On Halloween evening, the six employees of Modern Art Records are busy moving into their new headquarters in Phoenix's downtown arts district.

Ben Collins, the label's co-founder, maneuvers around various shipping cartons and cardboard boxes scattered around the vintage 1912-era Roosevelt residence while heading to his corner office. (The new digs are much swankier than the dank Tempe industrial park where Modern Art was formerly housed, and are afforded by a major investment in the label by Epic Records).

Hector Bagnod
Jamie Peachey
Hector Bagnod
Chris Donathon
Jamie Peachey
Chris Donathon

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See more shots of the Medic Droid in our slide show. The Medic Droid are scheduled to perform with Chronic Future, and Back Ted N-Ted on Friday, December 12, at The Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe.

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The 27-year-old, who plays guitar in local hip-hop/rock combo Chronic Future, is eager to talk about The Medic Droid's rollercoaster ride to fame. (He's well-versed in such a subject, as Chronic Future burst on the Valley music scene as teenagers in 1996 with their snotty anthem "Scottsdale Brat" before getting signed to big-time deals with major labels shortly thereafter.)

"Hector and Chris are a phenomenon in a lot of ways," Collins says. "There are a lot of record labels out there spending hundreds of thousands of dollars just to try to get a band to the point that The Medic Droid got on their own natural energy and some well-placed maneuvers."

The band's near-overnight success, he says, was due to their being able to connect with fans through the first three songs and then go from there.

"They wrote three songs, and in many ways their spark was created just on that. So, it's a very rare story, I think, with a band to see something rise that quickly," Collins says. "I think it's a testament to things like MySpace and the digital world. You put a song up and it's really good, then it's just a matter of time before people catch on to it if they like it."

Around the time of their debut show in NYC, The Medic Droid was inundated with offers from major labels. Donathon says they were discouraged by the attitudes and insincerity of various major-label A&R reps and were reluctant to sign a deal.

"It just started getting to the point where we didn't care when someone wanted to talk to us," says Bagnod.

An online chat with a member of local thrash-rock group The Cover Up convinced Bagnod he should see what Collins had to offer.

"He was really cool, and we all just started talking music," he says. "We met up a lot and really started liking their idea of things and the mentality that they had to work with artists. They talk with you and not at you."

Ben Collins founded Modern Art last year with his wife, Anne-Marie Smart, and members of Chronic Future after they experienced frustration with the music industry. Chronic Future went through much drama with Interscope Records over contract issues and unpaid money in relation to the band's 2004 album Lines in My Face. Band members wound up getting day jobs to survive, and after putting out a self-funded EP, Chronic Future decided to start its own label.

Modern Art differs from other indies in that it is virtually autonomous. Recording titan Epic provides distribution, promotion, and plenty of financial backing, to the tune of six figures annually, but Collins says it's a relatively hands-off situation in which they call the shots and pick which artists they'd like to sign.

The focus is on Phoenix musicians and bands with breakthrough capability, like the other three bands currently signed to Modern Art, each snagging the spotlight in its own way. Miniature Tigers' infectiously sing-song indie pop has been blowing up big-time on college radio nationwide; electro-pop group Back Ted N-Ted generated major buzz at last year's South by Southwest festival in Austin, and its founder Ryan Breen (who also serves as Modern Art's in-house producer) remixed songs for Imogen Heap. And hardcore band The Cover Up recently starred in a commercial for Australia's Commonwealth Bank.

But are there any advertisement deals in the works for the Medic Droid?

"Chris has asked me, 'Ben, can I get a MAC Cosmetics endorsement?'" he jokes.


Inside the Green Room at the Blender Theatre on Thanksgiving eve, the members of the Modern Art Records posse are doing the kicking-back thing. While Chronic Future passes around some Maker's Mark and tunes up before they take the stage to open for The Medic Droid, Bagnod's busy brushing his teeth and applying cologne. He's also getting some confidence-builders and advice on hooking up after the show.

"You're so hot, Hekti," says Chellise Michael, girlfriend of Chronic Future vocalist Mike Busse. "You see how ready you are for tonight? You are so prepared to kiss a girl with a clean mouth."

"You're the most gorgeous boy," adds Anne Marie Smart, wife of Ben Collins.

