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Take a look at the listing of bands in the sidebar on the right and youíll see a diverse roster of some of the most exciting up-and-coming bands on the indie rock scene. From the shimmering vibrations of AeroVox to the harmonious, but hard power-pop of Orange Park. And from the poly-genre electronic mix of Aerial Love Feed to the infectious groove of The Inevitable Breakups. These NYC mainstays and others on the KerriBlack roster, along with adventurous new groups like The Fashion, all seem destined for much bigger stages then the clubs you can still catch them at now. Behind all this is Kerri (Sweeney) Black, a young promoter/manager with a past track record of helping to start the buzz that eventually led to the major label signings of such notables as The Strokes, stellastarr*, Longwave and Wheatus among others.

NEON has featured most of these bands - with that talent pool in her stable thereís no way around it - so we thought it might be a good idea to find out what the story behind all this is from Kerri herself. So the three of us sat down in a coffee shop in her Lower East Side neighborhood and had a chat. Me, Kerri and her little dachshund, Mazzy. Mazzy was quiet and somewhat shy, but the charming Ms. Black had plenty to tell us. Listen in:


Jeff Rey: So, exactly what does KerriBlack Promotions do?
Kerri Black: Basically, Iím an independent booking and promotional company. So I work to promote bands and try to create a buzz on them. I also do P.R. for bands. Mostly, itís a lot of straight promotion Ö spreading the word about a good band.

Do you get into managing at all?
I do. Iíve done management type things. I worked with The Strokes. I was actually their manager for a while. Right now, Iím sort of pseudo-managing The Fashion. So I do management type things, but Iím not a big time manager.

Do you work on creatively structuring things? Advising bands of a musical direction, or work on their image?
Definitely, Iím about the image. Itís definitely something I help bands do all the time. Actually, I have a great photographer that I refer all my bands to. He does the photo shoots. We really try to work together in creating an image for the band. Itís really important.

Somewhere on the internet I was reading a review of a band - not one of yours, I donít think Ė and they were describing them as sounding like a Kerri Black band. This wasnít derogatory, but I think you have a pretty broad range to the bands you handle. Aerial Love Feed is quite different on a number of levels from say the Inevitable Breakups and Scout is quite different sounding then The Twelve or the Benzos or The Blondes, Inc. and it goes on. Theyíre all interesting for different reasons, but do you think thereís any common thread among them?
I guess, because I think all of them have the potential to be bigger than they currently are. I mean thatís one thing that I look for. And theyíre all Ė I hate to say indie rock, because what exactly is indie rock? Ė but, thatís what they are. And theyíre all bands that have some sort of sound theyíre influenced by from the past.

Youíve got a reputation for helping define what makes a buzz band a buzz band. That in part probably goes back to your involvement with the Strokes at the beginning.
Thatís an interesting story. I was in Luna one night handing out flyers and thereís this band and they were all together. They all looked cool and they were going around the Luna Lounge putting up flyers, so thatís my opportunity to give them a flyer. They told me about their next show at Baby Jupiter - when that was open. So I thought, ďAll right, Baby Jupiter,Ē because I didnít like that place. The sound was really bad. So I thought, ďThey canít be that good if theyíre playing Baby Jupiter.Ē That was my initial reaction, but they looked good so I said, ďIíll go check them out.Ē  So I did and they just blew me away. They were a lot of fun and even in a place like Baby Jupiter where the energy was always really lame, they got the audience into it. It was really big. It was a good show. So I started working with them right after that.

So the story goes that their eventual producer saw one of their shows.
Yeah. What I did was to try to create a buzz for them. They were my first band that I tried to manage. So I directed them. I booked their first
Tis Was show. And then I booked them on a KerriBlack promotions night and that was when Gordon Raphael came. I had invited him to the show and he had heard a lot about the bands that I worked with and he wanted to test my promotional knowledge. It was interesting, he didnít really want to work with them (The Strokes) initially. He wanted to work with Come On (who have evolved into The Break-Up), but The Strokes were a little bit pushy and they really needed a better demo. They did. I have their first demo. Itís not that good. So they ended up working with him. He really liked them after that.

