On Sunday, long-serving Buffalo indie band More Than Me will realize a dream shared by so many rock musicians. The group will perform in London on a bill with Paul McCartney before tens of thousands of fans.
As winners of a Hard Rock Cafe-sponsored online Battle of the Bands, More Than Me -- Ryan Doyle, Todd Doyle, Justin Rizzo and Joey Nicastro -- will open the final day of Hard Rock Calling, a massive three-day festival held in London's Hyde Park, the very site where the Rolling Stones played their first concert following the death of founder Brian Jones in 1969. Sunday's bill is opened by More Than Me and closed by Sir Paul; the likes of Elvis Costello and Crosby Stills & Nash will perform between.
Earlier this week, singer/guitarist Ryan Doyle -- still reeling from the band's victory -- took some time out from his frantic pre-London schedule to chat about McCartney, More Than Me and what it means to be an independent band in the present-day music industry.
>How did your involvement with the Hard Rock contest come about?
Last February, we returned from a southern states tour, concluding with the House of Blues in Cleveland. Our first weekend home, we performed at the Hard Rock in Niagara Falls to celebrate our record contract in Japan -- where we will be touring this upcoming fall. We found out about the contest and what an amazing opportunity it was for us at that time.
>The band has strong support in Western New York. But in order to win the Hard Rock contest, you had to reach beyond just your local following. How did you do it?
We've been playing shows in Western New York and touring around the country as an indie band for years now. We honestly did not know if this was the right way of "making it" in the music industry, but we just went with our gut feeling.
Winning this contest ultimately clarified the vision we have as a band. We're grateful for the amazing amount of support from not only the people of Western New York, but the media in this area, who really rallied around us. Because of our continuous touring, we have had the advantage of performing in many states across the nation and garnering many fans in the process -- many of whom, we are happy to say, stepped up to vote for us! The band has also developed some pocket markets in cities like Rochester; Findlay, Ohio; Los Angeles; Toronto and Tallahassee, Fla.
Confirmed votes from soldiers in Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan and friends of friends who have heard our music in China, Sicily and Ghana, may have been what put our numbers over the top. New York City performances at Arlene's Grocery, the Knitting Factory and opening last summer for the Gin Blossoms at B.B. King's in Times Square has built a devoted New York City following. In addition, Twitter posts sent by celebrities like Times Square's Naked Cowboy and Western New York's own "So You Think You Can Dance" star Neil Haskell to their thousands of fans greatly helped us win.
>What do you think this means for the band, beyond the obvious pleasure of traveling to England and playing on such a killer bill? How do you plan to capitalize on the momentum this has created for you?
We, as a band, are so happy to have this opportunity to represent the U.S. as well as Western New York as the Hard Rock Ambassadors of Music. The thought of performing for over 60,000 people is mind-boggling! We can't believe the way perfect strangers stop us to share how they heard about the contest and in turn told their friends who told their friends, who voted for us! Our plan is to utilize the time around our performance onstage with these icons of music as the ultimate time for networking, hopefully springboarding our band to another level.
This could be "the break" for us, but we will not lose sight of the reason we write and play music -- because we love to perform. If we enjoy what we do, so will our audience. We plan on squeezing out every amazing moment of this experience and savoring each of them.
>Speaking of the lineup, which artists you'll be performing with have the most significance for the band, in terms of influence on you as musicians, writers and people?
Sir Paul McCartney is the biggest living name in music. We will be performing on the mainstage with him. As musicians, writers and people, this will be life-changing for us.
>The contest seems to highlight the massive changes in the way an independent band can market itself these days. How important has the "new model" of promotion -- MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc. -- been to More Than Me's growth?
As a band trying to promote a new, exciting, original project, we have to roll with the changes that are happening in this industry today -- i.e. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. We have to network in every and any way available to us. These "new models" or modes of promotion were absolutely how this whole contest snowballed, in Western New York and beyond here. The purist in me still believes if we have a hit song, it will carry itself to the top. Yet we always try to be actively aware of new styles of networking on the Web.
>What's next for the band? Writing, recording, touring? All of the above?
After playing on the mainstage in Hyde Park, we fly back to the States. We climb back in our van and head out to Summerfest in Milwaukee -- an 11-day music festival. It's billed as the biggest music fest in the U.S., and we'll be opening in support of Santana, O.A.R., the Roots and the Hold Steady. Of the 800 bands performing, we are very proud to be voted as one of the 11 newcomer bands featured on the compilation CD. Our song, "Unconditional Truth," which was a VH1-Save the Music "Songoftheyear.com" contest winner in 2009, will be on this CD, and 15,000 copies will be distributed to industry and fans at the festival.
We also have performances with the Hard Rock as part of our winnings. These include Aug. 7 opening for Tonic, and playing at Boston's Hard Rock, hopefully with Boston's runner-up band, Kingston 530.
We're also excited about our Aug. 28 headlining performance at the Tralf celebrating our 10th anniversary as a band.
Learn more via www.morethanme.com and www.hardrockcalling.co.uk