We’ve all hit that moment. Last call is creeping through the door. Common sense left hours ago. Your veins are hopped-up on enough alcohol to start a dragster. You’re saying things that probably shouldn’t be said to people you should never be talking to. But something deep inside of you keeps egging you on: one more drink, one more pick-up line, one more chance. You’re going to feel like you rammed your head through a wall in the morning, but for now there aren’t enough brain cells firing for you to care. You’re beyond drunk. You’re officially Flickerstick drunk. Stupid, sloppy, Flickerstick drunk.
It’s almost a badge of honor. Few people put their bodies through a Flickerstick binge. But in nearly every episode of VH1’s Bands on the Run at least one member of the Texas quintet teetered somewhere between blood poisoning and a 12-step program. Thanks to the power of editing, the group was portrayed as slacker lushes who could barely make it to a bathroom—unless, of course, some groupie pulled them in. They embodied old-school rock debauchery—drunks with a fuck-all attitude. And they were good. The blatant self-promotion of archrivals Soulcracker felt like a marketing scam. But Flickerstick, more concerned about the next pitcher than the next gig, actually had the songs. And the underdog vibe. And a drummer who would nail any chick in the room. Rock at its finest.
But like every night spent cuddling with Jim and Jack, there’s always a hangover. For the three other groups on Bands on the Run, there isn’t enough aspirin to even come close to numbing the pain (Soulcracker has actually gotten death threats). Flickerstick, on the other hand, woke up with a record deal, a huge fanbase and a Top 40 hit in the single “Beautiful.” Sure, everyone knows the band’s dirty secrets: bassist Fletcher Lea cheated on his wife and guitarist Cory Kreig screwed around on his fiancée. But at least the group is on a first name basis with America. And Flickerstick will never have to buy a drink again. For Kreig, one airing of dirty laundry has been more than worth it.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever get Bands behind us,” he says, sounding surprisingly sober. “Some people are always going to see us as that band from that show. But it was the catalyst for our career. This is amazing. And it’s not like we’re embarrassed for what we did on the show. That’s us. We’re five jackasses from Texas who just stumbled into this.”
The only problem: Flickerstick now has to make people remember its music rather than its knack for consumption. Not an easy task for a band that sits just outside of music’s current, well-entrenched trends. Sure, the group has enough hooks to get people interested. The band’s major label debut, Welcoming Home the Astronauts (Epic), is full of songs that can be hummed even after a fifth. And the band’s spacey take on pop—think Major Tom sitting in with the Flaming Lips—stands out like a punker at a Matchbox Twenty show. But it also means that people, now more desperate than ever for the familiar, might not want to take a chance on some band from a TV show.
“Beautiful” is helping with that. The group’s most standard song is safe and easy, a perfect VH1-ready rocker that could just as easily have come from Train, 3 Doors Down, or any of the other faceless bands on the radio. It also has the bonus of being soaked in sugary lyrics that make people forget how scary the world is right now. So are many of the group’s other tracks: the odd, nearly all-chorus “Smile,” the give-me-a-hug “Coke,” even the strange “Chloroform the One You Love.”
“Those songs give you a good feeling, and so many people want that right now,” Kreig says. “They want to hear a song that will make them happy. I mean, I’m tired of turning on the radio and hearing road rage. I don’t want to see bodies on the floor, and I don’t know if other people want to anymore either.”
But while Flickerstick is giving radio a warm fuzzy, the group has always sold people with its live show. Proof: Any episode of Bands on the Run. Every other group on the show looked desperate to be rock stars, jumping around the stage like it’s what they’re supposed to do. Flickerstick goes unto a communal convulsion simply because an epileptic seizure is the only way to truly get the music across. It’s overwhelming. Even if the songs were crap, it would still be one hell of a live show.
Getting people to come out has been rather difficult as of late, though. Yeah, Flickerstick is playing big rooms to big crowds, but Kreig has noticed a change in the last couple of months. “There’s been a real decline,” he says. “I don’t want to say that seeing a band is less important now, since music means so much to so many people, but there’s been a real change. There are no words to explain it. Going to rock shows and being a groupie—a lot of that comes from being rebellious. Not too many people are feeling rebellious right now.”
Even if people are feeling a little tame right now, Kreig is going to get the most out of this ride while he can. He’s not thinking too much about record sales or longevity. He’s more concerned with tonight’s activities and doing everything he can.
“My real motivation right now is to not be a waiter,” he says half-jokingly. “I don’t ever want to do that again. But there’s really been no time to realize that, holy shit, this is amazing. It’s hard to realize that for now this is what we do. And as far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to think about it too much. I just want to sit back and ride it out and see what happens.” u
Flickerstick with Phantom Planet. Liquid Joe’s, 1249 E. 3300 South, 467-JOES, Monday Nov. 26, 9:30 p.m.