October 13, 1996
Interviewed during the Five Minute Walk 20,000 Jacket Tour
Lake County College
It isn't news any more that the music industry is looking for the next big thing. Alternative is now mainstream, and people are sick of it. What will take its place? What will we call it? How will we know when it's been discovered?
Frank Tate, president of Five Minute Walk, has cast his gaze southward from the Bay Area along the Pacific coast to another isolated enclave, San Diego, and signed a band with what may be the next big sound--vintage Hammond organ. Dryve plays most of their catchy pop/rock over a bed of chords laid down by a late-sixties M-102, the bigger cousin of the popular B-3. This produces a sound so different their own label has trouble explaining it. The best thing they can tell potential retailers is, "Dryve's calling card is the instruments they use and their ability to make them sound great together." The band's organic strings-and-reeds rock may be hard to classify, but Tate believes in it strongly enough to sign Dryve as the debut band on his new label, SaraBellum, with distribution to mainstream and Christian markets through the Warner Brothers network.
We met the band after their opening set on the 20,000 Jackets tour with Black Eyed Sceva thundering in the background and the next performer, Dime Store Prophets, occasionally interrupting with logistical concerns, thereby making it difficult to attribute remarks to specific band members. As a group on their first national tour--Cory Verner, vocals, guitar and harmonica; Paul Donovan, guitar player, and back-up vocals; Steve Pratschner, lead guitar; Dave Pratschner, accordion and organ; Michael Pratschner, bass; and Keith Andrew, drums--enthusiastically explained their origins and marketing strategy.
Tollbooth: How long have you been together as a group?
Band: About three and a half years.
Tollbooth: How would you describe your sound?
Band: Alternative, pop/rock, a little country, jazz, alternative, mostly triple-A. That's what they're calling it right now; no one's come up with a better word for it.
Tollbooth: Where did you learn to play the harmonica, Cory?
Cory: (Laughter) Paul and I played together for about three years before we played with these guys, just coffeehouses. We did an acoustic thing with a lot of harmonies for a long time before we had the band. We played mandolin, harmonica, and banjo, which didn't work out so we sold the banjo. I actually don't play harmonica very much, except for that one song ("Rain") when we play it live. I always tell everybody I'm NOT a harmonica player! (laughter)
Tollbooth: Who writes your music?
Cory: We kind of all get together to write it. Paul and I will come up with an idea, and then bring it in. We'll work on it, clean it up for a couple of months, and a song will pop out. Sometimes we keep it, and sometimes we don't.
Tollbooth: Does that include the lyrics?
Cory: Most of the lyrics I write, but Paul writes some, too. Just depends on how inspired he is.
Tollbooth: How old are you?
Dryve: We're old! Next question (laughter). We don't fit into the alternative [culture]. We're not nineteen.
Tollbooth: You're not nineteen.
Dryve: Greater than. Greater than twenty-seven. (laughter)
Am I too old to ride the whirley wheel
Is it closed, am I too old, am I too high
Hey that's not fair; come on mister
It's not right, you're not nice
I want to ride the whirley
Dryve: Last year, we played 90 shows in San Diego, so we're pretty well known and really big there. Other than that, we really haven't done much else. We hadn't gone out of town until about six months ago (April, 96).
There is absolutely no Christian music scene in San Diego. The only time they have any music is a big show at the Christian college every once and a while. They'll get major acts like the Newsboys and they advertise at the college, and no one else knows about it.
We have a lot of good relationships with people in the media--television, magazines, newspapers--and are able to influence a lot of people, other bands. Whenever articles are written about us, they always eventually attack the issue of our faith, but they do it very delicately, because they like us. They like our music, and they like us as people, and they really don't want to offend us. At one point or another in an interview, it will come up, "So there's some kind of a, something deeper in your music, right?" Or they sometimes won't even ask, they'll just see if we want to say something about it.
Tollbooth: Do you think people at your club dates could tell there was something special about you?
Dryve: We like people to make the connection on their own. If people get the CD, it will be obvious. We like them to like us, take the music home with them, like the music, then have the music go, "Click!" When it does, they haven't put the barrier up, and it's too late; it's already inside. That's where God seems to be using us.
I was ready
I need You
They get hit a couple of times in the set with songs that speak very blatantly. In one we didn't play tonight, "She Ain't Ready," it's very obvious. It just happened to be the way the song popped out, but it's a very evident show of faith.
You're in orbit
And now things are harder to figure out
It may be, her music,
or the abuse
Who knows, it may be all
Tollbooth: You've signed to Five Minute Walk Records. Were your spiritual beliefs a factor in that agreement?
Dryve: Yeah, that was like the first thing. Frank Tate was not as concerned about our playing and song-writing as where we were in our relationships with God.
We blew a manifold
I do need x-ray eyes
The speaker said blair
I can't rent a prayer
I'm guided by the ashtray light
I don't deserve you
Could you switch it to
Dryve: We want to follow the same plan Toad the Wet Sprocket did and just hit the college scene.
Tollbooth: Why are you interested in playing the college club scene?
Dryve: If we were just going to be playing in every church across America, we wouldn't be doing this. We would be getting regular jobs, settling down, having a couple of kids. What we really want to do is challenge people who really don't think about the gospel much, or God, or a relationship with Christ.
Tollbooth: How are you going to do this?
Dryve: Our album is going to be distributed through Warner Brothers. Whenever we play, we'll come up with a strategy for that tour and stock the record stores that are in the cities that we hit. No band, even one with distribution on a major label (unless it's a really big deal) gets distributed to every record store in America. Usually what happens is you tour and use your connections in distribution to stock the stores near where you play. That's just how you start. Then when you get some momentum going, they stock more and more stores and you get radio airplay; it usually starts with college radio or triple-A, and then builds from there. SaraBellum has promotion people, they have a marketing plan for our CD, they are working with Warner Brothers, and hopefully will make it happen.
Tollbooth: Are you going to go through Christian distribution channels, as well?
Dryve: Yes. Warner-Resound is who we're actually using. They distribute Vigilantes of Love's [self-titled album].
We don't have any problem with our music being played on Christian stations. One doesn't exclude the other.
The idea isn't to retreat from these other forms of music. Someone asked today, "Gosh, how come you guys want to be part of such a morally corrupt scene?" It's corrupt because we retreated. We pulled back. We let it go, and it turned into what it is. We have to get back in there and spread like cancer, cell by cell. I think that is more effective than forming a group outside of the mainstream and then trying to take over.