Nite: A.K.A. can really pay
Original bands find financial security performing covers
Some bands take the phrase “going under cover” to a whole new level.
Cover bands like Shoeless Joe and Mugsy (both of whom perform at the Black Brimmer regularly) are more than meets the eye; they are Vegas Temper and Bionic, respectively.
Vegas Temper and Bionic are original bands that, from time to time, change their name, step on stage and perform cover songs.
These cover shows bring in the type of cash that small-time original bands just can’t generate. That cash can go toward big-time costs that small bands can’t handle, like recording albums, paying producers, buying equipment and traveling to shows.
“Most bands will easily make five times as much playing covers as they would playing originals, definitely,” said Justin Pacy of Vegas Temper. “You make a little bit of money [as a cover band] that actually funds the original project, so we’re not taking any money out of our pockets.”
Both Vegas Temper and Bionic evolved from their cover band alter egos, but,, neither band wants to be known as a cover band, hence the pseudonyms.
Those with two faces
Back in the ‘90s, when Bionic didn’t exist, only Mugsy did, the guys of Mugsy wanted a change of pace.
“We were essentially known as a cover band but we had a passion to write our own material,” said Bionic’s Steven Archambault.
The problem was, people associated Mugsy with being a cover band.
“At shows, people would ask who was opening. Someone would say ‘Mugsy,’ and [the people] would say, ‘Oh, I thought they were a cover band.’”
Mugsy needed to make a change in order to make a name as original band; that’s when Bionic was born.
Shoeless Joe followed a similar path. When Pacy joined the band two years ago, Shoeless Joe decided to focus more attention on original music. They knew they needed a new name for their new venture, and that’s when Vegas Temper came to light.
But, at the same time, they knew that as a cover band they brought home some serious bacon.
So, they held onto Shoeless Joe as well.
But, just like Bionic, Vegas Temper doesn’t want to be associated with cover tunes.
“When people come to a Vegas Temper show we want them to say ‘hey, play track three off [Novicain, their debut album],’” Pacy said. “We don’t want them saying ‘Hey, why don’t you play that Alice in Chains song that you do?’”
That’s why both bands are very adamant about not performing cover songs when using their original-band names.
Those with one face
Betterman’s Rule is an original band, who mixes up their setlist with some cover songs. They face the problem of maintaining a reputation as an original band while still performing cover songs (which often helps get gigs).
“If you want to be an original band, it’s hard to forget the money you get from being a cover band,” said Bobby Whitworth of Betterman’s Rule.
“We’re just nervous that we’re gonna like getting $800 bucks [for a gig] and forget what it’s all about: selling CDs,” he said.
But bands like Vegas Temper and Bionic aren’t selling out, in their opinions, because they’re putting forth the effort on their original projects.
“We all love to play, and that’s why we do this,” Pacy said.
And the original bands seem to be top priority for both Vegas Temper and Bionic.
While Vegas Temper has two well-designed Web sites, Shoeless Joe has a bland, outdated site.
“We try to keep it as separate as possible, so people take the original stuff more seriously,” Pacy said.
Bionic’s site is updated and fantastic looking, but you won’t easily find a site for Mugsy.
“It’s such a side project for us that the only way you can find it is by going to the links section on the Bionic page,” Archambault said.