June 14, 2010 was a big day for six high school/ college students in Vermillion, South Dakota.
June 14, 2011 will be a bigger day.
On the former, they decided to put off the next year of college, giving themselves 365 days to make a career out of rock n' roll.
On the latter, Paradise Fears will release "Yours Truly," their debut full-length album, as one of the most potent and rapidly-growing young pop rock acts in the country.
In July 2010, just months after the majority of the band's high school graduation, they released Make Them Believe EP, produced by Jordan Schmidt (All Time Low, Sing it Loud). In just 8 months, the album has sold several thousand copies nation-wide, and the band's career has taken off. They've completed nation-wide tours with Quietdrive and Floral Terrace across 32 different states, and have shared the stage with acts like Stereo Skyline, The Audition, and You, Me, and Everyone We Know.
Coming from a town of 3,000 year round residents in a state noted for its lack of a music scene, nothing has come easy. But these six kids grew up fast. "It's been an entirely self taught process...with a very steep learning curve. We've had to teach ourselves how to promote, how to book shows, how to tour, how to record, everythingâ€¦but it gives us a very unique approach, because in our area, what we're doing is so unprecedented that we haven't fallen victim the generic, cookie-cutter career path, and instead we've received a tremendous amount of support from our home town." explained lead singer Sam Miller.
Though they may be young, Paradise Fears has several things going for them:
First, an incredibly energetic and engaging live show that can win over even the most uninterested bystander, described by one Battle of the Bands judge as "N'Sync meets a UFC cage match." They were crowned champions of a 65-band, Midwest-wide Battle of the Bands in October, sponsored by Rawkzilla magazine, scoring them $14,000 in endorsements, equipment, and cash. Their performance, described by Paul Pederson (Prince, Steve Miller band), was "absolutely spectacular, one in a million, and completely breath-taking."
Second, an arsenal of infectiously catchy and musically developed rock-pop songs, some of which received airplay on top 40 radio stations throughout the Midwest. David Hooper of Music Business Radio described Make Them Believe as "catchy and remarkably polished, particularly given the age [of the members.]"
Third, an incredibly loyal internet following of all different ages. In just 8 months, their Facebook, Twitter, and social networking profiles have acquired tens of thousands of fans/ followers, and are still rapidly expanding by hundreds daily. "One of the best parts about our style of music has always been that it's not limited - it's the kind of music that someone can appreciate with their 12-year-old sister or their 70-year-old grandmother," said keyboard-player Michael Walker.
Finally, and most importantly, an insatiable drive for success. Paradise Fears is constantly touring or recording, and when they aren't, they're exploring new and creative ways of expanding their fan base. Most recently, the band split into three teams, racing around the country following large tours in a competition to meet the most potential listeners. 50,000 miles, 10,000 demos, and 5,000 CDs later, their "Amazing Race" has created both hundreds of fans and a Paradise Fears buzz in every major market in the United States.
The large-scale release of a full-length album will be a huge step forward in the band's career. Recording time for "Yours Truly" was split between Schmidt and Zack Odom and Kenneth Mount (Mayday Parade, Cartel). It will feature 11 new songs, tremendously evolved in music and lyrics. "It's a new found maturity for us...these songs are real. We wrote songs about people we love, songs about people we hate, songs that tell storiesâ€¦it's an album full of songs we really love," described guitarist Cole Andre.
But why so independent? Says Miller, "That's the way we want to do it, and the dream we've always envisioned. We're financing it, we're writing it, we're releasing it, we're promoting it. It started out as just the six of us, and come good or come bad, we've still always got that. We're committed to being able to make it ourselves."