When Drive-Thru Records first signed synth-pop act Hellogoodbye in 2004, the label had to keep its new band on the down low. Drive-Thru's multiyear deal with MCA/Geffen was coming to an end, and Drive-Thru co-founder Stefanie Reines didn't want to offer the major label a peek at its latest signing.

Drive-Thru's relationship with the Universal subsidiary included an upstreaming component that saw such rock acts as Senses Fail, the Starting Line, New Found Glory and Something Corporate, among others, all land with the major label. Reines was determined that this would not be the fate of Hellogoodbye.

"They would catch wind that this band was good and take them from us," she says of Geffen. "So we decided we would just put an EP online for free. We figured we could kind of do it under the radar."

It would prove to be one of the last things Hellogoodbye would do that was "under the radar." Two years and one stint on MTV's "The Real World" later, Hellogoodbye is taking Drive-Thru somewhere it's never been -- mainstream top 40 radio.

Hellogoodbye landed at No. 13 on The Billboard 200 in March with its debut, "Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!" The album has sold 150,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and single "Here (In Your Arms)" -- a slice of retro dance that's emo's answer to Cher's "Believe" -- is No. 62 on The Billboard Hot 100.

Singer Forrest Kline, who worked for the suburban Los Angeles-based Drive-Thru as a Web designer when he was 16, is not yet used to all the mainstream attention.

"We've gone into some radio stations and done interviews on this tour," Kline says. "I thought they'd be college station things, like the local college ska show. Instead they were [L.A. top 40 powerhouse] KIIS-FM."

Drive-Thru, whose releases are handled by Sony BMG's RED Distribution via an agreement with Sanctuary Records, did receive some unsolicited help in launching Hellogoodbye's career. The band was chosen by the cast of MTV's "The Real World: Austin" to be followed during the South by Southwest music conference, and Reines acknowledges it was a turning point in the band's career.

"We'd be wearing Hellogoodbye T-shirts and go shopping, and a 40-something-year-old guy, or a mother, would say something to us," Reines says. "So it was definitely outside of the normal realm of people we can reach."

The label then took the act to the rock audience that typically follows Drive-Thru releases, and booked the band a slot on this year's Warped tour. Drive-Thru spent about $20,000 upfront to market the album, and Reines notes that the label's deal with Sanctuary requires the latter to pay for retail pricing and positioning.

"We have to recoup it all, but that's the only way we can afford it," she says.

By the summer of 2006, Hellogoodbye had been touring long enough that the band was selling out 1,000-capacity venues. Reines expected a high chart debut, but even she was surprised when the set sold 41,000 first-week units. That persuaded her to start heavily pushing the band at top 40, and she credits the promotion departments at RED and Sanctuary in helping her get her foot in the door.

Rod Carrillo, program director at KNRJ Phoenix, says it's the fourth-most-requested song at his station. A club DJ at night, he put "Here (In Your Arms)" in rotation after witnessing crowds react to it on the dancefloor. For the week ending Nov. 26, the song received 23 spins at the station, according to Nielsen BDS.

"It's a breath of fresh air to see an indie making it," he says. "It's a rare record, and I first didn't know if it would work, but once I got some club mixes, and heard the vocals and the hook, I knew it would get a reaction."

Without the marketing budgets of major labels, Carrillo says it can be hard for indie labels to get the ears of program directors. Reines notes it has been a frustrating process at times, as more than one station has rebuffed her.

"Everyone loves to tell us they don't play Warped tour bands," she says. "If anyone thinks Hellogoodbye is a Warped tour band, they clearly never listened to the single."

For his part, Kline always thought there was one station that would latch onto his band. "I pictured some of our stuff on Radio Disney," he says. "I know a lot of toddlers that like us."

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