Contents
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© 2004 NEON, blue door productions
All rights reserved
Photos: Jeff Rey
April/May 2004
New York City Seen
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KerriBlack bands include:
Aerial Love Feed
Aerovox
Benzos
The Blondes Inc.
The Fashion
Gregory Paul and the Autumdivers
HotSocky
The Inevitable Breakups
Jake Brennan and the Confidence Men
Leah Stargazing
Orange Park
Scout
Tiger Mountain
The Twelve
Wheatus
William Academy
A talk with the mistress of downtown nightlife about her days with the Strokes, the current NYC scene and her hot new bands ...
Kerri Black bands:
"I think all of them have the potential to be bigger than they currently are. I mean thatís one thing that I look for."
The Strokes:
"What I did was to try to create a buzz for them. They were my first band that I tried to manage. So I directed them."

"RCA didnít listen to me the first time I sent them The Strokes original demo ... they actually passed on them the first time around."
Past KerriBlack bands include:
The Astrojet
The Everyothers
HeadQuarters
Longwave
Mellonova
Moodroom
The Rosenbergs
SkyWriter
Stellastarr*
Stendhal
The Strokes
Youíve also worked with Wheatus, stellastarr* and Longwave. At what point in their careers were you involved with them?
All of them were pretty much in the beginning stages except for Wheatus. Wheatus had a manager at the time and I do work with managers. I helped them to get the word out there and get A&R people down to the shows. So they were pretty much just about to get signed when I started working with them. They had a lot of showcases. And then eventually, as we know, Wheatus did get signed Ė and unfortunately, dropped.

And youíre working with them again?
Yes. Which is why I always say, do not mess with your indie rock contacts. Because you may get on a major label, but one day youíre probably going to be off that major label and youíre going to want to go back to those indie rock people that helped you out along the way.

Yeah, I think it's important to keep your ties to the street level and maintain your street credibility. You know, the first time I saw you handing out flyers at the Luna, I thought you were in the band you were hyping. I was very disappointed. Are you a musician?
No. I have a Gibson Epiphone acoustic in my house and basically Iím attempting to play. I took lessons and all that stuff. Iíd like to learn how to play more which is really difficult because Iím always outside of my apartment. Out on the street, doing my street team stuff and Iím never in my apartment where my guitar is.  Itís something Iíd definitely like to learn more of.

You grew up in Providence, R.I. which, along with New York and Boston - going back to the early days of punk and then indie - always seemed to be one of the hot spots of whatever new and interesting music was developing. So how did that environment influence you?
When I was growing up it was mostly just a love of music and I would just go to shows for the fun of it. But, you know, I always thought I wanted to be more involved than just being a fan at a show. And I always saw some things in these bands. I saw a lot of bands - the Offspring for like five dollars before they got big. There were real small, hole-in-the-wall places. Like Club Baby Head was really, really tiny. And when I was out there watching the shows, I just realized that a lot of these bands had a lot of potential and I would like to be more involved with it. But I never did anything. Except tell my friends about all the bands I would see and make them come to their next show. I was always the one that planned everything.

You came to New York to go to school initially. What did you study?
I went to school for elementary education. Which is really funny whenever anyone asks me how I got into this whole music thing. I really think my experience with children helped because in my experience with musicians I have had times where I had to do a lot of baby-sitting with the bands that I worked with. Taking care of them and being their motherly figure. And a lot of musicians, as we know, donít want to grow up - so they act like children.

At what point did you actively become involved with helping bands out?
It started when I moved down to the Lower East Side in 1997. I had been in Riverdale in the Bronx which was where Manhattan College was and I stayed there for six months after I graduated. I started hanging out downtown and I knew I just had to be here. As soon as I stepped into the Luna Lounge it was all over. I started hanging out there all the time, seeing shows. I got involved with one of the original drummers in the Rosenburgs and their management company was hanging out with them a lot and they needed someone to help them out. So I started interning with them. I was their talent scout and it kind of escalated from there to where I did my own thing. And I started interning with various other music companies.

