7Horse playing their AAA Top 40 single "Low Fuel Drug Run"
A 20-year member of Los Angeles rock ensemble Dada, drummer Phil Leavitt is no newcomer to the music business. Leavitt and Dada bassist Joie Calio formed their own band 7Horse last year, and dropped the hard-rocking debut, Let the 7Horse Run.
The first single, "Low Fuel Drug Run," managed to make the AAA Top 40 radio chart, a rare event for an indie band without a label.
After touring hard most of the year, Leavitt and Calio decided to release one more single from the album, a raw, explosive rocker with a riff from hell called "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker."
The response from radio has been, according to Leavitt, "dismal."
Rocks Off caught up with Leavitt as he was leaving a boxing gym near his home after a workout. Apparently he was there beating up the body bag, working off a little steam. A life long baseball enthusiast and player, he was totally stoked that Roger Clemens was about to pitch again in the minor leagues.
Rocks Off: You mentioned the title of the new single is causing you some problems with radio acceptance. Did you really think it wouldn't be a problem?
Phil Leavitt: Look, what is radio's job, what's their goal, day in, day out? To sell advertising. How do they do that? They play stuff that keeps people from changing the station.
How do you do that? Play shit people like, play stuff that grabs people. And play enough of it that they're afraid they'll miss something good or new if they go roaming. That track is probably our best song so far. It rocks hard, it's got a killer pocket, and it's not really like everything else on radio. But now everyone in radio has turned Chicken Little overnight.
Rocks Off: So why not just change the title if they're balking at saying it on the air?
PL: Fuck that! That song is not even about meth or a meth lab. That's just something in the first line. The damn song is about a guy saying he's got a big dick and he likes to fuck. If you're going to shy away from that, rock and roll is dead and so is radio. So go ahead and go out of business, you idiots.
We all know radio is a dying industry, but why would they want to hurry the end along? It's crazy. Put some goddamn songs on the radio that keep people from changing the dial and you'll be successful. Otherwise, might as well just go on and put yourself out of your misery.
RO: So what is the title all about anyway?
PL: You remember on Led Zepellin IV, they had these emblems as part of the artwork? Well, a Zoso sticker was Jimmy Page's emblem. Used to be you saw those things everywhere [Rocks Off checked and, yes, you can still buy these stickers on Amazon.]
You'd be in some shithole place in rural Arkansas, some backwoods place perfect for a meth lab, and you'd see a rusty old Dukes-of-Hazard car up on blocks and it would have a zoso sticker on it. Those things would pop up time and again.
So program directors, the goddamn song is not about meth or meth labs. The lyric is "I've got a meth lab Zoso sticker rolled up in my pocket, got a seven-inch trigger finger, don't know how to stop it." I mean, do I have to do a "wink, wink" at these radio guys, like "Do you get it, it's a metaphor for a penis"?
RO: Your last song was called "Low Fuel Drug Run." What do you think the difference is this time?
PL: It's got to be the term "meth lab." But that's just stupid. These are the same stations and program directors who played "Low Fuel Drug Run." Anyway, come on, none of these people ran away when Eric Clapton did "Cocaine." People didn't hear "Cocaine" and turn off their radios, and it was about drugs. What century is this again?
RO: So you've hired a radio pusher, and he's hitting all this resistance?
PL: Yeah, we hired a radio pusher. Isn't that a great term in connection with this song?
I can understand that some public station at a Jesuit college doesn't want to run with it, but we got all kinds of airplay with "Low Fuel Drug Run" from Cumulus stations, big corporate AAA stations all over the country. And suddenly they're balking at this completely rocking song?
That's what is so infuriating for a band like us. We record a good album, we get in the van and tour, we go to the radio stations, we play their events and things. That's what we know how to do best, play a good show, be professional, make it be about the music. That's the business model we know and understand.
Now, people are saying there all these ways for bands to break themselves. Early on we were approached by this guy who said he'd make us this video that would maybe go viral. Well, yeah, we could try to make a viral video, but I'm not gonna do that.
I like songs, I like gigs, I like to rock. We're about the music, the song. I don't want to learn that other shit, Twitter and videos and all that. Playing gigs and rocking hard, that's what we know how to do. So we figure let's do that instead of trying to play somebody else's game.
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It's like these bands you've never heard of that have ten jillion fans on Facebook. How does that happen? I'm on Facebook a lot, promoting our shows, keeping in touch with fans the way everyone says you're supposed to, trying to use that tool.
But screw it, I'm a rock and roll drummer. I liked my life a lot better before I knew about fucking Facebook.