May 17th, 2012, 7:30 am · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
It’s not every day that music industry heavy hitters like Fergie, Natasha Bedingfield, Grateful Dead legend Bob Weir, former MTV host Matt Pinfield and various other multiple award-winning artists, producers and industry executives zero in on judging unsigned music. Local rock trio Red9 currently has the attention of all of these judges and more as it enters the final round of the international John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
The group’s track “All They Reign” has made it through two rounds in the rock category of the annual contest and the group has collected more than $8,000 in prizes, including studio equipment from brands like Roland, Boss, Audio-Technica, Gibson, Epiphone and Propellerhead.
The band was notified on May 1 that it would go up against artists in the 11 other genre categories for the Song of the Year award, which would score Red9 $20,000, an Avid prize pack, a mixer and pair of studio monitors from Mackie, plus a $1,000 scholarship to the Digital Media Academy.
“We found out we won the first round the day before the OC Music Awards in March,” vocalist and bassist Jeff Lyons says. “We knew we had no hope of winning anything at the awards based on the competition, so receiving that was awesome and made everything OK.”
Check out Red9′s video for “Fanatico” in the player below.
Lyons, along with guitarist Paul Frislie and drummer Giovanni Fuentes, will find out if they’ve won in July.
Red9 also participated in the 2012 OC Music Awards’ best live band showcase series that began in January. Though the band didn’t make it to the finals – ultimately won by Huntington Beach heavy rock outfit Railroad to Alaska – Red9 was nominated for best rock (they lost to Thrice) as well as best music video for the track “Fanatico” (but Young the Giant’s “Cough Syrup” took home that prize).
“We were just happy to be nominated,” Lyons says. “Yeah, everyone says ‘it’s good to be nominated,’ but it really was for us. Our name is out there, someone recognized us and decided to put us in the competition … so we can’t really complain.”
Lyons met Frislie in 2005 after answering an online ad placed by a band in search of a drummer. The pair bonded over a mutual love of Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Deftones and Filter. They played in a local group called Countershock, but after two years that lot disbanded and the duo started over.
They continued writing songs, achieving a personal breakthrough in 2008 when Lyons recorded some key vocal tracks and sent them to Frislie. It was decided from then on that Lyons would move from drums to bass and assume the role as lead vocalist.
“I was kind of happy about it,” Lyons recalls, “but I didn’t want to be tied to the mic stand for an entire show. We kept looking for a singer and we never found anybody, so I kept doing it and no one said to me, ‘Hey, you suck, so stop it.’”
Later that year they dubbed themselves Red9 (a somewhat obscure Star Wars reference) and released an EP, 1 of 9. After a year and a half of more writing and performances, the group finally secured a full-time drummer and Fuentes joined up during final sessions for its full-length debut, The Host. In November, Red9 issued a second, self-titled album, this time with all three members participating fully in the process.
“We batted around all kinds of title names and pulled words from lyrics and all of that, but this album really felt like our first album,” Lyons explains. “Gio was barely involved in the first album because he had just joined the band, so he didn’t have an opportunity to help in the writing; a lot of the songs were created in our first band. We reworked them but it was kind of like cleaning out the closet.”
The guys have managed to book gigs steadily – most recently, they were able to play shows at House of Blues Anaheim and on a couple occasions have been added as support for one of its influences, Filter, including at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
“That show was cool because they hung around afterwards and we got to talk to them and it was a pretty intimate show,” Lyons remembers.
By day, these self-proclaimed computer geeks hold down regular jobs: Lyons is a graphics and web designer, Fuentes works in an IT department, Frislie is a traffic engineer. They don’t have any shows on the books in the next few months, as Frislie and his wife are expecting their first child in mid-June. But the band will play the OC Fair in July.
Hopefully by then they’ll have received word about whether they’ve won $20,000 from the songwriting contest.
“I mean, we’re up against the children’s category, pop, Latin, jazz … so who knows?” Lyons says with a laugh. “We’ve just really got our fingers crossed.”
Photos by Franklin Tay.
The latest from Encore: