Dawn of the Idols

Posted July 3, 2008 in Music

If the guys in Gillmor had to name a favorite TV station, they’d probably cite Fox out of sheer gratitude. Why? The California alt-pop band (which mostly hails from the IE) was featured prominently during two of the network’s programs last spring.  

Unhitched, a mid-season replacement co-created by the Farrelly Brothers, used Gillmor’s upbeat “Hey” as its theme song. The sitcom only lasted six episodes, but provided valuable national exposure—especially for an unsigned group.

“Everybody I knew was watching the [debut],” recalls singer/guitarist Ryan Gillmor, from his home in Northern California. “The calls and text messages started pouring in as soon as the intro was over . . . when it came on and I heard my voice, I thought, ‘this is ridiculous.’ It was overwhelming and on such a bigger scale than anything I’d ever done.”

Two months later, he’d trump that by entering his ballad “In This Moment” in the “American Idol” songwriting competition. “They notified me that I made the top 50 and ‘Idol’ creator Simon Fuller was choosing the top 20 semifinalists himself,” the front man explains. He survived the next round and finally the top 10, which was decided by Internet votes. Teenage contestant David Archuleta picked “Moment” to sing on the two-part May season finale. 

“My cousin from Florida called after it aired and told me ‘they said your name; Andrew Lloyd Webber and Clive Davis were reading your lyrics.’ To see somebody else do one of my songs for the first time, on the biggest show in the world, was crazy. I taped it and probably watched it 20 times that night.”

“It was so surreal,” echoes Tyler Thompson, the band’s keyboardist and a San Bernardino native. “Out of nowhere, I’m sitting in my living room, watching someone on television, singing a song we wrote. It was a real proud moment for us.”

Both TV tunes can be found on Counting the Days. The impressive first EP from the band ranges from the dramatic power ballad “Without You” and groovin’ Maroon 5-styled “I Don’t Love You” to the screaming-to-be-a-country-hit “Kids Will Be Kids” and Jack’s Mannequin-like “Back to You.”

Thompson says “there’s an innocent vibe to our music and it comes specifically from Ryan’s childhood growing up. He’s a Disneyland fanatic and has tons of memorabilia.”

 When in SoCal, Ryan admits to making frequent Magic Kingdom trips “like a total dork. It comes across in some of my songs.” Simplicity is the key. “Some people might say [the music and lyrics aren’t] tough enough, but I don’t really care. If it’s a good song that makes you move and feel good, then ‘screw it’.”

 Sugarcult’s Tim Pagnotta co-wrote and produced “Hey.” “The quality of music from his studio sounds phenomenal; I was a huge Sugarcult fan,” raves Gillmor. “To get to work with him has been an honor.” Loren Israel (Plain White T’s) oversaw the rest and Tom Higgenson provides backing vocals on two tracks. The T’s leader initially appeared on a previous Ryan Gillmor solo EP and the pair stayed friends.

 “The second time was right when ‘Hey There Delilah’ hit big and he was slammed,” explains Gillmor. “To take that time out, when he had so much stuff going on, was really cool of him. [Tom] didn’t have to do it and wasn’t making any money. He just really liked the music.”

 As a result of the TV shows, the year-old group—rounded out by IE residents Jake Harrison (guitar), Jimmy Marvich (bass) and Justin Ivey (drums)—has been fielding record label offers and doing music industry showcases. Modern rock stations in the Sacramento area, where the vocalist has a following from previous solo acoustic gigs and old local bands, put “Hey” in regular rotation. The guys also appeared on the Mark & Brian radio show. “We joked around the entire time,” says Thompson. “That did a lot for us; we got a lot of contacts.”

 Locally, Gillmor received airplay on X103.9 FM. Last week, they played NPR and just performed at a Stockton rock festival, alongside Metro Station, 10 Years, Finger Eleven and others.

 “[Idol] really blew things up,” says Ryan Gillmor. “Everything is at a new level since then and taken a turn for the better. Everything is finally coming together.” 

Gillmor, Streets of Rage, the Dares at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802. Saturday, July 5, 7pm; $10. Tickets at www.ticketmaster.com, www.myspace.com/gillmormusic. For more of the interview, go to www.newwavegeo.blogspot.com


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