Any band can score thousands of MySpace fans just by clicking the site's "Add to Friends" command for a few hours. But Ollie Byrd has the sound to make the conversion complete.
Any band can score thousands of MySpace fans just by clicking the site's "Add to Friends" command for a few hours. But Ollie Byrd  has the sound to make the conversion complete.
"I was trying to capture something that's between the Sex Pistols and AC/DC," Byrd says. "I was looking for that point of origin, where punk and metal met. I discovered that sound came from [glam rock act] Slade. Go figure."
Byrd's first major stab at rock stardom originated with Seattle troupe Yeek Yak Air Force. The group recorded an album with Phil Ek, who has worked with such indie-rock royalty as Built to Spill, Modest Mouse and the Shins.
Byrd took what knowledge he could from the album-making process and then left the band in 2004 for digs in New York. By harnessing the power of MySpace, he built his own circle of devotees, and was picked up by micro-indie Stereotype, which released his self-produced effort "Barrel O' Fun."
Since its release this year, the album has sold nearly 5,000 copies through the label's Web site  alone, according to Stereotype co-owner Philip Golden. Considering Stereotype's limited means of distribution and promotion (essentially none), Golden has been pleasantly overwhelmed by the demand. With no commitment to the label beyond "Barrel O' Fun," Stereotype's Web presence has helped set up Byrd for something larger.
"National distribution for bands that aren't on tour nationally makes no sense," Golden says. "If Ollie doesn't go to Mississippi, there's no reason to have records in physical stores there. If we had a national hit, radio hit or artists that kill themselves on tour all over the place, then we'd consider doing distribution like that. But if we sent out 5,000 records to stores, we'd get 4,900 back. This way, we just make them when people want them. And they seem to want Ollie's CD a lot."
"Barrel O' Fun" should appeal to fans of everything from Led Zeppelin to Beck to the Arcade Fire. With murky production and otherworldly vocal chops, Byrd brings an unusual, unschooled and unpolished engineering touch to his songs, in which crunchy guitars and chomping percussion meet his growling vocals.
"I like him because he's truly original, different and a very creative artist," says John Richards, host of triple-A KEXP Seattle's "John in the Morning" show. "I'm not sure what the kind of person who listens to him is, but I would guess it's someone who doesn't listen to mainstream, boring, dial-it-in rock."
Bryd is an idealist. He would most like to reach out to his fans perched from the edge of a "big, expensive" stadium stage.
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