Dead Sara rock the Sunset Strip Music Festival's main stage. (Photo: Nicole Pajer)
For a band without the support of a major label, Dead Sara has made some major career strides. You can hardly turn on rock radio these days without hearing their "Weatherman" single (at least not in Los Angeles).
The foursome, led by raspy voiced singer Emily Armstrong, performed on the latest Warped Tour - before having to pull out early due to guitarist Siouxsie Medley fracturing a rib -- and are about to hit the road with the Offspring and Neon Trees. Then they'll be playing on the ShipRocked music cruise and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
One of the most buzzed-about about acts at last weekend's Sunset Strip Music Fest, Dead Sara performed on the main stage opening for Black Label Society, Bad Religion, The Offspring, and Marilyn Manson. Despite a delayed start time and blazing mid-day temperatures, the quartet packed in thousands who were treated to a new tune titled "Blue Was The Feeling For You." Those lucky enough to attend the fest's kickoff celebration of The Doors two nights prior, witnessed Armstrong belt out a lively rendition of "Soul Kitchen," alongside Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger.
Armstrong told Billboard.biz after the show that the band attributes their success to playing live. "We've played so many shows we've lost track," she said.
Medley said the band's online presence contributed as well (the group is working with digital-marketing company Bright Shop), as has their own street team. "They're called the Dedicated," she explains. "We tried it on the Vans Warped Tour -- we gave free tickets to people that helped out.
Dead Sara co-manager Isaac Heyman with the band's Emily Armstrong, Siouxsie Medley, Chris Null, Sean Friday (Photo: Nicole Pajer)
Isaac Heymann, who does A&R for Leverage Entertainment, with business partner Michael Goldberg have been managing Dead Sara for three years. "The first thing we did when we discovered them was to sit down ask them what they wanted," he said. "A lot of people don't do that in the music business: They tell them, 'You need to go and get a record deal.' The band told us that they've been down that road before and it didn't feel right. We formulated a plan so they can accomplish everything that they want."
The band started its own label, Pocket Kid Records, which is distributed by INgrooves Fontana. "We're learning so much more about the industry this way rather than just being the artist," Medley said. "Every artist, with their own label or not, should definitely be aware of everything going on and understand it."
Heymann credits the band's initial success to Mike Karolyi, program director for Connecticut radio station WCCC (the band is working with CO5 Music for radio promotion and CO5 Media for publicity). "We did 'The Sunset Sessions' and all we said was we wanted to come out with one program director that wants to add the record," he said. "Mike Karolyi ran up to me, freaking out. He saw them soundchecking and said, 'What the hell is that? I've never heard anyone sing like that before.' He was flying out and I said, 'Change your flight, they're playing at 8:00.' I thought I'd never see him again. He changed his flight, stayed; I gave him an advance copy of the CD. He went back, started playing 'Weatherman' on his radio station and said 100% of the feedback was positive. And it took off from there."
Ta-da! Dead Sara's Emily Armstrong (Photo: Nicole Pajer)
Heymann understood Karolyi's enthusiasm. "When I heard their music, I was so affected by it - that's why I wanted to get into the music business, to find something like that. I waited until Emily and Siouxsie put the full band together, and I introduced myself after a show and said, 'I've been listening to you for a year and I have to manage you."
While Heymann is proud of everything the band has accomplished on their own, he doesn't rule out working with a larger entity. "We are always open to the right partners who believe in the band's vision and express passion for their music," he said. "We are building a solid foundation right now that the band can build a long-lasting career from. Partners who support that and are willing to contribute to this development are welcome."
Armstrong says she's still pretty shocked by the success. "I really felt like we had a chance to make it as a band when we finished the record," she said. "That, and when we finally got road cases for our guitars. I was like, 'Oh my God. We are ready!" she laughed.
But there's still one more landmark the group has to reach: playing shuffleboard with Korn's Jonathan Davis on the ShipRocked cruise. "That's my dream," says bassist Chris Null.