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Still Drinking and Fighting 

Flickerstick doesn't let VH1 contest win go to their heads

They may have won the contest, but the members of Flickerstick weren't exactly the darlings of VH1's Bands on the Run TV series. The show, which tracked the 'Stick along with three other unsigned acts for eight weeks as they toured throughout the US, caught the five guys from Dallas, TX doing everything on camera from puking in a nightclub restroom to pissing in a hallway at a private, after-hours party. So, how did the band who hardly did anything extra to earn the sacred "bonus points," with a guitarist who was usually too drunk to even form words at some of the weekly wrap-up meetings, come out on top? While Rolling Stone may attribute it to the band's funny underdog appeal, the victory is still a bit of a mystery even for lead vocalist Brandin Lea.

"We weren't really into the whole contest part of it," he explains. "That's why we were so surprised that we actually won." As he continues, Lea willfully admits that Flickerstick never had intentions of winning. "The whole goal of getting on the show for us was not really to win at all, it was just to get on VH1, get some exposure, get our name out there, and who cares if we got second or fourth.

"We just wanted to play our music," he says. "We didn't really care about the selling merchandise part of it for the show. And somehow it ended up working for us. We still don't really know how."

As it turns out, Bands on the Run wasn't the show VH1 originally intended to feature the 'Stick. Initially, the music network sought Lea and his bass-playing brother, Fletcher, for a one-shot program on Rock & Roll siblings.

The singer explains, "VH1 had a treatment for a show that started out about siblings in bands and that's how we originally got contacted. We went through the audition process for that show and then they came up with the idea for Bands on the Run."

Despite their obvious anti-contest sentiment (note: see episode with the national anthem contest), Flickerstick decided to participate in the show, but only after some careful consideration.

"We didn't really want to do it. We were really skeptical about it, but it's hard to walk away from something like that when you've had so many other friends in bands that were really good but didn't go anywhere because they didn't get the right break. We thought this may make the difference of us having a career or being another good band that didn't get the break, so we just took it. I wish we didn't have to, but it was fun," he laughs.

Fun and also very rewarding, for the most part. Although the guys may have lost their girlfriends once they returned home, their grand prize package should have certainly helped soften the blows. The band was awarded $50,000 cash, $100,000 in gear from Guitar Center, an A&R Showcase for record industry folk and a music video that VH1 promised to spin in heavy rotation. To top it off, shortly after the conclusion of the series, the 'Stick landed a record deal with Epic Records -- a deal Lea would like to emphasize as not being a part of the winnings.

"We would like to stress the point, because there seems to be a misconception that we won a recording deal through the show and actually that's the exact opposite of what has happened to most of the bands," he affirms. "The Epic deal came on our own, about four to five months later, and with some debate.

"I think the TV show itself scared away a lot labels," he continues. "A lot of people assumed that we were all going to get signed because we were on a TV show, but a lot of the labels didn't even know what the show was and it kind of deterred them away. It changed for us once they came to a couple of our shows and heard our CD, but I don't believe the show really helped us that much in getting a record deal."

Whatever the case, Flickerstick signed a deal and their major label debut, Welcoming Home the Astronauts was released late last year. And as it turns out, the album is essentially a re-launch of the band's independent release from 2000.

"The Epic debut came out in November [2001] and it's basically the same material from our indie release. I'm actually very proud of that because I'd rather put out something we had most of the control in doing than be like some bands that get signed and the label has all this input and changes the band. All the changes we did were our own idea and it was stuff that we really didn't get to do or have the money to do the first time around.

"Honestly, I'm looking forward to making a new album because to us, a lot of these songs are three to four years old," admits Lea. "We've already got enough material to do another album immediately, but they're keeping us busy on the road. We do have some recording equipment in the back of the tour bus we're using to record demos so, when we do make an album, it won't take eight months to track and all that craziness. Hopefully we'll be able to go in, bang out another album and they'll put it out soon after. But I would say a new album wouldn't even be near release for close to a year."

In the meantime, Flickerstick will continue to strengthen their touring legs, something they've been doing since the VH1 series ended last summer. "After the show, we toured for nine months straight," he says. "We did close to 250 shows over the past year." And last week the band kicked off a headlining tour that'll more than likely take them well into March. According to Lea, the band opted to do a small headlining tour instead of going on the road as support for a more popular act.

"We've discussed being a supporting act, and we had a couple of offers that we turned down just because we're extremely picky on who we go out with. I won't drop any names, but there were a couple of big radio acts that had asked us to come out this Spring, and we just said no.

"We're looking to support in the Spring, we just want to support someone that we really like, not some cheesy band that's on the radio that happens to draw. We want to do it, it just needs to be a band that we can actually get behind."

And despite all the changes occurring in the band's career, for now the rowdy bunch of drunkards we came to know through the TV show will remain just that.

"Changed? Well, uhh, we've, uhh, actually, we're still the same. We get this stereotype as this drinking, fighting band from Texas, and that's pretty much what we still are. We've been that way since we were 13 so it's probably not going to change anytime soon."

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