Dryden Mitchell suspects his band, Alien Ant Farm, might have an image problem.
"You thought we were going to be rap-core, huh?" he guesses. He admits it's a valid deduction, especially since Alien Ant Farm was hand-picked by Papa Roach to be the first act signed to New Noize, its DreamWorks imprint. Despite AAF's devotion to melody and harmony, Mitchell figures people expect his band to share Papa Roach's rap-rock vibe.
"Our music was nothing alike, but our work ethic was," Mitchell says of the alliance between the bands. "They always said, 'If we make it, we're going to drag you guys along with us.'"
The Roach boys stuck to their word, and now AAF has a record contract and a song climbing the Billboard charts: "Movies" debuted at No. 36 on the Modern Rock charts. In less than a month, it reached No. 21. Not bad, considering that ANThology, AAF's debut album, didn't hit stores until today.
"I don't care if we're No. 70,000!" Mitchell says. "I'm just happy to be on Billboard at all, just to have our name in there with a slew of huge artists!"
A year ago, an enviable position on the charts was the last place Alien Ant Farm expected to find one of its songs, with one label after another rejecting the band's material.
"We had a lot of showcases at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, where we would go in at three o'clock in the afternoon and basically play for three people," Mitchell recalls.
The band members were frustrated by what was expected of them — "We were supposed to act like we were in front of a huge crowd" — and were even more discouraged when the feedback from the showcases started rolling in.
"Everyone said, 'The songs are great,' but they'd get back to our manager and they'd question our marketability," Mitchell says. "Or they'd say that Tye [Zamora], our bass player, didn't know his role and was trying to be the frontman. But I like the fact that Tye gets crazy."
Eventually, the folks at DreamWorks liked what they heard and saw and gave the boys a home.
Judging from the reception AAF is currently receiving on the road, the fans are liking what they're hearing and seeing, too.
Alien Ant Farm just finished a string of dates with TapRoot and Linkin Park, and the band is currently opening for Orgy. In mid-March it will team up with its pals in Papa Roach for the aptly named Raid the Nation Tour.
Chart action, a supportive label, and a successful tour are all signs that Alien Ant Farm is on the right track. But the real proof that its invasion has been a success came on a recent stop in Rhode Island.
"This kid said to me, 'Hey I want my hair like yours!'" Mitchell laughs. "So we dragged him into our bus. I tried to talk him out of it, but he wanted it so bad!"
Mitchell obliged, and did the haircutting honors himself.