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Then came the rock-star treatment in Europe. In 2005, the band played SXSW, where an impressed U.K. booker invited it to tour Ireland and England. DJ Zane Lowe played the demo on BBC's Radio One. The British press wrote rave reviews. The band has been to England three times since, financing tours with royalties made licensing music to videogames. Several U.K. EPs sold out before the band inked with V2.
Every Move a Picture's proper debut came out in July on V2, home to the White Stripes, Gang of Four, and Moby.Titled Heart = Weapon, the record was recorded in six days. When completed tracks from the album were posted on MySpace, they got 500,000 spins and earned the guys countless friends. American radio is slowly picking up on the album, but the band isn't about to slow down as it continues trying to break through to new audiences. "We're writing the next record, doing a bunch of live dates, and then going back to England," says Messenger. "When I think this all happened because we made one demo, it's pretty bizarre."
In contrast to Every Move a Pictures' passionate, politically charged, wall-of-sound attack, Scissors for Lefty is far less serious an outfit. "We say we're a findie funny indie band," quips Scissors for Lefty frontman and rhythm guitarist Bryan Garza.
His band's sound is instantly recognizable, but hard to pin down. There are echoes of British acts like the Beatles, the Kinks, the Cure, and Pulp, blended with bits of country music, girl-group pop, and jittery new-wave synthesizers. Live, the quartet is a whirlwind of motion, with all four members bouncing around like hyperactive cartoon characters. "We're serious about what we're doing, but we want to entertain you. We wrote somber stuff when we started out, but it was hard to do. We're all post-Madonnas, not prima donnas," says Garza.
Scissors for Lefty didn't need the help of a Material Girl to sign with a prestigious label of its own, though, recently coming under the wing of Rough Trade Records (Arcade Fire, Brakes) for every territory outside of North America. "We don't even know how it happened," Garza continues. "People from the label saw us twice, just as we were getting started in San Francisco. We're kinda lighthearted goons on stage and Rough Trade was impressed with that. We used to burn different CDs for the fans every week, with different handmade covers, so we were glad they wanted to put out a real CD."
That semiserious attitude is what originally pulled Scissors for Lefty's members together, back in San Luis Obispo in 2000, where Garza claims the band started as a way to "record the bad poetry I'd been writing in coffee shops." Garza and guitarist James Krimmel both had brothers who played music Robbie Garza joined on bass and Pete Krimmel added keys; James later moved to the drum chair, and the lineup solidified. They hit SLO's small indie scene for about a year, then moved to San Francisco. "SLO is a nice, mediocre town. San Francisco is a hungry place where people throw great parties and you meet a lot of great girls, too," jokes Garza.
The band finished its first self-produced CD, Bruno, in S.F. It's a sedate singer/songwriter album, nothing like the raucous Britpop Scissors for Lefty churns out today. "Bruno taught us how to turn knobs and put songs together. It took a year and a half to make," says Garza. In contrast, the group's British Rough Trade debut, Underhanded Romance, was cut live in six days. "We quit our day jobs and wrote and arranged the album in three weeks," explains Garza. "We recorded with Charles Goodan [Santana, Rolling Stones], who added all the little flirtatious elements."
Underhanded Romance was due out in England this summer, but has been put off until January 2007 due to label restructuring. Meanwhile, two singles from the album, "Ghetto Ways" and "Mama Your Boys Will Find a Home," have been getting airplay in British clubs as well as radio stations in Germany and France. To prep crowds for the album release, Rough Trade's booking and management wing put Scissors for Lefty on a tour of Ireland, Scotland, England, and Germany, opening for Dirty Pretty Things.
"We're talking to American labels, too, but nothing is set yet," says Garza, who hopes the album will come out Stateside close to its British release. "We never played outside of San Francisco, so it was odd to be in Europe playing festivals. We were nervous at first, but by the time we played Berlin, we blew the Arctic Monkeys off the stage. They love our music in Europe, so even if nobody in the U.S. likes us, we can at least say we're huge in Germany."
With great new albums hitting the streets and that all-important European contingent behind them (look what those Brits did for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), Every Move a Picture and Scissors for Lefty are hoping to step closer to mainstream recognition in their home country. With the hard work they've already put toward the cause, there's hope that soon these bands will be infecting the rest of the country with their benevolent San Francisco musical viruses. J. Poet