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Shallow Side’s streaming chops run deep, but they love vinyl too

“Our goal is we want to revitalize the entire rock genre — that whole world where rock & roll was such a strong force.”

New year, new bands, new tunes. Now that the traditional holiday box set and career retrospective rush is over, the best time of the year for new and upcoming artists to make their marks is when the calendar turns and the chase for creating indelible earworms begins anew.

Case in point: Shallow Side, a four-man band from Cullman, Alabama, who are dropping a new six-song EP dubbed One next Friday via Thermal Entertainment. These hungry 20-something rockers have hit upon the perfect intersection between modern, alternative, and classic rock at the avenue where Shinedown meets Journey, which is also just around the corner where Daughtry jams with the Eagles.

This mod-meld blend has been forged to a T with on One with the balls-out battle cry of Rebel — already approaching a million views on YouTube — the hard-edged gristle of Fight or Flight, and the left-turn smash ’n’ grab of Start a Fire. Oh, and there’s a damn fine kickass cover of Styx’s classic stadium rocker Renegade included for good measure.

“I’m most inspired by the people who have the rhythm, the rhyme, and the harmony,” Shallow Side vocalist Eric Boatright explained to Digital Trends. “You put those things together, and you’re not going to miss reaching a rock music fan out there. They’re going to be a fan of what we do immediately. As soon as the rhythm, rhyme, and harmony kick in, they’re going to enjoy it.”

Digital Trends called Boatright during a short tour break to discuss the importance of both radio and streaming for new bands looking to get a foothold in the business, why vinyl also has its merits, and how delivering the goods onstage helps seal the deal with new fans.

Digital Trends: Is radio play still important to young bands in the streaming age?

Eric Boatright: It is, to some degree. We’re a fairly new band. We’re up and coming, and we play somewhere around 200-250 shows a year. We work extremely hard. We have hard backs, and there’s sweat constantly on our brows. We believe in what we’re doing, and we work hard to push these things to radio.

As I’m sure you know better than I do, the radio game is a tough game these days, but as soon as Rebel and Renegade were placed in their laps, they jumped on them. So far, it’s been a blessing to us. I feel it’s the start of a new era of where rock & roll should be going.

Those two songs helped pave the way for Shallow Side to get on the radar of radio programmers and radio listeners.

Oh yeah, I completely agree. Those songs were our “handshake” with those who already listen to rock music. Our goal is we want to revitalize that entire genre — that whole world where rock & roll was such a strong force. Back then, it was so huge! From my standpoint, there’s something missing from where rock & roll used to be.

We use youth to our advantage. I feel that’s been the goal since we first started the band — to create that new wave of youth. At a lot of the shows we would show up to, before we even started the band, the audience was made of an older crowd that definitely loved the classic rock. But it was that in-between time where things had gotten really dark for rock & roll music.

Where we first started, rock & roll wasn’t for us. We wanted to go to a concert and enjoy the music, and sing along, and be a part of the good song and dance. So the mission since we first started was to take the wheel and steer it back into a direction where everyone from all walks of life could enjoy a good rock show. It doesn’t have to be the people wearing all-black clothes.

As an up-and-coming band, what’s your take on streaming?

I can’t say that I don’t like it. But I would say that there are still some tweaks needed to work it out. When I first started to be a music buyer — as a consumer who was entering the marketplace — one of the first ways I was able to get music came from the 10 dollars a week I made from doing chores around the house and in the community I grew up in, doing the little hustle game I had at age 13 and 14 to get the money to buy that music.

“Our streaming fanbase has increased 500 percent from where it was six months ago.”

I wasn’t old enough to have a car and music wasn’t very available for me, so my first music source was Napster. The first way I got music before I ever became a musician was that I would download it. As a young, new consumer, I didn’t know how much I was digging into the pockets of actual artists. I had no clue.

Had there been a streaming source at that time where the revenue would come from the documenting of how many spins these songs and these bands were getting, I would have been there as well. So, I can’t really say I’m against streaming, because I find more people at our shows have found us through Spotify or have found us through Pandora, YouTube, iTunes Play, Amazon Play, or Google Play than have heard us on the radio.

Some bands use streaming data to figure out which parts of the country show the most plays of their material, and then they gear their tours toward those markets. Have you done anything like that yet?

