YYYs' beginnings were humble enough: Karen began playing with guitarist
Nick Zinner (a Bard graduate) in fall 2000, and called Chase to
fill in on drums. The project was intended as a lark, but the group
was in the right place at the right time. The media pounced. Rolling
Stone, Spin, Interview--the effusive praise rolled in from publications
eager to anoint them as the next Strokes.
The turning point came in March 2002 at the annual
South by Southwest music festival in Texas. "They had to move
us to one of the biggest venues in Austin because the hype was so
big," Karen recounts with lingering astonishment. "We
were courted by major labels and hung out in a $5,000 suite that
we didn't pay for. But the real shocker came the next morning. We
went down to the lobby of our hotel, where there were stacks and
stacks of the local papers, two different ones--with just me on
the cover! That experience made us realize that this was bigger
A major-label bidding war of monumental magnitude
ensued. "Things were blown out of proportion," Karen says.
"It stressed everyone out. Sometimes we just wanted to throw
it all away."
"It's really irrelevant whether we sign to one
label or another," Chase adds. "Who cares?" His question
is rhetorical, but the band's upcoming debut full-length album on
Interscope is big news in the music press. The band has had to adjust
to the fact that for better or worse, people are paying attention
Karen, for her part, has come to terms with the gaggles
of girls who come to YYYs' concerts wearing imitations of her signature
ripped dresses and torn gloves. "I'm actually flattered by
it," she says. "One thing I value about being in a rock
band is making people feel cooler than they usually do--including
he French Kicks' road to fame has been more methodical.
"We've touched every rung on the ladder," says Nick Stumpf
'97, who plays drums and sings in the band he formed in 1999 with
Obies Matt Stinchcomb '97 and Jamie Krents '97. (Krents left the
band last year.)
"It was a gradual thing," Stumpf says of
his band's newfound fame. "We had a lot of friends who came
to our early shows. That created the illusion that we had fans,
which we then parlayed into bigger shows."
Stumpf and Stinchcomb have made a career out of burning
every bridge they cross. Before leaving for their first national
tour in 2000, they quit their jobs. After the second tour, they
gave up their Brooklyn apartments and moved into Stinchcomb's grandmother's
house on the eastern shore of Maryland to write their debut album,
One Time Bells.
People who knew these guys in college are not surprised
by the intensity with which they've pursued their goals. Stinchcomb
and Stumpf did nothing halfway back then, be it the battle of the
bands where they learned two entire Led Zeppelin albums to perform
at the 'Sco, or their reenactment of the Beatles' famous rooftop
concert. (College administrator Chris Baymiller '71 was willing
to let the musicians play atop Wilder, but security ultimately forced
the show to move inside).
And then there was the famous Michael Jackson medley.
"We started with 'Thriller,'" Stinchcomb says. "We
got a casket from the theater department and had a seven-piece trumpet
section carry our lead singer onstage inside of it."
Upon graduating, Stinchcomb and Stumpf spent
a year as sidemen for a rising songwriter before starting their
own project. The French Kicks quickly hit upon an infectious mix
of rock swagger (think Rolling Stones) and compositional integrity
(think J.S. Bach). But there were still dues to pay, and the Kicks'
first tour was decidedly unglamorous. "There were a lot of
nine-hour drives to play for that many people," Stumpf says.
"It toughened us up as a band."
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of Fury and the Sound