"19 Wheels Inks Aware Deal"

by Geoff Wilbur

The Verve Pipe is RCA's latest "next big thing." The dt's sport a Warner Chappell publishing deal and have released a record on hot local label Yikes! while looking for the right record deal. And now 19 Wheels has signed a one-disc deal with Chicago-based Aware Records, recently a veritable launching pad for big time music careers. Could this be the start of something big for 19 Wheels AND for East Lansing? The aforementioned threesome is certainly talented enough to pave the way.

But pardon 19 Wheels' Scott Owens for being primarily concerned with his band's future, based on the rock solid premise of strong songwriting and musicianship -- the sort of thing that attracts attention regardless of how hot a particular "scene" is.

Says Scott, "(Aware label chief) Gregg Latterman -- I don't know if he's from East Lansing, but his parents live here, so he kind of has roots in the area. And I think a lot of it had to do with when Verve Pipe hit, he's a kind of consummate businessman, and he felt that -- as a lot people did, you included probably -- when that happened, attention was going to be drawn to the area. So he came back and said -- these are rhetorical questions, probably -- 'What is happening in the area and who should I pay attention to?' For some reason, our name came up. Some people who worked for him heard us, and he heard us, and we had (THE) TEMPERMILL (RECORDINGS), and we had this demo tape. It caught their ear, and (Aware) decided the time was right to champion another band from the area, and they chose us."

"A lot of this stuff honestly went on between (singer) Chris (Johnston) and our management team. The earliest I first met Greg, he had a party at his house in East Lansing -- it was the night The Verve Pipe played MSU Auditorium. He had a little schmoozefest going on over at his house. We went over there, some people were there. We played that night at the Small Planet, and some people came out. Next thing I knew, we were in Chicago, which is the home base for the label. Of course some phone conversations had happened in the interim."

"I guess I would have to say the ESPN Extreme Sports tour, of all things, had a lot to do with it. We'd done a date in Colorado and played with another Aware band called Stir, who quickly got eaten up by Capitol Records. Had a good relationship going with them right off the bat. I think that had something to do with it, too."

So, with just a little courting, Aware approached Nineteen Wheels with a one-disc deal. "Boom, boom, boom," as Scott puts it.

"Aware has a lot of respect in the industry," notes Scott, as a sort of "farm league". They've done three compilations, and Hootie was on one. Better Than Ezra was on one. We're one of four bands they've actually signed now that they have some clout and some money. They did something with Stir, and they did something with this band from New England called Thanks to Gravity. Both of them have been eaten up by major labels before the record was really even released. And the second wave is us and this band called Farmer from Los Angeles."

So the band is in the studio now with Tim Patalan, who produced Sponge, says Scott, at his studio, The Loft, in Saline, Michigan.

"I couldn't be more excited about that situation because -- I mean, I can't say we're the best band in any geographical area. And again, you make the right relationships with the right people and get the right team together, and that's how things get done. I mean, the music's important, but when Tim seemed interested in working with us, we thought, 'Kick ass!' because he's got a buzz going with the Sponge stuff, and he has a lot of excellent musical ideas, and we hit it off personally with him. We've already done three songs, two of which are going to be on the fourth Aware compilation, due out on September 17th. And there's an ensuing tour to support the compilation, of which we have about two weeks straight. A couple of us are getting married, so we're not doing the whole thing. And our record is due out after the first of the year sometime." The tour should be swinging through the area in mid-to-late September. (Watch for a time and venue.) And, with luck, for Nineteen Wheels, fame may shortly follow.

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