Powderfinger Exports Its Aussie Appeal Stateside

Austrailian rock act Powderfinger pledges hard work as the means of crossing its homeland success to the U.S. with its latest album, "Odyessy Number Five."

On its native ground, rock quintet Powderfinger has earned a slew of awards-including Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) Awards for album of the year and best rock album for 1998's "Internationalist," as well as song of the year for that disc's hit single, "The Day You Come."

Powderfinger's latest Universal Music Australia album, "Odyssey Number Five," is already five-times platinum in Australia (at 350,000 copies sold) after less than a year in the racks. That adds to the band's tally of multi-platinum discs, with "Internationalist" at four-times platinum and 1996's "Double Allergic" triple.

But how does the Aussie band build on such homegrown success while trying to sway U.S. audiences with its rich, Beatlesque melodies and thoughtful, heartfelt lyrics? By not giving the past a second thought, according to the band's lead singer, Bernard Fanning: "In Australia, we've been working so long there -- it feels good to have gotten to a certain level. In America, we haven't really done any work yet to deserve any major popularity. It sounds very Protestant work ethic, but we don't expect it."

Fanning believes that Powderfinger's first headlining tour of North America, which kicked off at the end of May, is the true way to interest a new legion of fans. The trek -- with Fanning joined by compatriots Ian Haug and Darren Middleton on guitars, John Collins on bass, and Jon Coghill on drums -- will hit 22 major cities in the Midwest and on the East and West coasts.

"This is going to be the most telling time I suppose," Fanning muses. "You have to put a certain amount of pressure on yourself to perform well and make sure that the things that you have control of, you actually pull off and do with aplomb."

"Odyssey Number Five" -- which was issued March 20 in the U.S. by Universal Music Group imprint Republic -- was of course not the instant success in the States that it was in Australia. The disc peaked at No. 35 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart on the way to selling 23,000 copies here to date, according to SoundScan.

The first single from "Odyssey Number Five," "My Happiness" -- a unique blend of catchy guitar riffs and "longing to be home" lyrics that was recently named song of the year at the 2001 Australian Performing Rights Association Awards -- reached No. 23 on Billboard?s Modern Rock Tracks chart and was picked up by radio station KROQ Los Angeles prior to the album's release.

While "My Happiness" has fallen out of heavy rotation on KROQ, some stations are continuing to give it high priority although Powderfinger is largely an unknown quantity to American rock fans.

Susan Groves, operations manager/program director for WHRL Albany, N.Y., says, "The audience doesn't really know who the band is, but they're just drawn to the song. The single is melodic, pretty. I think that, luckily, we're turning a corner from the Staind/Incubus/3 Doors Down/middle-of-the-road rock to an audience ready to accept a lot of things."

With the video for "My Happiness" still making the rounds, second single "Waiting for the Sun" was serviced to modern rock radio late last month. Additionally, the act will be taking part in radio shows for such stations as WNNX Atlanta and WBRU Providence, R.I.

"They are brand-new, and we have to keep our expectations in check," Republic president Avery Lipman says of Powderfinger. "We've got to be patient. And I think the band and the record itself is the best marketing tool we have."


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