L.A. rockers 88 making waves

YURI WUENSCH -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 4:27 AM ET

The 88’s Adam Merrin concedes to being a little anxious. As the band’s pianist, you can imagine that missing a key would be trying.

In the L.A.-based band’s case, said key would unlock the doorway to fame and fortune. And while that’s the dream of every band in the world, if not everyone in the world, the 88’s story makes them seem deserving of a shot at it.

The 88 is opening for Matt Costa tonight at the Power Plant on the University of Alberta campus tonight. The show is sold out.

Make no mistake, though, Merrin is, well, merry; pleased that his band has come so far, particularly because it’s done so without the support of a major record label.

The band’s second album, Over and Over, like its debut, Kind of Light, was released independently on Mootron Records and its indie distribution doesn’t cast a huge net.

But the 88’s been riding on great word of mouth and some high-profile opportunities many signed acts would likely expect or demand.

Pretty good for a flavour of the month band like the 88. Assuming, of course, that month fell somewhere in 1970, a time when hitmakers like the Beatles, Elton John, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks were all making waves. Merrin and his lads would have been right at home.

“We’re all about the melodies of songs – that’s the most important thing that draws me into music. That’s what’s really important to (singer) Keith Slettedahl, who’s the main songwriter in the band. The two of us really grew up kind of liking older music,” explains Merrin.

“I like the melody and simplicity of those songs and I think we’ve stayed true to that, even though that style isn’t as popular as it used to be.”

Surely it’s due for a comeback, though – the numbers seem stacked in the 88’s favour. The band’s tunes have been featured in a few features (All ’Cause of You in the Owen Wilson-starring You, Me and Dupree and Coming Home in Little Miss Sunshine) and have struck a chord with teen viewers, included in TV shows like One Tree Hill, Dawson’s Creek and, most notably, The OC, with How Good It Can Be appearing on Music from the OC Soundtrack: Mix 1. It’s a top-selling soundtrack on ITunes.

The 88 has also played live on The Late Show with Craig Ferguson, The Jimmy Kimmel Show and Last Call with Carson Daly.

With each new gig, each new placement, the band sees a reciprocal number of hits and downloads on its My-space page. The majors haven’t, however, been calling in droves. If and when they do, says Merrin, the 88 is determined not to add or subtract anything.

“We’ve never written anything that’s not us. We’ve been asked a couple times to do things for a TV show or a commercial, but we’ve just said that we don’t think we’re the right people. If someone asked us to do a pop-punk song, yeah, we could do it, but we wouldn’t feel good about it. We’re all just really doing what comes naturally.

“I know what they’re playing on the radio and I know how picky labels are in deciding what the mainstream radio playlists should be. I’d like to be the band that does what we do and have them catch on, instead of the other way around.

“It’s just such a tough time right now, but I think labels are missing out on a great opportunity. I think we could be selling a lot of records. I just don’t get it – we’re a great live band and no indie band like us has performed on all this live TV. I think a lot of (majors) are too scared, because if they pass they don’t want to be known for missing the boat. But there’s always something exciting happening to keep us going.”

The 88 took its name from a French Kicks song, but as time wore on Merrin says the band’s found itself growing into the handle more and more.

And while he’s no numerologist, the “double infinite” connections have been a source of bemusement (Michael J. Fox had to travel 88 mph to get Back to the Future, a favourite flick of Merrin’s) and, whether you believe in it or not, good luck (88 is a very lucky number in Chinese culture). But there is still something to be said for faith and hard work.

“Because there’s no label behind us, we pretty much do all the day-to-day work ourselves trying to promote it and get it out there. I still think there’s this whole other step we haven’t taken yet, which I’m anxious to do because it’s been a childhood dream of mine. I think our time will come.”


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