Imagine you're an indie rock band. You're looking for opportunity, so where's the best place to move, at least in 2009? Williamsburg in Brooklyn, of course! At least that's what Danish-bred New Politics thought. In their quest for rock stardom stateside, the band found out the hard way that life in the Big Apple is far different than in their home city of Copenhagen.
"When you pour your heart and soul into music and throw it out there and see a response, it's really humbling."
Though they inked a deal with RCA Records, New Politics' uneasiness about living in a new city resulted in a culture-shocked debut effort. Grappling with the difficulties of assimilating into American life, New Politics showed potential, but the album was so nondescript it didn't make much of an impression on fans or critics.
"Looking back at it, we had no fans, we hadn't really been on tour before, and we were just musicians writing songs," singer David Boyd says. "But thankfully, [RCA] believed in us."
New Politics had mild success touring. They managed to score a 30-date opening slot on 30 Seconds to Mars' Into the Wild tour, but for their next record, the band needed to carve out their identity without the security blanket of having their close friends and family down the street.
The sessions for A Bad Girl In Harlem were difficult. Between the pressures of daily life, figuring out who they were as a band and understanding that they needed a strong follow-up were essential to their career. Add the financial difficulties of being in a band, and it would have been understandable if the trio had wilted under the pressure. New Politics not only stepped up their songwriting, but their personal lives starting coming together as well, as they made new friends and stopped being overwhelmed by life off the road. And their first hit, "Harlem," peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. alt-rock charts. With a rumbling catchy rhythm reminiscent of the Knack's "My Sharona," the song captured the ears of the listening public.
"You can't predict these things," Boyd says. "I remember hearing it after the mix and knew it was good, but in the back of my mind, I was thinking this is either going to go really well or it really won't. But our manager and label were convinced that this was the first single, and though we see potential in all of our songs, they ended up being right."
Even so, New Politics continue to use the struggles from their journey across the pond to keep themselves inspired and on edge. They channel that ethos to drive their onstage presence as well. During their 80-minute, jolt-inducing sets, you can see they've learned from some of the best, having opened for a diverse roster that includes Fall Out Boy, P!nk, and OC's own Young the Giant and the Dirty Heads.
Though the soft-spoken Danes were initially nervous about the jump to headlining status, Boyd says the group have been overwhelmed that many of the shows on this tour are rolling into bigger venues thanks to the large ticket demand. This week, they'll play alongside Magic Man and Sleeper Agent at the Observatory.
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The blessing of being in a band that was unknown to many as recently as six months ago, yet is suddenly one of the fastest rising new bands on the road isn't lost on Boyd, who remembers when New Politics were fearful of their new home on the road. In the past year, they have had only one month off. But cultivating newfound fame has its perks.
"Seeing fans singing along to the songs and going crazy is so incredible," Boyd says. "When you pour your heart and soul into music and throw it out there and see a response, it's really humbling."