Holy Ghost, a buzzy electro duo signed to James Murphy's DFA Records, had a predicament this summer. Members Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser had already booked 20 dates for their first headlining U.S. tour, but were so strapped for touring dollars that they couldn't even afford to pay for a bus big enough to house the full band and all their gear - let alone an opening act.
Enter Green Label Sound,  Mountain Dew's in-house record label known for distributing music from artists like the Cool Kids, Chromeo and MNDR. The label first worked with the band when it co-released its 2009 single "I Will Come Back" with DFA, then again in 2010 when Green Label Sound sponsored Chromeo's headlining tour with Holy Ghost as the opening act. Now, Green Label Sound is sponsoring Holy Ghost's full fall tour, bringing on openers like Jessica 6, Eli Escobar and Midnight Magic, which kicks off Saturday, Oct. 29, at New York's Bowery Ballroom. The label is also releasing an exclusive single and music video from Holy Ghost featuring DFA labelmates The Juan Maclean on Nov. 10, a cover of Ministry's 1983 synth-pop duet "I Wanted To Tell Her."
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Frankel and Millhiser approached Green Label Sound directly about the tour sponsorship opportunity, a meeting even Mountain Dew's brand manager Hudson Sullivan was not expecting to take place.
"We were flattered they were willing to come back and work with us again," Sullivan tells Billboard.biz. "It speaks volumes about the program and how we're trying to work with these artists in a way that by no means asks them to compromise their integrity as artists. We just provide them with the means to do that - to give them the opportunity to tour on a legitimate basis with a band."
The value of Mountain Dew's support is not lost on Frankel, who said the band was starting to stress out about the logistics of getting from gig to gig on such a tight budget before the sponsorship was closed. "Everyone thinks going on tour is awesome, all the girls and whatever and awesome shows. But the reality of touring for a band at our level now is without a major label or tour support, there's a tremendous of logistical support needed. It's awesome when someone comes in and says, 'We're gonna help you.'"
The Green Label Sound budget also meant Holy Ghost! could shoot a DFA all-star video for "I Wanted To Tell Her" featuring Juan Maclean and Nancy Whang. Much like 2009's "I Will Come Back" music video was a shot-for-shot remake of New Order's 1983 "Confusion" video, "I Wanted To Tell Her" is a scene-for-scene tribute to the cult 1986 movie "Rad," featuring Maclean as the film's principal and Frankel and Millhiser as BMX racers.
The video's action-sports focus is a pure coincidence for Mountain Dew, which has been a longtime sponsor of action-sports events like its own Dew Tour. "One of the reasons we started Green Label Sound and to get more heavily into music was because the brand had this strong personality in action sports and skateboarding and dirt bikes. But what we realized was that all these other brands like the Red Bulls and the Monsters and the Amps of the world were starting to play in this space and that started to turn us off a bit," Sullivan says. "It was important to us to start working with artists like Holy Ghost that kind of mirror the sensibility of our brand - there's not really any other soft drink out there like it, just like there's no other band out there like a Holy Ghost or a Neon Indian or a Theophilus London."
Mountain Dew will receive on-site signage and product availability throughout the Holy Ghost - but any other branding opportunities will be strictly improvisational. "I can't take a pause after a song, swig a Mountain Dew and say, 'Ahhh,'" jokes Frankel. "But we're happy to take some branding in return for what we're getting to make. It just seems fair. No one's kicking anyone. It's not when you're on a major and someone says, 'OK guys, so JC Penney's gonna be sponsoring this tour and now you gotta plug JC Penney.' We get it. We're just grateful that someone is supporting us playing make-believe and making things."