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Around Hear

Shallow, mi6, Ultimate Fakebook, and KKFI 90.1

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Contrary to what was printed in this column a few weeks back, Shallow still exists. According to singer Julie Shields, if and when the band does decide to end it all, she'll be the first to tell you. "We wanted to leave that opportunity (to play together again) open," says Shields. "Ryan (Newton, guitar) is out in California for a while trying to figure some things out. We still talk and write stuff, and we've never, ever said we're not going to play together again. It's just that right now, the time is not right."

Too bad for fans of the band. Although they haven't been on stage, the Shieldses (Julie and husband/bassist Jason) have not spent the past year idly. In fact, the group has been working on new material that might cause Shallow's fanbase to skew younger.

"We just wrote a song for Spongebob Squarepants, a new cartoon by the creators of Rocko's Modern Life," Julie Shields says. It turns out that the show's creator, Steve Hillenburg, who has solicited everyone from Junior Brown to Ween for contributions, is a Shallow fan.

"We always talked about making some CD with songs for soundtracks that we might send out to people, but we never actually did it," Shields continues. "But then our old manager in Atlanta got us in touch with these people, and they asked for a song that was supposed to be all instrumental so there could be characters talking over it. When the creator got it, he was like, 'Where's the vocals?' We had, like, a week to come up with those."

In classic Shallow style, they came up with a ditty Shields calls "a happy pop song about being underwater." A character tune plays the theremin-driven tune at a teenager's house party.

In between writing songs for cartoons and exploring the possibilities of classic 20th century instruments, the high-flyin' kids have written soundtracks for video games to be distributed in the coming year by the New Hampshire-based company Dark Knight Games. And, Shields says, Shallow has even considered coming out of its self-imposed exile in the near future. Although the band isn't actively searching for a label, it has started working on a demo to circulate, which would mark Shallow's first recorded output since it released Jumping Away From Something Exploding on the San Francisco indie Devil in the Woods. "We're going to start playing shows in October again," Shields continues, "and if Ryan's still gone we'll do that under a different name, because we won't be Shallow until he gets back.

"Everything that we do without Ryan is supposed to be different from Shallow. With what we're doing now, Ryan's guitar is missing, but our sound is just as good. It's just different. The sound is a lot more mellow and not poppy like Shallow. It's more moody."

If you're interested in hearing a sample, visit www.shallowcommand.com, and, after signing the band's "e-mailing list," navigate your way to a secret area that lets visitors listen to the new songs. "We want some feedback from people that check it out," says Shields. "It may just become its own new thing outside of Shallow, but there are no immediate plans to ever shut Shallow completely out. We just want Ryan to relax, enjoy himself, and come back whenever he's ready."

They Love Jeff Brown
Lawrence's mi6 also has a little something cooking on that World Wide Web, and the feedback it has received has exceeded expectations. Visitors to www.garageband.com, a site that randomly selects and plays tunes by independent artists and lets listeners rate and rank the songs, have voted mi6's homage to Pitch music writer Jeff Brown into the number-one position in all categories. This track has remained at the top slot for three weeks, sparking interest from e-music junkies all over the globe and even from The New York Times, which featured the band in an article on Thursday, July 20.

"They called me and I just happened to be home in the middle of the day recovering from throat surgery," guitarist/singer Ken Peterson says of his first brush with fame. "I didn't think anything of it at first. I thought they were doing a small article in the middle of the paper somewhere about bands on the Internet, so I just started answering all her questions and it just started blowing up. By the end she was like, 'We're going to send a photographer out there,' and so I thought then it would be a decent article, and it turned out to be on the front page and we started getting phone calls. It's been cool."

Cool indeed. The front-page feature, which included quotes from the head of Farmclub.com and Garageband.com as well as input from an accountant and an apartment manager who are hip to the e-music thing, has directed some well-deserved attention mi6's way, including some contact from a few major labels. Not bad for a band that is currently unable to perform live because of Peterson's surgery.

"The whole Internet thing's working really well for us right now," Peterson says. "We've sold CDs through our Web site, through Amazon.com, and pretty much everywhere else on the Internet. You name it, we're there. It's a lot of work and time setting up home pages and Internet sites, but I've been on Napster and found our song, and it's getting our name out there, so that's a good thing."

And more good things could be around the corner. If mi6 can hold on to its number-one ranking on Garageband awhile longer, the group would be eligible to compete with 75 other top bands in the Garageband system for a record contract said to be worth $250,000.

If and when that does happen, mi6 will owe all, or at least part, of its success to one man. "Jeff Brown came to one of our shows," Peterson says of the Pitch critic who found mi6's take on punk-pop anathema to his tastes. "We told him we weren't mad at him or anything, even though he kind of ripped us a new one. But because of that, we wrote a great song."

It's Finally Laughing Week
Local yokels have known for years that Ultimate Fakebook concocts some of the most rockin' pop songs to come along since early Elvis (the other Elvis), and Sony/550 hopes the rest of the world learns the same lesson. The trio's two-year-old album, This Will Be Laughing Week, which was originally released by Noisome Records, got a major-label makeover -- complete with remastering and bonus tracks.

The group kicks off the album-release festivities with a trio of shows starting July 27 in Manhattan, Kansas, then moving on to a two-show extravaganza at The Bottleneck (the matinee is all-ages) before ending at the Hurricane on Saturday night. After that, Ultimate Fakebook's members have about a week to rest before setting out to conquer the southern states and the East Coast.

"The single 'Tell Me What You Want' is at commercial radio and has had 30 to 35 adds in three weeks now," says Brendan Bourke, publicist extraordinaire at the group's Sony-hired PR firm, Girlie Action. "They're booked to tour now through September, and they're looking to open for some bigger touring acts. They have a couple of possibilities at the moment, but I'm not sure whether or not I can name names."

If the first single catches on with some solid radio adds, a second radio-friendly nugget (along with a video) will be chosen. "There's nothing too odd we would have them do that they wouldn't be up for themselves," says Bourke. "But they're up for just about anything. They're big roller coaster fiends, and they're planning on going to Dollywood to do some bear-wrestling. And in Vegas they did the indoor skydiving, so any of the myriad of odd things that they might do themselves we will take advantage of and get press for."

For more info, including radio stations that play "Tell Me What You Want," a tour diary, and the rare opportunity to win an official Ultimate Fakebook windbreaker (unsigned), log on to the band's slick new Web site at www.ultimatefakebook.com.

Responsible Roommate Wanted
College students are overcome with dread at this time of year, and it's not because of resuming classes or social pressures. Another annual ritual, moving, is the source of this back-to-school anxiety. Unfortunately, Kansas City's only cool radio station, KKFI 90.1, has to join the ranks of the undergrads this year and relocate, with only a faint hope of getting back its entire security deposit. With that in mind, some DJs and friends of the station have organized a benefit show for July 29 at Neiner's, with all proceeds going to aid the community radio station in its effort to find a home. Phantom Fear, Tunghook, Turnstyle, Bent, Thrust, and Vertigo are all confirmed to play, and all these fearsome metal groups with hearts of gold will donate their door dollars to KKFI. In addition, Heartland Guitar, Music Go Round of Independence, Electric Art Tattoo, Butch's Tattoo, and 7th Heaven have all donated goods and services to be raffled off to the highest bidder -- or the person most in need of a tattoo. And to dispel any fears, the KKFI staff won't enlist those in attendance to help with the move.

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