Zero Tolerance

Akron's Zero Parade gets a taste of success nationally--and a bitter pill at home.

Zero Parade main singer and songwriter Bobby Quick sounds emphatic when he talks about his band's future. Still, you get the sense he's just as uncertain as the next guy.

"We've paid our dues," says Quick. "We've put in the time. Now we want to put it in a position where it's up to the people on the radio and in the music industry. It's going to be their decision, not the local political ties. It's up to the listeners now."

Since 1993, the Akron quartet--Quick (vocals, guitar), Tom Terrill (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Michael Edwards (bass), and Mike Hanna (drums)--has been slowly building an audience with its alternative pop sound. Things really started to heat up a year ago when the group signed with the New York City label Acme Entertainment, which is also home for local band SuperKreme. With a new booking contract in place, the band appears ready to make a push for national recognition.

"We're getting ready to turn our lives upside down," Quick says. "We've always wanted to escape the local BS. That's what we're looking for."

If that sounds like a jab at the local music scene, it is. Quick and company, formerly known as the Heebeegeebees, feel they've been left out of the loop in Northeast Ohio. But Quick says that hasn't necessarily been a bad thing. After all, who cares what your hometown thinks of you when you're starting to gain national attention?

"I'm not going to sit here and moan about sour grapes," says Quick. "This area never did a whole lot for us. [But] when you're getting calls from all over the country and people are digging it, you know something is there."

In late 1994, the band flew to Los Angeles after receiving feelers from the Maverick and Mercury labels. Although nothing tangible came from it, the trip boosted the band members' confidence. They began to tour extensively, landing opening gigs with major acts such as Dave Matthews, Cake, and Blues Traveler, and their self-titled album moved 10,000 copies. Soon thereafter, Acme entered the picture with offers of representation. But there was a catch: The band would have to change its name.

It turned out that a New Orleans group already was using the Heebeegeebees moniker. Call it the grace of God or good timing, but losing the name--which has the ring of a novelty act--didn't hurt the band's chances.

Quick says the group didn't have much trouble selecting a new name. "There was a girl I used to like to hang out with, and she was a little bit on the yuppie side," he recalls. "We were going to a Kmart, and she refused to go. She said, 'I refuse to go in there, that's a zero parade.' I've never been that kind of a person, [but] I always thought that was a hilarious term. I think of myself as just another one of those people out there. Not above anyone else--an average Joe. And I think people are really relating to that in music now."

Zero Parade's newly released self-titled disc--not to be confused with the band's earlier self-titled project--shows the group to be a well-rounded, tight pop band. Its deceptively simple sound can swing from sugarcoated alternative pop to darker, foreboding tones within the confines of a three-minute song.

"I think it's about as 'now' as it can be, honestly," says Quick of the music. "I think the timing is fabulous for us. [We're] not a real instrumental band, and this era is not a very instrumental era. Everything goes in circles. It all keeps going around, and I think it's really our time. I'm hearing a ton of stuff that sounds like us, like Third Eye Blind. It gives me confidence.

"You never know, though. It could turn tomorrow, it could go more electronica. I don't feel like we can control that. If you listen to radio and listen to what's on now, I don't think we're going to change music if they put us on [the] radio. [But] I can definitely see there's a niche for us right now."

At last count, Zero Parade has received airplay on more than 400 college radio stations. So what is it that's getting programmers to take notice? "I kind of think it's the honesty in the music," says Quick. "You're coming out of the grunge era, and people don't want to be bummed out anymore. I think there's a lot of 'up' stuff, and people are tapping into that right now in a positive way."

One live show earlier this year gave the band the confidence to handle the newfound attention. "The best thing I remember is the Ben Folds gig we did in Grand Rapids in early summer," says Quick. "It was a full house and literally one of the best concerts we've ever given. The energy was all the way through. It was like we were the headliner. We've never had that kind of response. To be honest, this band has never been the same since that show."

Adding to the momentum is the band's relationship with a new management company--Magus Entertainment, which also represents SuperKreme and Aerosmith. Magus wants to put Zero Parade in the national spotlight, and with that in mind, 1999 could be the breakout year for the regional band--which still chafes over its underwhelming regional reception.

Despite the inroads it's made on the national scene, the group says it's been overlooked for such local events as Cleveland's Undercurrents music showcase, which welcomes over 100 bands--most from Northeast Ohio--to its lineup each year. "The last two years we were passed over," says Quick. "We recorded an album with [producer] Justin Niebank [John Mellencamp, Stir, Blues Traveler, Eric Clapton], we're with Magus Entertainment, [we're] getting a national release, [we're] on over 400 college radio stations, and we were passed over for Undercurrents. That's the story for us. I honestly can't tell you why. At what point do you just quit caring?"

Zero Parade CD Release Party. Friday, November 6, Annabell's, 782 W. Market St., Akron, Free, 330-535-1112.

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