Friday, December 24, 2010

Sick Puppies

With a name like Sick Puppies, you wouldn't think hugs would play a major role in the gutsy indie crew's rise to fame, but they do, along with malls and the video-sharing site YouTube. When they met in 1997, singer/lead guitarist Shimon Moore and bassist Emma Anzai were both fans of Silverchair and the Living End plus many of the other angst rock/punk rock bands from their native Australia. Soon Chris Mileski joined on drums and a series of live gigs led to some local recognition and the 1999 EP Dog's Breakfast. Two years later, their song "Nothing Really Matters" won the Unearthed competition, which Australia's Triple J radio network held to find homegrown and undiscovered talent. Tours across the country followed and an unreleased and aggressive cover version of Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" was soon burning up P2P networks, but when the bandmembers set their sights on America they took a break to plan.

They also took days jobs. Moore's was at an outdoor shopping mall, where he would soon meet performance artist Juan Mann, who would carry a "Free Hugs" sign around the mall and oblige anyone who took him up on it. Moore filmed the positive and negative reactions and eventually compiled them, adding the Sick Puppies song "All the Same" as the musical bed. He sent it as video sympathy card when he learned Mann had just lost his grandmother. Mann was touched, posted it to YouTube, and by December 2006 the heartwarming video had ten million views. Meanwhile, the band had landed in America -- with Mileski replaced by new drummer Mark Goodwin -- and worked a deal with the indie label Roadshow, which released a self-titled EP by the band at the end of 2006. Given those ten million video views, it didn't take long for the majors to come calling. Virgin wooed them and released the album Dressed Up as Life in April of 2007, just as the views had reached the 12.5 million mark.