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A LOCAL BAND THAT'S KEEPING THE FAITH

It's been seen countless times on MTV and VH1: A young band is mobbed by fans to the point a security escort is needed.

When it happened at the recent Kiss the Summer Hello concert, it wasn't for national stars like the Go-Gos, Ja Rule or 98 Degrees, but for the Niagara County rock quartet Seven Day Faith.

The talented young act had fans lining up for four hours waiting to get autographs, photos, and whenever possible, a quick hug. A table was crushed, people were running around, and, finally, the group was escorted out of Dunn Tire Park.

"It's the first time I've ever seen a band with a mania - there were girls screaming everywhere," said Tom Barone of ESI, the company that oversaw production of the Kiss show.

In years to come, that Kiss concert may be remembered as a defining moment in the young band's career.

"It was insanity. We weren't prepared for it. It was wild, intense - it was unbelievable," singer Rob Bilson, 23, recalls. SDF sold nearly $4,000 worth of merchandise that day, including more than 350 copies of its debut CD "Life Says We Think Too Much." Within two weeks, the band received 450 e-mails (and has personally answered every note).

As unbelievable as that was for Bilson and his bandmates - guitarist John Rosini, bassist Kevin Ernst and drummer Rob Ferenc - it continues a fairly monumental year for the quartet that's whipped up quite a buzz with supermodel looks, clean-cut demeanor and a talent for singing, playing and writing some pretty nifty pop songs. The band has gained exposure in the national teen magazine J-14 (alongside superstars 'N Sync and Mandy Moore) and high-profile local gigs at Six Flags Darien Lake (once opening for Vitamin C) and an Aug. 9 date at Thursday at the Square.

Fans love the group's appealing combination of fresh, catchy pop music, positive lyrics, a magnetic stage presence and an off-stage approachability. Katie Sampson, 16, of Kenmore first saw SDF at the Tralf a year ago and says she has tried to make it to every show since.

"They put on such an awesome show. Their singing and playing showed that these guys had real talent. SDF isn't just a really talented band, they are four really nice guys," Sampson said.

Being a good-looking guy group in today's oversaturated teen band climate makes it easy to lump SDF in with other "boy bands," but fans say that's a mistake.

"SDF differs from 'N Sync because they play music. They are a band, not a group of entertainers. They write their own music and perform it; they don't do a routine. They are not a boy band, but at the same time, it's not hard rock," fan Kerri Kanaley, 18, said after attending the recent 'N Sync show at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

SDF mania is catching on to the point the guys can't eat ice cream at Anderson's, tacos in the Walden Galleria or dance at a downtown club without attracting recognition usually reserved for national rock stars.

People know the songs

Yet Bilson says it's not the notoriety that's the biggest kick, but that people know the songs.

"A girl came up to me at Utopia and said she just saw us play and then started singing one of our songs. That made me so happy," Bilson said. "It's great to be recognized, but we have to laugh about it, too. We were approached by a group of girls at the Galleria and asked where our bodyguards were. After they left, we're just sitting there eating tacos and contemplating our future."

They may laugh about it, but others are taking serious notice and giving the musicians plenty to contemplate. The band has sold nearly 2,000 copies of "Life Says We Think Too Much" in the past six months (the disc is now in its second run); has more than 700 members in its "Friends of the Faith" fan club (through www.sevendayfaith.com), and was the first unsigned band to grace the pages of the national teen magazine, J-14.

A mission for a contract

And, if J-14's editor-in-chief Janet Giovanelli has her way, the band won't remain unsigned for long. One listen to the band's pop-infused debut won over the editor, a difficult feat considering she's surrounded daily by some of today's most popular pop acts.

"It was just fabulous. The music is a nice mix of pop and alternative rock. I couldn't believe the band wasn't signed," said Giovanelli, who has made it her mission to get the band inked to a contract. "They deserve it. We really believe in their ability as musicians and in their star potential."

Last September, the band was invited to J-14's pre-MTV Awards party attended by the likes of 'N Sync, Ben Affleck and Limp Bizkit (the invitation has been extended again for this year). Giovanelli said she could have spent time with those superstars, but was repeatedly drawn to Seven Day Faith by the band's charisma and down-to-earth demeanor.

"I found that I kept talking to them throughout the party," she said.

The magazine has since brought the band to New York City for a photo shoot, featured SDF in two issues and arranged an industry showcase. The band is named an "up-and-coming band to keep an eye on" in the magazine's August issue (hitting newsstands July 13) and Giovanelli had the band keep a diary and interview acts at the Kiss the Summer Hello concert for an upcoming story.

"We think this will be great for our readers," Giovanelli said. "We can write all we want, but we can't give our readers the perspective Seven Day Faith can."

They go way back

Childhood friends Bilson, Rosini and Ferenc started playing music together while attending LaSalle Senior High School and were later joined by Ernst. Rosini recalls that it was apparent early on they had the talent to write music.

"When we first started playing out, people reacted more to our original songs than our covers. When we saw the response, we began to focus on writing music," Rosini says. "From the get-go, we tried to make every song a hit, to give 110 percent on every song, and to write a catchy chorus someone can sing along to."

Kiss Program Director Dave Universal said the band's easy-on-the-ears music has the potential to score Top 40 hits. ESI's Barone agrees, adding he often finds himself singing their songs.

"They're writing hits. They have a great sound, they have great music and a great attitude. This band has a bright future," Barone said.

And music is only part of the appeal for Bill Hedrick, general manager for BuffaloTrax, a company promoting independent original music through live events and a syndicated radio show.

"In terms of promotion and working the crowd, they are the best young band I've seen in five years. They have it all going for them. They work so hard on their presentation and live show, that we know they will give everything they've got and the audience will be happy," Hedrick said. "And once you become a fan, they will do everything to keep you a fan."

A young audience

The band understands its growing audience is largely comprised of teens and young adults, and the musicians see it as an honor, not an embarrassment.

"We're enjoying this. We know that when you're younger, music plays a major role in your life. That's the time people find bands they love for life. When I was in high school, music helped me get through relationships, it helped me find myself. These are the people the music means the most to -- it has a very emotional time for them. I find it extremely exciting and amazing I have the opportunity to be involved in their lives," Bilson said.

The adulation, recognition and magazine exposure is great, and the band isn't taking anything for granted: Recently they were out on the Chippewa strip talking to people and handing out special promotional CDs that included an insert with summer dates.

"We worked really, really hard to get to this point," Bilson said. "Our music has been good enough to get us some great shows and into J-14, but we know we have to work even harder to get to the next step. We want to make a living out of our music."

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