Major-Label Love

Canton band scores a deal with Columbia Records.

Took a while: The reunited Raspberries at the House - of Blues November 26. - Walter  Novak
Took a while: The reunited Raspberries at the House of Blues November 26.
Canton's Lovedrug inked a deal in April with rising indie The Militia Group, hoping to use the California emo label as a stepping-stone to a major label. That day has already come: The artfully rocking band has signed to Columbia Records. Lovedrug's current LP, Pretend You're Alive, will be rereleased in February as a joint venture between the Militia Group and Columbia.

The deal isn't so much a signing as what the Militia Group calls an "upstreaming." The indie is partially owned by RED Distribution, which is owned by Sony, which operates several subsidiary major labels.

"What happened was, the president of RED loved it," says Militia President Rory Felton. "He played it for everyone at Sony. Sony loved it, and decided that the band would be huge. [Sony labels] Epic and Columbia competed for it, and Columbia won out. Now we're partners. Together, we're going to break this band."

Columbia's interest wasn't pure speculation. Since its July release, the group's debut LP has sold more than 13,000 copies, following a steady touring regimen. The rerelease (and, assuming it's successful, two more discs) will bear both labels' logos. Though the band is now being marketed and handled by Columbia, the Militia Group's name will appear on Lovedrug's videos and other material.

"Lovedrug, starting out, had no history," says Lovedrug singer-guitarist-pianist Michael Shepard. "So we decided to go with a label that's smaller and has a history of growing grassroots support. Major labels aren't good at getting you from zero copies sold to 50,000. But they're great at getting you from 50,000 to the sky. Essentially, we're still on the Militia Group, but we get all those resources from Columbia now."

· For nine years, the eclectic open-mic night hosted by Cleveland multi-instrumentalist Xe La was a Monday-night staple at the venue that was the Rhythm Room. Following the club's recent closing, Xe La's open mic will move to the B-Sides Liquor Lounge (2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard, Cleveland Heights), beginning December 6.

· Percussionist-harmonica player Manfred "Stan" Block of Cleveland blues troupe Dukes of Windsor passed away November 13, succumbing to cancer at the Cleveland Clinic. Since 1978, Block had played with rockers Vacant Lots and tongue-in-cheek punks the Baloney Heads.

· Hard-hitting Kent alt-rockers Hate Dies Hard have added vocalist Lili Roquelin. Original singer Sean Barringer will move to drums. The band is aiming to finish its second LP for early 2005.

· "Alienne," from Cleveland's alt-unplugged Sputnik, was slated to appear on the soundtrack of the short-lived Fox comedy Wonderfalls before the show was canceled. The song can now be heard in the series' DVD release, which will hit stores next February.

· Cleveland metalcore hopefuls Above This Fire have signed to Salt Lake City's Life Sentence Records (xDeathstarx, With Dead Hands Rising). The band is heading into the studio this winter to record its full-length debut.