not road trips.
Deal, a five-member Charlottesville band that is so clean-cut its
members make Pat Boone look like John Belushi, has taken the high
road to rock-and-roll success. It has flouted the accepted wisdom
of playing night after night, wailing your guts out and developing
a following. Instead, the band recorded demo tapes and brashly knocked
on record company doors before it even had a full-time bass player
or drummer. It all seems backward, like a child learning how to
operate a computer before he knows how to add.
"We're not a seasoned road band," lead guitarist Haines
Fullerton cheerfully admits. "We're recording artists."
The ingenious approach to success brought The Deal a record contract
with Bearsville, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records Inc., and
due out early next year. The band's sound is strongly influenced
by the Beatles with its pop beat and three- and four-part harmonies.
The new album is upbeat rock-and-roll, but the band also has a Simon
and Garfunkel sound. "We'd like to think we're an 80's version
of 60's ideas with strong melodies, harmonies and a wash of' guitar
sounds," bass player Jim Jones says. That sound is popular
with the band's staple audience - college students.
The five members -- Jones, Fullerton, guitarist and songwriter Mark
Roebuck, guitarist Eric Schwartz and drummer Hugh Patton -- exhibit
a naive enthusiasm rare in a rock-and-roll band that has made it
so far in the rough-and-tumble recording world. Ask the band about
its worst experience and you hear about a night when the band's
truck broke down. It's career has been plotted with precision. "We
know what we're trying to do," Jones says. "We haven't
gotten stuck in places where we shouldn't be. We've spent a lot
of money on lawyers."
The Deal actually has its roots in Petersburg, where two 15-year-olds,
Roebuck and Schwartz, played their acoustic guitars together. Later,
at the University of Virginia. they met Fullerton. When the three
were sophomores (1978-79) they began recording original songs on
a four-track tape in a dorm room. They also set off to New York
to have doors slammed in their faces by record company secretaries.
By their senior year, they had picked up Jones and Patton, and a
friend of a friend suggested they call Linda Stein, who used to
handle the Ramones. She came on as manager and persuaded Albert
Grossman, president of' Bearsville, to sign them. Their producer
is Richard Gottehrer, who produced the wildly successful first albums
of the Go-Gos and Marshall Crenshaw.
The band's rise has been so quick that no member has had a full-time
job. Fullerton and Roebuck have always wanted to play rock-and-roll,
but Schwartz declined acceptance at law school, Jones stopped plans
to go into business and Patton, a year younger than the others,
dropped out of school when it became clear the band might make it.
Onstage, it's almost as if the band didn't have time to remove the
club ties and navy blazers bought at U.Va. That attire has since
become a trademark, earning notice in Andy Warhol's Interview magazine
as "putting the pep back into prep."
"We have aspirations to conquer the world," Jones chuckles.
"But it's a million-to-one shot. Well, actually I look at it
like two thousand-to-one installments," he says. The first
was cutting the record; the next hurdle is to become famous.