"You guys are just saying that," Bagnod says sheepishly.

Some of The Medic Droid faithful might disagree, Hekti.

Although Donathon tends to get more of the adoration, there are plenty in the band's largely teenage fanbase who are enamored with Bagnod. Take "BeautifulMiseryandMe," for instance. The high-school-age YouTube user stated "i love hector bagnod" on her personal page on the video-sharing Web site.

It's not the only thing you'd find on YouTube relating to the band, as close to 3,000 videos devoted to The Medic Droid are posted on the site. There's shaky and pixilated bootleg concert footage, clips of fans filming themselves with webcams singing along to songs, and even D.I.Y. music videos, like an almost five-minute clip of stick figure ninjas re-enacting the lyrics of "Fer Sure" word for word.

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11 comments
la sandra
la sandra

oh shit i can't believe i havent seen this article until now! i was at the blender that night, and i had started the chanting of fer sure as we were kicked out by that fucking security guard.

however, medic droid broke up yesterday. something happened between chris and hector i think.

Amanda
Amanda

Just read the article and was totally pumped to get to a computer & listen to these guys. Expecting music that was new and fresh and totally awesome. Um, sounds like pop punk to me. With the same beats and the same nasally voice, am I missing something?

Jim
Jim

It's not a question of haters (or sockpuppets pretending to be fans rushing to the defense of the band, for that matter). Make an outline of the article and you quickly find there's very little of a factual nature. The writer tries to make all this boring stuff sound interesting, but see how his hyperbole is supported: he doesn't describe a rollercoaster ride to fame or a "meet cute," despite claiming that he does. The supposedly wild antics of the band goes no farther than the singer lifting up his shirt. The alleged debauched ambisexuality of the crowds at the clubs they play deosn't sound especially wild but, as with pretty much everything else in the article, we're just supposed to take the writer's word for it (even though he seems to just be taking the band's word for it). If you like the band, fine (I went to their Myspace page and personally I liked their "hit" better when Toni Basil did it as "Oh Mickey"). But the article is a big hunk of nothing that smacks of payola.

betsy enders
betsy enders

omg...i'm very happy you wrote about the medic droid cuz their my favorite band and they really put on a great show...

Tracey
Tracey

Don't listen to the haterrs, just listen to the music. its so good and chris donathan is so cute

Mike
Mike

This is one of the most blatant instances of empty hype I've seen in a while. The writer makes no attempt to verify the frankly unimpressive claims made by the band and their management (e.g., that they had lots of interest from major labels before choosing to be on local trust fund label) and I can't help but smell a big pile of bullshit. Is this supposed to convince Phoenix residents that they're missing out on something because they're allegedly REALLY, REALLY popular elsewhere? A bunch of Myspace hits, eh? I wonder if they hooked up with one of the services that offers to use their programs to boost the number of plays your Myspace tunes receives or whether they did it themselves.

Nicki
Nicki

Great job, 'New Times'! I was so stoked to see The Medic Droid on the cover. They are a phenomenal band and really stand out from the indie rock scene that seems to dominate the Valley. It's awesome that such an innovative duo is representing AZ so well! Keep it up, and good luck to Modern Art!

Jeremy
Jeremy

I've heard these guy's album. The production is really great. I'm in my late 20's and the overall vibe of the band is definitely geared towards a younger audience so I personally can't give a fair review. My younger sister likes these guys a lot. I wish this story had more info about their label and what it is doing in the local music community.

Either way, no need to hate on em. There's a New Times every week. I'm sure somebody else you think is a fag will get the cover soon enough. ;)

Peace

Kiki Fausel
Kiki Fausel

Honestly, it was an excellent show, and this band is talented. Please, don't look at their younger fan-base. The true fans are really awesome and dedicated. And, the band plays a funky beat, and Donathon is a great guy and a fantastic vocalist. Not to mention Hector is the sweetest man ever.

soulbot9000
soulbot9000

Is there seriously nothing else going on in this city that this crappy band gets the cover of the new times? did you guys listen to their music before writing this? my guess is probably not. can we please get coverage of bands that you don't have to be a 13 year old girl in order to like them?

Scene Jean
Scene Jean

What a couple of fags. Certainly not worthy of a cover story in New Times. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

 
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