…of the switch
Whenever a band gets signed to a major label within a year of its formation, odds are good it’ll be a distant memory by the time the next year rolls around. But if this tried-and-true pattern worries Oran Thornton, singer and guitarist for Stockton, Missouri’s Flick, he’s not letting on.
“I don’t worry about it coming to an end,” says Thornton. “When you’re in the middle of writing and recording a record, you worry sometimes about it even getting off the ground, more than anything… that’s where I am right now.”
His confidence may not be unfounded. Flick — consisting of Thornton, his vocalist/guitarist brother Trevor, bassist Eve Hill, and drummer Paul Adam McGrath — play a brand of hook-heavy, pristine power pop that’s destined to make them an FM radio staple in the coming months. Unlike some of their blink-and-they’re-gone contemporaries, however, legitimate talent lies beneath Flick’s bubblegum, and if they play their cards right, they just might find themselves in this game for awhile.
First things first: the band’s (decidedly) brief history needs to be traced. Prior to Flick, Oran Thornton spent several years in Stockton’s Johnny Q. Public, a band which proved popular enough in the Midwest to have a video make it onto MTV’s 120 Minutes. His resume, improbably enough, also includes session work for Christ-hop act D.C. Talk. “I actually played on their last record,” Thornton says. “Then, after I quit Johnny Q. Public and before starting Flick, I did the European tour with them for, like, a month.”
Oran subsequently joined up with singer-songwriter Trevor, and the two Thorntons began playing Stockton’s coffeehouse circuit as an acoustic duo. Following the recruitment of Hall and McGrath, alumni of Stockton’s music scene, Flick played its debut show in December of 1996.
As Thornton himself admits, Flick’s rise to major label visibility came quickly. “We were doing a lot of club shows around the area here,” he says. “We were playing with a lot of bands that were newly-signed bands, like Chalk Farm, which are on Columbia, Duncan Sheik, who is on Atlantic…
“So, these bands were going back and telling their A&R guys, ‘you gotta hear this band,’ or whatever,” he continues. “It ended up happening so naturally. It never was a fear of getting too commercial, because the way it happened was really word-of-mouth.”
Soon after forming, Flick had recorded a five-song EP ominously titled Boogers. Following the band’s signing to Columbia, the EP was re-mixed, re-packaged and re-released as the self-titled Flick. “It’s being used as a promotional item,” says Thornton. “It will be released in some stores, mainly the stores in the areas that we’ve played in the past, and kind of have a following in.”
Major label affiliation has had one short-term advantage — it introduced Flick to the makers of Columbia’s recent dead teenager film, I Know What You Did Last Summer. “The movie people had heard one of our songs that’s on the EP, ‘False You,’ and really wanted to use it,” says Thornton. “But that’s the only song on the EP that we’re actually going to re-record for the record, so Columbia didn’t want to give it away yet.” A substitute song, “100 Days,” eventually made it onto the soundtrack, though it doesn’t appear in the film itself.
More than a few people (chief among them the band’s publicist) have been comparing Flick’s poppish stylings to early Teenage Fanclub. While Thornton doesn’t deny that similarities between the two exist, he doesn’t think they’re necessarily intentional. “I like Teenage Fanclub, but I haven’t heard them that much,” Thornton says. “I really like Supergrass a lot. I like the Verve a lot, and… uh… Guns n’ Roses.”
Whether or not Axl’s influence will shine through on Flick’s forthcoming LP remains to be seen, but Thornton predicts that album will showcase a band that’s more finely-tuned. “I think it’s a growth, for sure,” he says, “because the songs on the EP were written before we were actually a band. We’ve written a little bit along the way, but now we’re really getting focused.”
At press time, Flick was wrapping up production on the as-yet-untitled album, aiming for a tentative January release date. Aside from the occasional one-off show, Thornton says the band won’t tour again until February, at the earliest.
“This record is taking up our entire lives, right now,” he says. “But it’s fun, even though it takes up every second of your brain.”