The website of Canadian hard-rock band Theory of a Deadman features a funny video of singer Tyler Connolly wandering around New York City’s Times Square, asking random people if they know who he is. Despite the band’s million-plus-selling 2008 album, Scars & Souvenirs, and its rock-radio hits “Bad Girlfriend,” “So Happy” and “Hurricane,” nearly everyone Connolly asks doesn’t know who he is.
The video, Theory of a Deadman guitarist David Brenner said, illustrates how much the music business has changed in this age of digital downloading, legal and otherwise, and social media.
“There are no faces to the bands anymore,” Brenner said. “We’ve done all these things as a band yet our singer can walk around and nobody knows who the hell he is.”
Connolly eventually is recognized by a few thrilled fans.
“But it’s frustrating for us at times,” Brenner said. “We have people at our shows who tell us afterward, ‘I did not know that was your song!’ We’re, like, ‘How is that possible?’ But everyone’s still trying to figure out how to make the music business work. Nobody really knows what’s going on, but we’re still more than happy to be doing what we’re doing and we’re loving every minute of it.”
Brenner himself has yet to board the social media bandwagon.
“I’m one of the anti-social media guys,” he said. “I don’t have Facebook. I don’t have Twitter. I prefer to stay in touch the old fashioned way. I call my friends. I used to just stop by my buddies’ houses without a call, back when I didn’t have a cellphone. That’s just how you did it. You dropped by. But I don’t think the unannounced drop-by happens all that often anymore.”
Coming from working-class backgrounds in Vancouver, B.C., Theory of a Deadman has always been a down to earth group.
“Tyler writes lyrics that people can understand and sing along to,” Brenner said. “He doesn’t get so metaphorical, singing about dragonflies or something. He says what’s on his mind. People don’t need an English degree to understand him.”
Bringing the band’s music directly to people in towns beyond big cities is important to the band. Chicago and Houston are on the group’s tour itinerary, but those big metro areas are the minority of the dates. More often, Theory of a Deadman plays places like Baton Rouge and Lake Charles; North Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Sayreville, N.J.; Pryor, Okla.; and Mankato, Minn.
“If everything can be grabbed online for nothing, well, then you have to give people something they can’t get online, the experience of a live show,” Brenner said. “And we see everything change as soon as we get on the road. We sell more records every week. Our songs do better at radio.
“And we love to tour. We’re a Canadian band that made the states our priority because we knew that, in Canada, you can tour across the country and hit every major market in two weeks. In the states, you can tour and tour and tour. The people appreciate it when you come to these places and, for the most part, we’re hitting cities like Baton Rouge. These are the places we need to play because these are the people who like our music.”
For Brenner, it all started with a Bon Jovi cassette tape.
“Sometimes I look back and go, ‘Man, if I didn’t get that Slippery When Wet cassette tape back in elementary school would I be where I am today?’ I don’t know if I would be. That tape was my first rock experience.”
Early ’90s rock bands from Seattle, Wash., such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana and Alice In Chains, subsequently influenced Brenner and his Canadian peers.
“A ton of my buddies were always jamming on these bands,” he said. “I learned how to play guitar playing Alice In Chains songs. That was a big part of our band that we’ve become.”
Theory of a Deadman released its album debut in September 2002.
“Now we look back and we’re like, ‘How many great bands have we seen come and go in those 10 years?’ ” Brenner said.
“But we’re still here and we’re so grateful for it. It’s so hard to make these things happen in music these days, so we never take anything for granted. For us, it’s just back to pounding the pavement and working it.”