We’re just now starting into doing that, simply because our streaming fanbase has increased something like 500 percent from where it was six months ago. We’ve started to get a strong streaming footprint, so the numbers are starting to speak to us. It’s no longer like we’re looking for needles in a haystack.

The needles have found you.

Yeah — the needles have found us! (both laugh)

Streaming is where the majority of your potential listening audience is getting their music now, and what that fanbase increase also shows is they like you enough to want to pay to come see you play the music of yours they’ve streamed.

We always feel like, the more places we can be online, the better. If they listen to it, and they like it — and we know everyone’s not going to like it — but if you find that group of people, when they show up to your show, they’ll find we put on a helluva good live show. That’s the thing we pride ourselves in.

And when you finally get those kinds of people to come and see you, they’re going to go tell their friends. That’s the word-of-mouth spread — that grassroots thing — and to me, that is the thing we are missing the most in rock & roll today.

On a recent weekend, we were playing in Dayton, Ohio, and I convinced a group of people from the University of Kentucky [in Lexington] to come up and hang out with us there. A couple of them I already knew, but there were another 15 of them who didn’t have a clue about us, and were trying to get out of it because they did not want to go to a rock show. They wanted to go to a club and go dancing. If they were going to travel all that way, they wanted to go to a club with strobe lights and where they could see all the people dancing and have a few drinks.

But when they got to our show, they were like, “Wait a minute. This is exactly like that, with all that stuff, but it’s just a different type of music.” And that’s when it gets into our hands as performers. You’re now in our ballfield, and we’re about to show you how to hit a homerun. We didn’t want to miss our opportunity, so we hit it out of the park for those guys. And then we wound up selling about two CDs apiece to about 20 kids from University of Kentucky who had never heard us before — and that’s not even counting the other people who had come to the show as fans of another band playing that night who also became fans of ours.

“When you put on vinyl, there’s an atmosphere it creates that digital cannot touch.”

Those are the opportunities where, as a band, you have to show up and shell out. When you draw those fans in, no matter how they get there, you execute a good live performance, and you’ve got the second coming of where rock & roll should be.

Besides being into streaming, a lot of new music fans are also getting into vinyl.  

I love the sound of vinyl. I’ve got a pretty nice collection.

That’s nice to hear. Why does vinyl sound good to you?

I really do think you cannot beat the sound of digital, but there definitely is a difference when you’re playing — how do I put this — when your guitar comes through the speaker than when you’re sitting on the couch in your living room singing your songs. To me, that’s what vinyl is. When you put it on, there’s an atmosphere it creates that digital cannot touch.

Digital really does give you a sound that will literally blow your mind, that will make you feel like it’s real. But when you put that vinyl on, you don’t have to question that it is real. There’s no question of how they did that. You just sit there and enjoy the magic that it is. There’s an honesty to it that cannot be duplicated.

What are some of your favorite albums on vinyl?

I have the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1976) and Journey’s Greatest Hits (1988) on vinyl. And I have some of the old-school guys too — James Brown, and the blues. I dug into the blues a lot. My grandmother was really into the Motown world. When we started traveling around, I would slide into these shops — either they were record stores or some type of consignment shop — and I’d start picking them up. Some of them I never even listened to. I really just liked the album cover.

That is part of the mystique, when you connect with the cover. You have no idea what the music sounds like, but the cover makes you go, “Hey, that’s me. I don’t know what it is, but I know I like it.”

Shallow Side/Facebook

Yeah! “I really just like the artwork!” (chuckles) Someone took some time with the concept, and you can really see that. It speaks to you.

You guys have done something that’s easier said than done — you’re straddling generations, and bringing people together with the way your music connects with people from different walks of life.

Thanks. I guess that reaches back to that idea about how there’s a disconnect between where rock music was at one point and where it is today. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen the live footage of the men and women at those concerts, and those were young, good-looking people — college people, going to these dance clubs to see that music, and that was their weekend. They wanted to do those things, and, like I said earlier, nowadays, it’s not like that.

What people think they’re going to see at a rock concert is a set of like-minded people — the roughneck, leather-jacket, big, burly guys that want to be rough and ready all the time. Certain types of people feel they can’t go to a rock show anymore because they’re scared they’re going to wind up in a mosh pit.

So we’re looking to bridge that gap to bring the family together to where rock & roll was at one point where everybody is welcome. We have a firm foot planted there that says, “No more pop — the world needs rock & roll again.” They need to know there are still renegades on the run!