Sunday, July 20, 2008

On the Guest List with Varsity Fanclub

by Dan Harpaz

Varsity Fanclub. Left to Right: Drew Scott, Thomas Fiss, Bobby Edner, David Brandt, Jayk Purdy. Photo by by Marina Chavez. Courtesy of Capitol Records.

If you're prehistoric enough to remember the days you had to drive your Flintmobile to the record store to buy music, you're probably looking at the picture above and feeling either nostalgia or deep-seated disdain. You're probably not even sure why you feel the way you do-- chances are, you've probably never even seen this fine group of gents before. But for some reason, most people (generally speaking) have some sort of emotional reaction to these types of promotional pictures. You're either a lover or a hater. I am, of course, referring to an ancient, mystical (and possibly underwater) species classified by Rolling Stone Magazine as "boy bands."

Now, I'm aware that I'm poking fun at this Rolling Stone article on boy bands in the modern, digital music industry, but it brings up an interesting trend that most people my age (or to make another economic assumption, 16+) probably aren't aware of. I am referring of course to the comeback of the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, and an influx of new talent, including Varsity Fanclub, the "new" Menudo, and a modest collection of others. The truth is, boy bands and pop stars never actually "ruled the planet." Nor did they ever go extinct. They were, however, a huge commercial success in a time when major labels thrived on physical album sales and traditional, mass marketing strategies that largely controlled our tastes. Obviously, times have changed.

Most of us know by now that the digital music format has already begun to replace CDs. People learn about music through friends and MySpace today more than ever. The "digital shift" in the music industry has practically overturned the rules of economic scarcity and "shelf-space." But my intention isn't to summarize the pop-econ analyses simplified by Chris Anderson in "The Long Tail." I'm here to present Varsity Fanclub, an LA-based group of talented young dudes who are trying to make it in a world where nearly all musical ecstasy is only a click away. Having already hit it off with the Radio Disney generation with their single "Future Love" (written by Ryan Tedder of One Republic), these guys bring an R&B / soul flavor to what you would normally expect to hear from a boy band. With dance moves as tight as their harmonies, Varsity is set out to conquer the arenas, but not before taking out the utterly annoying, poofy-haired Jonas Brothers. Listen to my phone conversation with Varsity's Jayk Purdy and hear what he had to say about songwriting, the boy band's reality-TV-esque lifestyle, and his 24/7 work schedule.