promised his mom he would take her to the movies. That sealed the deal!” laughs Michaels. “We’re all very close with our family and friends and it said a lot about his character.”

Michaels kept his promise to keep in touch with Steineckert and by 2007, following several phone calls and meetings, SEARCHLIGHT began recording with Steineckert as their producer. One of the first songs recorded was a track called “Contagious.” A driving-heart pounding rock song written as the band became addicted to the video game Resident Evil 4.

“It meant a lot to me. Some people write about relationships. I write about what hits me hard,” Michaels told LV Weekly in 2007.

Abdon lost a job due to the countless hours playing the game, calling in “sick” a little too often – he apparently came down with the Resident Evil “virus.” But was it worth it?

“Oh yeah! Our lives have been turned inside out in a good way – we’ve made such great connections and amazing things happen to us since we recorded that song,” Abdon said.

The most amazing tentacle to the “Contagious” recording was where the song ended up – right in the middle of the Resident Evil: Extinction soundtrack and a spot on the closing credits. Steineckert, who previously performed with Milla Jovovich – supermodel turned actress and star of the Resident Evil series of movies, sent her the track to listen to in the middle of a recording session. Within 24-hours, the song was heard by producers who decided to place the song on the soundtrack, and to close the ending credits with the song.

“We were totally freaking out – it was the most insane thing that had happened to us up to that point in our career,” said Hopkins. “Even when we walked the red carpet at the premiere and stayed until the end credits to hear it – it was still hard to believe it was us.”

“We performed and did a signing at Zia (record store) when the soundtrack came out – it was cool. The soundtrack was the top selling CD for a couple weeks,” recalls Torres.

Since the success of “Contagious,” SEARCHLIGHT continues to appease fans bringing their driving, alternative-rock sound to headlining shows around Las Vegas a