By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Greenwheel, St. Charles' answer to Creed, recently signed to Island/Def Jam, joining their pals Mesh STL and Stir in the great corporate sweepstakes. After fielding several calls from their charming and impressively persistent label rep, Radar Station decided to meet with the guys and get their story. Truth be told, mainstream alt-rock's not our thing, but news is news, right? Five 21-year-olds from the exurbs of St. Louis luck into a major-label deal; who are we to cavil about the baleful legacy of Pearl Jam and the god-awful Vedderesque groaning that's infected the airwaves and arenas over the past decade? (When oh when will the second generation of post-grunge sugar-metal stadium rock run its course? Would someone kindly bring on the goddamn computers already?)
Having come to terms with the fact that the music industry's not about to fuck with a proven formula just to please the sorry losers at Radar Station, we dutifully listened to an advance of Greenwheel's debut, Soma Holiday (the CD title is their former band name, which they had to drop because someone else was using it). It sounds a lot like Fuel, which is to say it sounds a lot like Creed, which is to say it sounds a lot like many, many other bands the young white suburban men of America are digging these days. Turn on The Point (105.7 FM) and you'll hear one of these groups, growling and yowling self-importantly against the moody soft/loud/soft/loud riffage of righteous homeland testosto-rock.
And yes, in case you're wondering, we're grumpy and old.
Ryan Jordan and Andrew Dwiggins, Greenwheel's singer and guitarist, respectively, are neither grumpy nor old. They remain peppy and sweet-tempered, despite our attempts to disorient them with dire speculations about the music industry thinly disguised as questions about their contract. Although the day is undeniably balmy, it's still January in St. Louis, and they're coatless, in T-shirts. (It's probably some kind of young rock-star trend that Radar Station, lamentably, isn't hip to.) Jordan sports a sock cap and long hipster sideburns. Dwiggins resembles a recurring character on Dawson's Creek, that cute indie-rock dude with the scientifically mussed dirty-blond hair. It's not hard to imagine them on MTV, which is exactly where they'll end up if Island/Def Jam has its way.
They're definitely on the right track. They just got back from California, where they posed for photos in the desert. "We were out in the rolling hills, the mountains of Northern California, near where the cover for [U2's] The Joshua Tree was shot," Jordan says. "We were there from 7 in the morning until sundown, just shooting pictures. The background, the landscape, was just as important as the pictures of us. We told [Island/Def Jam] that we wanted to be imaged in a really natural way. We were really excited and surprised that they wanted to image us in that way, making us who we really are."
While Radar Station silently bemoans the transformation of "image" into a verb (goddamn corporate America and its never-ending supply of linguistic travesties!), Dwiggins assures us that "they made everything really believable and natural-looking." (This, it turns out, translates to peacoats, earth-toned accessories and no obvious posing.) We're tempted to launch into all our horror stories about big-budget fuck-overs and such, but we can't. The fact is, these guys might be young and sweet, but they don't seem stupid. They know their market, and they're catering to it. Moreover, they've got lawyers and managers and hotshot producers and legions of fat cats in fancy offices helping them achieve this noble end. With hard work and a little luck, who's to say Greenwheel won't be the next St. Louis-area act to go multiplatinum?
Time will tell, of course. In the meantime, when they're not jetting around the country discussing their image with professional stylists, they're living with their parents. The album, which was recorded last year, won't be released until April, allowing Island/Def Jam plenty of time to groom Greenwheel for world domination. They're shooting a video in February, and in March they'll hit the road in their new 15-passenger van. A year from now, they might be filling stadiums -- stranger things have happened -- so if you're one of those people who likes to brag about how you were right there when it all went down, catch them at Mississippi Nights on Feb. 2.
If you read last week's column and stayed up all night Sunday (or woke up really, really early on Monday morning) so you could catch Christina Wojtan's underground-metal show on KWUR-FM, we're sorry. After we went to press last week, we found out that Wojtan's lost her time slot. Although she'd specified on her application that she couldn't do the show during the day (duh -- it's called Nocturnal Blasphemies!), the powers that be switched her to a daytime shift anyway. We hope that KWUR corrects this scheduling mishap soon or some other open-minded station (are you listening, KDHX?) brings her aboard. Surely somewhere on the airwaves there's room for two measly hours of black metal once a week!
Three fine indie-rock acts grace the Hi-Pointe on Jan. 31. The ridiculously prolific, always interesting Centro-matic headlines the show and doubles as the backing band for Anders Parker of Varnaline. Be sure to show up early for Waterloo, a local outfit that -- miracle of miracles! -- doesn't play out too often.