Some bands are made; others were perhaps meant to be, and if so, you can count Controlling the Famous among the latter. Even their name seemed fated: just when the band was deciding what to call itself, the cryptic phrase "Controlling the Famous" appeared high on a downtown Los Angeles building. They adopted the graffiti tag as their own. It hasn't been seen since.
In matters more substantial, too, CTF is an organic creation. Although lead singer Max Hellman often takes the lead during an interview, there's no single mastermind or distinct leader of the group. The four musicians write and arrange together (generally music first, then lyrics), and for the past couple of months have lived together on the road, touring across the Midwest and now hitting the East Coast.
A beautiful New York City sunset was painting the sky orange and aqua over the shimmering East River as I caught up with the band outside Northsix on the waterfront of Brooklyn's arty Williamsburg neighborhood. Locals and trendoids lined N. 6th St. enjoying the cooler air that the previous night's storms had brought, but although the stifling heat wave was over, the smell of garbage reminded one that it was still summer in the city. Nonetheless the band expressed great happiness to be in New York, quite sincerely declaring that it was one of their favorite places to play.
The previous night, over 50 fans had greeted CTF in the grungy basement space of CBGB, a pretty impressive turnout considering it was only the band's second gig ever in New York. Tonight's crowd, too, is big enough to sweat up Northsix's small downstairs performance space. Last year, prior to signing with The Militia Group, the band played at the less prestigious Continental, but now, with the support of an energetic indie label, things are different.
For one thing, their new CD, Automatic City, is in the stores, which is very important for bringing out crowds and sustaining interest even in the age of downloads. For another, ads for the disc (and other Militia releases) are all over popular websites like this one.