Whether they realize it or not, nearly everyone has heard New Orleans trio Deadeye Dick’s 1994 hit, “New Age Girl.”
In the mid-’90s, “New Age Girl,” featuring singer-songwriter Caleb Guillotte’s bouncing guitar riff and lyrics about a passionate vegetarian, was both a Top 40 hit and a staple on college and alternative-rock radio. The song’s sales exceeded 3 million copies.
Guillotte and his Deadeye Dick bandmates, bassist Mark Miller and drummer Billy Landry, recently met at CC’s Community Coffee House on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans for a lively 90-minute session of memories. The trio will play a reunion show Friday at Howlin’ Wolf. The performance marks the upcoming 20th anniversary of “New Age Girl’s” breakout success.
Deadeye Dick recorded “New Age Girl” and the other songs that appear on the band’s debut album, “A Different Story,” in October 1992. Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc produced the sessions during three days at a small Belle Chasse studio. The entire project cost $2,300.
After “A Different Story” remained unreleased for many months, the still unsigned Deadeye Dick pressed and promoted the album itself.
“We believed in the album and sent it to radio stations,” Miller recalled.
Atlanta rock station WNNX, aka 99X, believed in “New Age Girl,” too. The station aired the song and, nearly two years after it was recorded, “New Age Girl” became the most popular rock song in Atlanta.
“We gave 99X the album on a Monday,” Miller said. “They played ‘New Age Girl’ on a Tuesday. Thursday it was No. 1 on the station.”
Despite the song’s popularity at 99X, the band had a problem. In 1994, before digital downloading and indie acts not needing a record company to distribute music, “New Age Girl” and “A Different Story” were only available from the back of Deadeye Dick’s van.
Because the band didn’t have physical copies of the song or album available in record stores, 99X told Deadeye Dick it would only play “New Age Girl” for six weeks.
Fortunately, the song’s popularity in Atlanta and beyond translated to interest from record companies. Music trade publication Billboard reported that major record labels Geffen, Atlantic, Hollywood, RCA, PolyGram, Elektra and EastWest all courted the band. Offers exceeded $1 million.
The trio ultimately signed with Atlanta-based indie label Ichiban Records. Unlike the majors, which wanted the band to re-record its album, including “New Age Girl,” Ichiban pledged it would release “A Different Story” in eight working days. And there were other reasons to go with Ichiban.
“At the time,” Guillotte explained, “the post grunge-rock idea became, ‘Let’s go with a smaller company where we can grow together. We’ll know everybody there and they’ll know us. We won’t be just another face in the crowd.’ ”
But Deadeye Dick and Ichiban had no idea that “New Age Girl” would become a major hit, first on its own and then again as the lead single for the soundtrack of the hit Jim Carrey movie, “Dumb & Dumber.” The song’s runaway success overwhelmed the indie label.
“It just so happened that it exploded way beyond everyone’s control,” Miller said. “Ichiban should have brought in the big guns.”
But Ichiban, despite offers from music mogul Clive Davis and other major label figures, wouldn’t let “New Age Girl” go.
While it’s possible that Deadeye Dick could have become a bigger band that it was, Guillotte, Miller and Landry have no regrets.
“Technically,” Guillotte said, “we may be a one-hit wonder, but we had an opportunity to do something only one in a million people who has that dream to be a rock star gets to do.”
Deadeye Dick rode the “New Age Girl” train through May 2000. Never formally disbanding, the trio simply stopped performing. Miller believes the difficulty of finding a label to release the band’s still unreleased third album contributed to the hiatus.
“We knew what a great record it is,” Miller said. “When our lawyer sent it out anonymously, he got emails and letters back saying, ‘Love it! We’re in.’ But when they learned it was a Deadeye Dick record, no phone calls, no returned calls.”
“We realized what a monumental task it would be,” Landry said, “to erase the perception of us as a one-hit wonder band. It would be difficult to reinvent the band.”
These days, Landry is an anesthesiologist on the northshore. Guillotte works in the film industry in art and set decoration. He also performs with the acoustic quartet Pony Space. Miller worked in the film industry, both on screen and behind the scenes. He also wrote songs in Nashville and released a solo album. The band members remain friends. On the rare occasions they play together, they do so happily.
“It sounds really smarmy with these guys sitting here,” Guillotte said of his forthcoming rehearsals and show with Miller and Landry, “but my favorite part of it is hanging out. Even though I do play music with a lot of other people, getting a chance to play in a band setting with you guys again, that’ll be just so fun.”