Sick Puppies Ride Touring, Free Hugs to Success
Sick Puppies Ride Touring, Free Hugs to Success

A combination of hard work and free hugs is helping Australian rockers Sick Puppies sniff out growing success in the United States.

The band has toured the United States relentlessly since relocating from Sydney to Los Angeles, playing more than 600 shows since its March 2007 domestic debut. "Maybe" (RMR/Virgin/Capitol), the band's latest single, has been omnipresent on Billboard's rock airplay charts during the last several weeks, peaking thus far at No. 11 on Alternative and No. 19 on Active Rock. The track has sold 64,000 downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"There are so many Australian bands with a great live reputation," Sick Puppies bassist Emma Anzai says. "But you've got to make a commitment to the territory. We just rolled our sleeves up and kept hammering."

Greg Thompson, EMI Music's New York-based executive VP of marketing and promotion, describes the group's slow-burn success as "a true story in artist development" and notes the song is now breaking at top 40 and hot AC radio. The song appears on "Tri-Polar," the band's third album overall after factoring in its Australia-only 2001 debut, "Welcome to the Real World" (BMG). "Tri-Polar" has moved 250,000 units since its U.S. release in July 2009, according to SoundScan. The set spawned a No. 1 on Active Rock with lead single "You're Going Down," which has scanned more than 401,000 copies.

But the band owes its initial 2006 breakthrough to more viral means. At the time, Sick Puppies singer/guitarist Shimon Moore had struck up a friendship with Juan Mann, whom he'd spotted in a Sydney mall carrying a "Free Hugs" sign. Moore created a video of Mann's random embraces with the public, soundtracked by the Sick Puppies' song "All the Same" from the 2007 album "Dressed Up As Life." The clip has since racked up nearly 65 million views on YouTube.

Sick Puppies-whose lineup is rounded out by drummer Mark Goodwin-wraps its current U.S. tour on Dec. 17. Then the next target is the United Kingdom, with a full-scale tour next year. The group made its initial U.K. live debut during a one-off gig at London's Barfly on Nov. 17.

"We've always wanted to play to as many people as possible," Anzai says, "all over the world."

EMI will release "All the Same" as a U.K. single on Dec. 20. A U.K. version of "Tri-Polar," featuring tracks from the U.S. album as well as songs from "Dressed Up," will follow in the spring.