Rising Alberta band Stereos produced two Top 10 hits — Raise Ya Hands Up and Summer Girl — for the Universal Music label since blowing judges away on the MTV show disBAND.
But going back a year or two, the group had barely registered with Edmonton music fans before appearing on the last season of the disBAND reality show.
So why were members of a rarely talented group, that had radio-ready songs and a catchy hip hop/pop style, still having to work in retail to make ends meet?
“They really had no success in Edmonton — they were still trying to get people to come out to their shows,” said the band’s drummer Aaron Verdonk, who joined Stereos just after its disBAND success.
Verdonk believes talent isn’t enough when everyone owns a home recording studio. “There’s an over-saturation of bands these days.
“You could be in a really good group and no one will know you because everybody and his brother is in a band, and everyone and their cousin has a demo tape.”
“You need a catalyst,” he said — and for Stereos, who perform Saturday at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre, it was coming to the attention of music industry types, via the high-profile TV show.
The program disBAND followed the band through three name changes and various hardships, like two road trips to Toronto.
It revealed the band’s disappointment after driving across Canada, to discover they hadn’t yet secured a spot at a band showcase event. (Of course, they ended up with one).
Among those who gave Stereos the thumbs up was KISS member Gene Simmons, who isn’t a regular show member, but made an on-camera appearance.
Verdonk said this association was short-lived.
While the KISS frontman is on the lookout for Canadian music talent, Verdonk said creative “disagreements” made it clear Stereos and Simmons were not on the same path. “We were going to go our own way.”
Verbonk first befriended the Stereos musicians through disBAND (he’s a friend of a band mentor on the program). He was later asked to take over from the original drummer, who “wasn’t ready to do the music thing full-time,” said Verbonk.
He believes he was a good fit with other group members because he also grew up in Edmonton to the age of 11, when his father graduated with a medical degree and moved the whole family back to his native Ontario.
“It, absolutely, gave us an immediate bond.”
Verbonk, who gives his age as 23, but sounds more mature (Wikipedia puts him at 26), said his own background was with a band called Closet Monster. He also wrote television theme songs for programs, including YTV’s Adrenaline Project.
Appearing on disBAND didn’t influence the way Stereos make music, said Verbonk — songs are still largely created by lead singer Pat Kordyback, with input from the musicians.
But it did alter the group members’ perceptions of themselves.
“The show gave us a bit of a rock star vibe,” Verdonk added. Just realizing the band had something special was a confidence booster, and “you need to have a bit of an ego,” he added.
The reality show also “gave us a great jumping off point,” and finally allowed Stereos members to focus on their music.
“We all got to quit our (side) jobs. I had done just about every retail job out there . . . ”
Stereos play with The Midway State at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Memorial Centre in Red Deer. Tickets are $31.30 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre.