Features & Columns

The Limousines prep New Album Play at the Blank Club

San Jose's Limousines don't need a major-label deal when they've got dedicated fans on Kickstarter
Limos FREE AT LAST: The Limousines are producing their new album without interference from a label.

Getting a major-label deal in 2010 with Dangerbird Records seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime for San Jose indie-electronic band the Limousines, but according to lead singer Eric Victorino, it turned out to be a major setback to the momentum they were building as independent artists.

"They disappointed us on every turn," Victorino says. "They did absolutely nothing for us. [After we got signed], I went to Rasputin, and I couldn't find our CD. Before we were signed, it was there, and it was selling well. They dropped the ball in every way possible."

The Limousines' jump from obscurity to a major label was relatively quick. They were able to get the home recording of their synth-pop song "Very Busy People" aired on LIVE-105 before they had even played a show. Several other stations picked up the song as well.

Then, two years ago, the Limousines released the zombie-music video for their song "Internet Killed the Video Star," which went viral. They were soon making enough money from the band that they were able to quit their day jobs. Paradoxically, when they signed to Dangerbird and rereleased their debut album, Get Sharp, suddenly they were broke.

The band members remained quiet about their frustration while still on the label. Once they left, however, and announced plans to begin their next album, Hush, on their own, funded via Kickstarter, they told their fans everything. For starters, Dangerbird still owned Get Sharp for another 13-1/2 years.

As it turned out, their fans were more than eager to help them make Hush a reality. The Limousines' plan this time was to have complete control of the recording, promoting and distribution of the album—and to retain ownership. By the time the Kickstarter campaign was over, they had raised $75,808 to get the job done.

The main reason they were so frustrated with Dangerbird was that their almost exclusive reason for signing with the label in the first place was to ensure physical distribution of their CDs in foreign markets.

"We've always been a do-it-yourself kind of band, but I think after releasing Get Sharp we were convinced we needed help," Victorino says.

Rather than get their CDs into foreign record stores, Dangerbird took their music off of other country's iTunes and Amazon websites, with the vague promise of eventually staging a big international release.

"To me, that's such an antiquated way of looking at things—the Internet is worldwide," Victorino says. "So, if a song's floating around, and some kid in Japan hears it and likes it and wants a copy and goes to his Japanese iTunes, and it's not there, he's going to email a friend and ask for it. People have a two-click patience before they give up and steal it."

Nothing seemed to go right for the Limousines. A month after signing, Dangerbird fired the staff that the band members had met and liked, changed their distribution company and diluted their resources by signing seven other acts.

The worst part of all was that this new staff didn't even understand what the Limousines were all about. The PR person told Victorino that she had the perfect genre name for them for the purpose of marketing to radio stations and magazines: "Bro-lectric," because, as she explained, "it's electronic, and it's not gay."

"It's offensive. I'm the least homophobic person in the world. When I hear the word 'bro-lectric' I think of DJ Pauly D or Jersey Shore shit," Victorino says. This PR rep clearly didn't understand that the Limousines already had a following with alternative-rock crowds who would react in the same way as Victorino to the term "bro-lectric."

Dangerbird's big move was to try to convince radio stations that had already been playing "Very Busy People" months earlier to now put it into heavy rotation. When this tactic didn't yield results, Dangerbird started talking about moving on to the next album. This time, they wanted to be involved in every stage of the project, unlike with Get Sharp.

"That's the worst, when you get people sitting at a desk, and they get an email of a demo and they type, 'I really think the chorus should be more like this.' I didn't want to be involved with that process. I didn't trust them," Victorino avers.

With Kickstarter, they actually raised $20,000 more than Dangerbird had offered them to record the second album—and there was no question of whether they'd have to make compromises with the fan-funded budget.

"I used to think that bands that were already established like Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead are better off without a label. Now I don't know why anyone would sign to one," Victorino concludes. Already Hush is coming together well—and is a noticeably different record than Get Sharp. Victorino likes to describe Get Sharp as an album that is "more about masturbating than sex," whereas Hush will be "more about sex than masturbating." In other words, Get Sharp is a clever, philosophical, poignant album, but it lacks personal expression. Hush on the other hand will be full of vulnerable songs about love, heartache, sex and loss.

"The first Limousines album wasn't cathartic for me. I think it was a reaction to my previous musical stuff. All the Strata [his old band] songs were written in a way that was very emotions first, intellectual last. The Limousines was experimenting by doing something that none of my friends were doing. Everyone was in a four- or five-piece rock band," Victorino says. "The same way that album was a reaction to the Strata stuff, this album is a reaction to the last Limos album. It wasn't emotional, so this one kind of has to be."

The LIMOUSINES

The Blank Club

DEC. 21 9pm $12/15