Featured Music: Wednesday, November 14, 2002
Back on the Run

Flickerstick is still around — and the band members are happier than ever.


It’s been almost a year since Flickerstick adorned the front page of the music section of Fort Worth Weekly. When the Weekly and Flickerstick last talked, the entire Flickerstick camp was abuzz with activity. The band had recently become the darling of one of the biggest record labels in the world, Epic, and was anticipating its upcoming debut, Welcoming Home the Astronauts. To top it all off, the band was still getting loads of attention for its surprise turn on the VH-1 hit Bands on the Run. Flickerstick was on top of the world — nothing could stand in the way of it becoming the next big thing.

But, you know, shit happens.

Things are a little different now around the Flickerstick camp. The band and Epic have separated. Welcoming Home the Astronauts didn’t sell as well as Flick and Epic had hoped and can regularly be found in bargain-basement bins at record stores. And the momentum Flick had gained from Bands on the Run has pretty much slowed to a trickle.

Still, despite all this, band members seem to be content, even happy, with the way their story is turning out.

When Flickerstick was crowned Bands on the Run champion a couple of years ago, just about every record label in the country was chomping at the bit to sign the group. Epic got the nod. The band and the label were thrilled. Within minutes, it seemed, the label initiated a marketing blitz unparalleled by their treatment of any other group. Posters, web sites, promotional tours, interviews — Flickerstick was everywhere.

Now, even the mention of the label brings Flick frontman Brandin Lea to a slow boil.

No one thing led to the split, said Lea — bad timing and mass miscommunication had a lot to do with the breakup. “When we did our meet-and-greet at the Ridglea [Theater] right after we got signed, we got in trouble because we didn’t really talk to anyone from the label,” said Lea. “I mean, Macy Gray’s people were there, Incubus’ people were there — there were all these L.A. and New York people there, and we didn’t know any of them and didn’t know who to talk to, so we just didn’t talk to any of them. It was just a big headache for us.”

Almost immediately, some of Epic’s staff saw Flickerstick’s apparent aloofness at the party as a sign that the Texas musicians were unfriendly and unexcited about the new deal. But Epic and Flickerstick still charged forward ... until Sept. 11.

This was just one day before Flickerstick was scheduled to play a show in New York City for Epic Records big shots, and just weeks before the band’s debut c.d. was set to hit stores.

The show was cancelled; the band never got the chance to prove itself. To make matters worse, following the tragedy, Epic almost immediately started making staff cuts. First on the chopping block: Flickerstick’s A&R reps and promotion staff. “It was tough,” said Lea, “because pretty much everyone at the label that was supporting us was gone.”

With the support staff axed and the country in shock, Flickerstick released its debut with almost no promotion behind it. Buyers were unresponsive. The record sold only around 75,000 copies — a disaster for a major label.

But Flickerstick, on the other hand, actually saw those numbers as indicative of something good.

“It’s always nice to sell a million copies of your record,” said Lea, “but most of the bands we listen to have never sold a million albums.”

Inspired by their progress and disgruntled with Epic, Flickerstick was happy to part ways with the label. “When we left,” said Lea. “we gained a lot of control over our careers, and that was cool.”

Confident that they know what’s best for them, the five guys of Flickerstick have scaled down their operation and returned to the Metroplex to begin rebuilding.

In the few months since splitting with Epic, the group has already made plans to release a new studio album. They’re currently supporting themselves on a nationwide tour and have financed, recorded, and released a live album, Causing a Catastrophe. It hits stores Nov. 26.

Recorded at Deep Ellum Live last summer, Causing a Catastrophe features two new songs by the band and a cover of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” which has already been popping up on 102.1-FM/KDGE’s playlist. “The entire idea came together in, like, three days,” Lea said. “We recorded it just for fun. If we sell 10,000 copies, that’s great. The album is really just for people who like our music.”

While Lea is willing to talk in detail about what’s on Catastrophe, he is tight-lipped about which label, if any, will release the planned studio recording.

“Right now, we are a band that is somewhere between a major label band and an indie label band,” Lea said. “We don’t have to sign with a major, but major labels are kind of necessary evils. I mean, if we keep all our principles and blow off major labels, we probably won’t [be as successful as possible]. But then again, we are not only in this for money, either.”

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