You eventually worked for a couple well-known P.R. firms. What made you decide to go out on your own?
Well, I was always doing it on my own even when I was with them. The music industry is hard to do full time. Thereís not a lot of benefits in it and thereís not a lot of money in it right now. So you need to do something else during the day unless youíre really making it big. And I ended up getting stuck working with bands I didnít necessarily like. Whereas KerriBlack Promotions, Iíd say about 90% of the bands are bands I believe in and I like. Occasionally on a bill thereís a friendís band. Theyíll ask me, ďCan we add them because they draw really well?Ē And Iíll say O.K. though I may not like them too much. But mostly itís all bands I believe in and I like, whereas with another company Ö

Youíre always adding exciting new groups to your roster. Like the Fashion, who have a very strong possibility of turning into something special. What determines the type of band youíll take on, because obviously youíre not going to handle a Kiss tribute band, or a cover band or anything like that. You must hear from a lot of people that want to get on your shows.
I get a lot of e-mails from bands. Like bands in the Mid-West. I have no idea where they heard of me. I basically have to feel that they have something. That they could be on a major label, just a lot of people donít know about them yet. They have to have a certain look. You know, if youíre up there in jeans and a T-shirt that really bothers me. Get a look going on stage, get something happening. And also they have to be good musicians, or at least bands that I feel can develop into good musicians. Like if thereís still such a thing as Artist Development on a major label Ö then O.K. this band would be perfect for them. Which is initially what I thought about The Strokes when I first saw them.

Who do you think are the hottest groups in New York right now?
Definitely Iím going to be biased because you know Ö Iím hoping I could say all my bands. But definitely Aerial Love Feed. Their last few shows have been really packed, they got on the cover of CMJ, theyíre doing really well and I think itís their time to move forward to that major label. Of course, I love Interpol. I knew Carlos from back in the Goth days hanging out at The Bank and theyíre definitely influenced by Joy Division which is one of my all-time favorite Goth bands. So theyíre great. I think The Fashion, my newest band Iím working with. I recently discovered them, theyíre really good. I mean I could list all my bands like Scout, The Blondes, Inc. ... and I could go on and on about all my bands.

What advise would you give to a band that already has all their material together, but canít seem to break out of the club circuit, or maybe theyíre having trouble stepping up to bigger venues or perhaps even presenting themselves to a label?
Well, first of all itís all about their fans. So the number one thing you want to do at all shows is build your mailing list up. You never want to go to a show Ė which you see bands do Ė and not have a mailing list to pass out and get people to sign. Especially if youíre at the Luna Lounge. You get such a walk-in crowd, you can get so many new fans. I donít understand it. Itís like, ďDo you have a mailing list to sign?Ē ďNo, we forgot it.Ē Iíve heard that so many times. Which is why when I start working with a band, I believe in their mailing list so much that I end up bringing my own clipboard and sheets that have the bandís name on it already so they donít have to worry about that and then I help them get names on the list. So, I think thatís the number one thing Ė to build your fan base up.

Two, get good publicity shots because you really want to stand out. You know how many music packages magazines and newpapers get every day. You want something that stands out. Obviously, the first thing they see when they open the package is probably your picture. A bad band photo Ė thatís not going to help you. And Iíve seen some really bad band photos. And itís not even really that the guys or the girls in the band are bad looking, itís just the photo. Their look is all wrong. So it is all about image. Itís not like the early 90s anymore where grunge is cool and you can look all like ripped jeans and a flannel shirt. Itís not the case anymore.

Well my take is when I was reviewing a lot of music for NEON and getting fifty or so demos a week, the sloppy D.I.Y. package usually had the coolest music - so the slickest package always got the last listen. I know thatís really not true anymore. And when I had my band, my attitude was always Ö weíre the band. We play music. We donít do mailing lists. But, when the club owner asks you where your people are Ö it can be a little embarrassing.
Well, thatís why you have someone like me doing it. The thing about The Strokes, toward the end, we built their mailing list up to a lot of people. I donít even know the exact amount, but it was a lot. Youíd go to their shows and thereíd be tons of girls up front - like models. The other thing you have to notice, what kind of fans do they have? Like who to target when youíre doing street promotion. Iím a big people watcher and very observant. I can go into a club and tell you right now which one is probably going to listen to this band and which one is not.

What do you think is the state of the current NYC music scene?
Right now itís pretty good. I think The Strokes did open a lot of doors and rock is coming back. Did you watch The Strokes documentary that Iím in? Itís really funny. They basically try to say that only now is New York back where it was in the 70s. That beforehand the rock wasnít even really there. I mean there were a lot of bands that came and went. They might have been signed for a while and then got dropped. But right now thereís a lot of good New York new rock bands. Thereíre getting attention and breaking into the mainstream. Which is good because for a while there was a lot of rap and hip-hop and all that stuff taking over the airwaves.

