The debut album release is still three months off, but response to the first single, "Ride To California," has North Carolina's Paper Tongues wagging with high expectations.
"It's been this ongoing thing," frontman Aswan North tells Billboard.com. "I wouldn't say we're getting used to it, but we definitely have an awareness that something is occurring that's outside our control, and it's very cool. We're pretty stoked."
That excitement comes from solid airplay and strong listener reaction for "Ride To California" at radio stations in San Deigo, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tucson. The track itself -- with its combination of hip-hop cadence, rock crunch and pop hooks -- is the culmination of North's relationship with producer Brian West (Nelly Furtado, K'Naan), who picked up on Paper Tongues from MySpace demos and invited North and company to Los Angeles at the end of 2006.
"It was something I freestyled in the studio with (West)," recalls North, a former boxer who formed the septet in 2006 with musicians he met at open mic-style jam sessions in the Uptown Charlotte area. "We were working on a different song, and I said, 'This beat goes with a rhythm I've got vocally' and a melody that makes me sound like an auctioneer, and I started doing it, and he flips out! He puts his hands on his forehead...and says, 'You don't understand what the hell you just did.' I'm like, 'What'd I do?' 'You just gave us an f-ing hit!'"
There's more where that came from on the album -- due out March 2 on A&M/Octone -- according to Randy Jackson, the "American Idol" judge who manages Paper Tongues and executive produced the 10-song set. "I'm blown away by a) how bold it is, b) how different it is and, most importantly, how hit-driven it is," Jackson notes. "They have artist-driven music that's commercially viable...What a concept!"
Other producers on Paper Tongues' debut include John Fields, Billy Hume and Mark Endert. North says the group plans to hit the road around the album's release and "keep touring our butts off continuously. My whole life has been about hard work, so that doesn't bother me. We want to get out there and play our music for anybody and everybody."