The core of the area rock band Vs. The Earth has been around for more than 10 years and has developed quite a following in that time - in their "home" state of Pennsylvania, in their adopted home of Maryland and throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
So when the quartet recently signed a recording deal with Waveland Music Group, a subsidiary of industry juggernaut E1 Entertainment, the reaction was, well, pretty predictable.
"It was insanity," said Adam Marino, the band's lead singer. "We knew for about two weeks and we couldn't tell anyone, which was awful. When the press release hit, my phone didn't stop ringing for like two weeks."
Members of the band Vs. The Earth are: (from left) drummer Elliot Wiley, lead singer/guitarist Adam Marino, lead guitarist Mike Ritchey and bassist/backup vocalist Eric “Dawg” Swander.
Waveland will release the group's major label debut, "The Initiative," in June. The album's debut single, "Better Off Dead," will be released on April 20, with an accompanying video on major music networks like MTV and Fuse. The video co-stars Mindy Hall from the VH1 reality series "Rock of Love."
VTE has a unique sound - a mixture of rock 'n' pop punk, with melodic lyrics.
"The best quote I've ever heard is that it sounds like a mix of The Clash and the Foo Fighters," Marino said in a recent phone interview from the band's annual spring tour of Key West, Fla. "It's high-energy, guitar-driven rock 'n' roll."
Just the facts
Band name: Vs. The Earth
Home base: Baltimore, formerly Altoona
Members: Adam Marino, 30, lead singer/guitarist; Mike Ritchey, 28, lead guitarist; Eric "Dawg" Swander, 28, bassist/vocals; Elliot Wiley, 26, drummer
Popular songs: "Psycho," "T.A.T.A," "Carolina Sky," "9/11 (Still Remember You)," "Lightswitch"
Next project: New single "Better Off Dead" will be released on April 20, with accompanying video on all major music networks; Major label debut album "The Initiative" will be released on June 15
Web site: www.vstheearth.com
Their music should fit right in on the current music scene, according to Jim Price, the host of Rocky 99 and 104.9's "Homegrown Rocker" and a long-time columnist for PA Musician Magazine. Price, based in Altoona, has seen the band grow from the very beginning.
"I think they have a contemporary sound that's still pretty much in vogue nationally," he said. "If they get the right push, get on the right tour and can develop a fan base ... I think they have a pretty good future."
Vs. The Earth was formed in 1999 by two Penn State University students, Marino and lead guitarist Mike Ritchey. Marino had quit another band to go to college and was commuting from the University Park campus frequently to visit his then-girlfriend, a Penn State Altoona student.
Looking to get back into music in a more relaxed setting, one day Marino was looking at the musician's wanted ads tacked up at the Logan Valley Mall store The Wall (now F.Y.E.). One ad, reading "We need a singer," stood out.
"It was just a piece of notebook paper with a number on it ... it didn't even have a name," Marino says. "I looked at it and said, 'That's perfect.'"
The number belonged to Ritchey, an Altoona native who was then attending Penn State Altoona. The two hooked up with a drummer under the name Nevermoure and were soon joined by another Altoona native, Eric Swander, better known as "Dawg" to VTE fans, on bass. The band's popularity skyrocketed with the addition of Altoona drummer Shawn Hocherl, a veteran of several area bands.
"We started playing some frat shows and got a booking agent and started playing shows around the area," Marino says.
The band eventually started drawing big crowds at such area night spots as the Four Dees, Pellegrines and City Limits (now 30 Something) in Altoona and at Crowbar in State College, then began to tour surrounding states.
The group changed their name to Vs. The Earth in 2003 - to avoid confusion with the Seattle-based
heavy metal band Nevermore - and most of the band moved to Baltimore, where their management company was located.
VTE completed its current lineup when Hocherl left the band to start a family in 2005 and Baltimore drummer Elliot Wiley stepped in.
Always active in its own management, self-producing six albums throughout the Nevermoure and VTE years, the group began booking itself throughout the country. A wise decision, as it turns out.
"Last year, we did a self-booked tour of a bunch of rock clubs on the East Coast and Texas and we did a couple of one-offs in California," Marino said. "(Waveland representatives) saw us when we played in New York."
After a short negotiation period, a deal was struck. But it wasn't the usual first record deal that young bands sign.
"About six months ago, we incorporated," Marino said. "We were having so much success but we were just a partnership. Now we have VTE Entertainment.
"So instead of being under their umbrella, the (contract) is written as a deal between two corporations."
What that means is that Waveland Music will handle the artist management part, with E1 Entertainment distributing the music.
"They can get you anywhere in the world," Marino says.
VTE Entertainment LLC is the band's shot at becoming a big business, not just in music, but in the entertainment world as a whole. The group has a clothing line coming out in the fall, a partnership with Philadelphia's Sava Fashions, and will release a VTE-branded beer, energy drink and line of liquors in May. VTE Entertainment also has an agency that manages and books 11 other bands.
Marino said the band is anxious to make its mark in more than just music.
"We're kinda doing the whole Jay-Z style thing, but as a rock band," Marino says.
According to Price, it's always been the group's dream.
"I remember the first interview I did with them," he said. "I always ask the bands what their goals are. Adam's quote that I still remember to this day was 'Lunchboxes and action figures.'"
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.