We saw the New York punk/new wave scene in the 70s/80s and the metal/rock/punk scene in the late 80s/early 90s and though bands were getting signed out of clubs, you never saw the amount of venues and crowds there are today. But the thing you donít see are the industry people that used to be at shows. You couldnít go anywhere and not see at least a couple A&R people from major labels in the audience in those days. That doesnít seem to be the case anymore. There now seems to be a major label bias towards NYC. I have my own theories about this, but do you believe thatís the case?
Maybe some people feel that way. They think that New York is supposed to be what it was in the punk days. They always think that when the New York scene was really cool was back then. Itís always what I hear people compare it to.
How many people got signed out of that punk scene? Not that many, only a handful of bands. Where you can name fifteen or so rock bands that got signed in that late 80s/early 90s period. Maybe not beyond a single album. But record company people just donít seem to be that interested anymore, unless you drag them in.
The A&R people are hard to get to go to the shows. And itís not until somebody they know, like a lawyer, says you have to see this band. Then they actually listen. Because RCA didnít listen to me the first time I sent them The Strokes original demo. I had one contact there and they actually passed on them the first time around. They said no. And then the second time around, when finally their manager that I introduced them to sent it to them - and they had a lawyer and many more fans Ė then finally someone was willing to come out. I think a lot of the A&R people are jaded. I think if theyíve been there for years, theyíre burnt out. Theyíre not nice people a lot of them. And a lot of them, honestly, if you looked at them back in college they were probably somewhere in a frat. Itís sad to say. And I donít think a lot of them really know as much as they think they know about music and theyíre just trying to make money. Itís all about money. ďWhat band can make me the money?Ē

What are the future plans for kerriblack promotions?
I hope eventually a band like The Fashion will get signed and take me with them as opposed to Ė you know I created The Strokes, where I formulated a big enough buzz on them where they were kind of like ďO.K., see you later, Kerri.Ē

Just handed them off?
Yeah, I donít want to just hand them off. I want to go with them. I also think that through my experience IĎd be really good at tour managing. Doing all of those kinds of things. Once again, like I said, a lot of things on the road are like babysitting. Getting a band like The Fashion or maybe another one, thatís young that has like ten or twenty years. A lot of bands are trying to make it now that are unfortunately a little older, although they may not look it. A&R people arenít going to do anything with that. Some bands are getting signed older. I can actually list about five, six bands, maybe even more that have people my age or a couple years older. Their late twenties or early thirties. There are some bands with members that age, but they try to put them in the back, maybe the drummer. Or they try to make them look really good on stage. Try to play it like theyíre younger. They have them lie about their age, too, I know that.

What shows do you have coming up?
I have a really great show on April 7th at Pianos. Itís a KerriBlack showcase so itís a Wednesday night.  I hope to get some A&R people out there on my list and get some press for the show. The bands that are playing are AeroVox, which is Jeff (Darien) from Mach 5. Theyíre the main band playing that bill. And Orange Park who recently got a write-up in the NY Times - it was great, so they have a buzz on them and they were touring with Longwave for awhile. And then thereís this band the Danglers. Theyíre kind of new, theyíre like punk meets garage. Really young, very energetic on stage which is what I like to see. They have a lot of NYU fans. And I know the younger the crowd the better it is for the bands. So you should all come to that. I have another show coming up on May 22 and others, but you can check out
www.kerriblackpromotions.com.
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Band Image:
"If youíre up there in jeans and a T-shirt that really bothers me. Get a look going on stage, get something happening."


The NYC Music Scene:
"Right now thereís a lot of good New York new rock bands. Thereíre getting attention and breaking into the mainstream."
Record Labels:
"I think a lot of the A&R people are jaded. I think if theyíve been there for years, theyíre burnt out. Theyíre not nice people a lot of them."

"I donít think a lot of them really know as much as they think they know about music and theyíre just trying to make money. Itís all about money"
Band Image:
"If youíre up there in jeans and a T-shirt that really bothers me. Get a look going on stage, get something happening."


The NYC Music Scene:
"Right now thereís a lot of good New York new rock bands. Thereíre getting attention and breaking into the mainstream."