By 1996, Superdrag had everything a young band is supposed to want: a hit single on radio ("Sucked Out"), heavy rotation on MTV, and the chance to play to crowds. All was well with major label Elektra Records. It seemed the group's brand of power pop—a mix of Big Star, the Raspberries and Elvis Costello with louder guitars—would shine bright. Maybe forever.
Then the fans hit the shit. The second album, Head Trip in Every Key, bombed, and a few critics pounded the group. Elektra Records was not happy. Preparing for their third album, Superdrag showed the label dozens of songs; label execs pushed the band to go back to the writing room. Frustrated, the band asked Elektra to kill the contract. Elektra pulled out the pistol, and Superdrag got its wish.
Perhaps pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth. The band soon landed on independent label Arena Rock Recordings and released last year's powerful In the Valley of Dying Stars. The album ended up on the Top 10 lists of some of the same critics who had dissed Head Trip.
"It's awesome," says bassist Sammy Powers, who notes that reaction at shows has been strong, too, and that the group's appeal has spread—to parents. "There's really a broad spectrum of fans for us. There's a lot of kids at the shows, but many of them are bringing their parents"—because, he speculates, Superdrag reminds them "of Big Star, Badfinger and 1960s/'70s rocking stuff in general."
The band is also something of a popular favorite among musicians. At an LA show last year, Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla randomly asked if anyone from Elektra was in the audience because he had a question for them regarding Superdrag: "I just want to know what [Elektra] was thinking?" The Kinks' Ray Davies asked them to cover the Kinks' "I Need You" during a surprise appearance with Superdrag at March's South By Southwest in Austin, Texas. The band mastered the song, Davies appeared, and the house burned down.
Covers are nothing new for Superdrag; they generally sneak a few into their two-hour sets. Don't be surprised if you hear "September Girls" or "Bastards of Young." "Those are songs we just like," Powers says. "If you can get a kid to go out and buy a Replacements record, you've done some sort of service."
And don't be afraid to scream out for "Freebird." "We've done it a couple of times," says Powers. "We did it as a joke at first." But only at first.
Superdrag performs with Smile and Something Corporate at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Wed., 7:30 p.m. $9. All ages.
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