Ten Toes Up has never been a conventional band. With a funk-infused, percussion-driven sound and the group mentality of a band of brothers, this unique rock group has long been known as one of the area's most popular original acts.
Saturday, the band will once again forego conventional wisdom by attempting to wake a sleeping lion with one of the biggest parties Murells Inlet has ever seen.
In celebration of the band's third full-length release "Sleeping Lion" the quartet will perform with two other area favorites, The Necessary Band and The Mullets, for an evening full of music at the Hot Fish Club.
In preparation for the event, ListenUp recently sat down with BJ Craven, Charles Freeman, Joshua Gregory and Adam Miller to discuss the album, the local music scene and their plans for the future.
Myrtle Beach Music: Ten Toes Up performs at Dead Dog Saloon
Tell us a little about the new album. What does it sound like?
Charles: It'll sound different immediately to folks because we had never hired an album producer and we did for this album. We brought in Danielle Howle, who is really a staple on the S.C. music scene, I think that a lot of her ideas are apparent on the album and I really think it sounds a lot different than our first two records. We spent a lot more time producing it this time.
BJ: Producing it for the better that is. Not over-producing.
Charles: Yeah, well our first record was done in three days, so there was no production at all. Our second record we spent a little more time, but we were still just doing it ourselves and we didn't have much experience. This one we tried to make something that is going to compete — sound wise — with anything else you might hear out there.
How has your music changed since your last release?
Josh: We're getting better at writing songs. When you start writing as a group of people it takes awhile to figure out what to do and how to mesh everybody's view into it.
Now we're figuring that out, it's like 'Ok, you write really good lyrics. You do that.' Everybody is finding their role now and that's something that takes awhile to do as a group.
You see those other groups that are "The Such and Such Band" and the reason is because there's one guy that comes in and writes all the songs and comes in and says play it like this. That's doesn't happen in this band, everything is a true collaboration.
Adam: I think everyone has kinda had to humble themselves a little bit too because sometimes your idea doesn't work and that's what's best for the song. When we first started we'd get pissed off because it didn't work the way we wanted and now we're getting better at letting go of ideas to put something else into it.
What are your hopes for this album?
Josh: (Laughs) I'd say world domination. That's the next step.
BJ: Well it's all about publicity. We have something we believe is very good, so now there are people's who job it is to get that to the right ears. Our next step is finding the radio stations and other publicity outlets, because you know, we want people to hear this.
It's part of thinking of it like a business. Now that you have this product, we're going to try to get it to as many people as possible and it takes a lot to be able to do that. We've tried last time to do it ourselves and found out just how tough it can be.
Myrtle Beach Music: Ten Toes Up's BJ Craven talks with a fan during a show at Dead Dog Saloon
You guys have built a great following locally. What will it take to reach beyond this area?
BJ: The second you stop being hungry is the second you start going backwards and our goal never was to just have a great fanbase locally. It's been a great place to start with all the great local bands and things, but the next step for us is to take it to a bigger market.
Charles: These days you really have to think outside the box. There aren't just rockstars getting discovered in the garage and becoming huge overnight. It's just not happening like that. You gotta pay for it and put in the work.
And it's more that just music. Josh has been our ambassador for thinking of these out of the box ways to market through things like the Kickstarter and Facebook and find different ways to reach the crowd.
Adam: Like the clothing line.
That's right, the band has a tie-in with Tiki Jims to sell your CDs and shirts. How did that come about?
Josh: It was an idea of a friend of ours — one of our biggest fans. She loved the "Carolina Mess" song and it was one of those half-drunk ideas like 'What if we put this on a T-shirt and see how it goes?' And it just blew up immediately.
It's something where until we have investors and a label backing us, we have to come up with our own money. And none of us are rich so we had to think of a way to make money other than just playing music, because we're already doing that five nights a week.
You may be working five nights a week now, but did you have trouble finding work and surviving the offseason when you first started doing this?
Adam: Shoot, we still struggle. We're not looking forward to November right now. Every one of us is broke in the winter.
Charles: We have had a good amount of success locally, but it's funny how many people think we're making big money. We invest pretty much every bit of what we make back into the business. There hasn't been financial success yet, but we all believe in this and have invested in it and hopefully that will come later.
BJ: We all try to stay on the same page as far as that goes. This is not easy and we all make sacrifices daily to do this because we have faith in it that in the end it will pay off. We know we're paying our dues still and we're all on board for working to become what we think we can be. But we know we're not there yet.
Myrtle Beach Music: Band manager and sound engineer Seth Funderburk looks on as Tne Toes Up performs at Dead Dog Saloon.
What do you think of our local music scene and the opportunities it has offered the band?
Adam: We have some good people who come out and see us. We have a lot of real support here, so it's not a problem for us to play here all the time. We definitely do want to get out and play other places for publicity, but we know that when we play at home we'll get a good crowd and it's always a fun time.
Josh: People don't realize how good they've got it around here, because in the summer you'll play for a group of people from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Kentucky all in one night. Most bands have to get out in a van and drive to all those places.
Most of our traveling gigs have just been booked because of people who came here and saw us while on vacation.
BJ: Yeah, we have Ten Toes Up CDs all over America because of that.
And just because there may not be a vibrant original music scene here doesn't mean there can't be. One of the things we're trying to do is bring recognition to the fact you can still be an original band in this area.
We hope our CD release party is one of the biggest parties Murrells Inlet has ever seen. It's a small city but it has every potential to be a great showcase for original music.
Where does the future hold for Ten Toes Up beyond this release?
BJ: The album is just another stepping stone. Everything we do we hope will take us to another level. We can't say 'Well, this album will do this for us' but we are confident enough that we've made something that sounds good and we have faith it will make more of a mark in the region and get some push and radio play beyond our area and just grow our circle of fans larger.
Charles: A lot of people think you're either a crappy little bar band making $100 a night or you're a millionaire rockstar when actually there's very many spots to be in between that.
Adam: Everything we've done has been a slow rising progression. If at some point we reach a plateau and in 10 years from now the highlight of our career is playing the Dead Dog Saloon, then frankly I'm not sure we'll still be doing it forever. But right now, it's like if you stop something that's going up, you're not very smart.
That's basically what we're riding on. We all just kinda stumbled on to this and figured out that we could work together and write together and ride in a tiny little space together for 36 hours touring over three days and still not want to kill each other and so we think that's something special.
Ten Toes Up CD Release Party
Where | Hot Fish Club, 4911 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet
When | Show begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Ten Toes Up to perform at 6 p.m.
More info | Call 357-9175 or visit www.hotfishclub.com