Deftones, Papa Roach …
Are bands now moving to Sacramento to make it big? Ask Lowboy, formerly of Nashville.
Track through the history of Sacramento’s music scene and you’ll find plenty of acts that figured they needed to move elsewhere to make it. A few, like Charlie Peacock and Brent Bourgeois, relocated to Nashville to work in that city’s burgeoning Christian pop-music scene, although Bourgeois has since come back home to Sacramento.
Lowboy went the opposite direction. The four-piece band left Nashville a year ago and ended up, well, right here in the River City.
After talking with record-label reps about what course of action to follow, someone figured that Lowboy might be a better fit on the West Coast. “We had done pretty well, on a regional level, in the Southeast,” says Charley Grubbs, the band’s drummer. “They wanted to see if we could do what we did out there out here. And it was more or less either L.A. or San Francisco. We figured that L.A. was more of a cutthroat local scene, so we decided to go to Northern California. But, unfortunately, none of us could afford to live in the Bay Area. Plus, Sacramento has produced some pretty good bands, and so we figured we could try to establish ourselves in Sacramento—because it is a little bit of a smaller market—and also work the Bay Area.”
On the surface, this sounds slightly ludicrous. Nashville is a city that evolved into one of this country’s major recording centers, outside of New York, Los Angeles and, perhaps, Atlanta. But Nashville specializes in two things—commercial country music and Christian pop—and the people who run the music business don’t really understand anything outside those parameters. So, to some kid playing rock ’n’ roll in Nashville, this part of California—with such bands as the Deftones and Papa Roach emanating from it—must look something like the Promised Land.
Originally from Clarksville, Tennessee, about 40 miles north of Nashville, the band—drummer Grubbs, bassist Charles Irwin, singer Scott Trotter, guitarist Matt Beadle and a fifth member who opted to stay—started playing together as teens around five years ago, then learned the business of running a rock band through putting one foot in front of the other. “We started playing Memphis, Louisville, St. Louis, Atlanta, did a tour of Texas,” Grubbs says. “We started building a pretty good fan base, had some radio play on some college stations, and started getting really serious about it and thought we could actually pursue it as a career. At least, a few years and a few albums,” he adds, stifling a laugh.
Lowboy’s current recorded oeuvre consists of two EPs. “Our first was an eight-song demo, released back in ’98,” Grubbs says. “And then we put out another three-song one in ’99. We kinda pushed that one out quick, because we made a connection with the people from Todd McFarlane’s Spawn—a friend of ours had a comic-book company. And McFarlane’s company was going to put money into it, and he had an idea of making a comic book and releasing a soundtrack with it. That fell through, so that’s why we pushed that out so quickly.”
According to Grubbs, the band has kept recording, but hasn’t released anything itself, preferring to focus its energy in a different direction. “Everything we’ve done since then has been for industry [people],” he says. In other words, they’re trying to get signed.
Lowboy has been performing in and around Sacramento since last November, playing hard-rock bills at places like the Boardwalk and Scratch 8, slowly winning over local music-biz types like talent scout Dave Park. “When you see these guys,” Park enthuses, “you’ll think, this is a national act.”
Grubbs seems aware that some kind of momentum is building. “We’ve been able to accomplish, through the industry out here, in six months what we couldn’t do in five years back in Nashville,” he says.
For now, he lives in Davis, where he works for a car-rental company. His bandmates live in Roseville. That’s a long way from Music City, but it’s closer than you might think.