The "Reality Hits You Hard, Bro" Guy Hopes Fortune Follows His Fame
George Lindell never seems to stop talking. Loquacious doesn't begin to describe the 46-year-old motormouth, who appears to be stuck at warp speed.
When asked, the Valley resident will gladly (and energetically) inform you of his feelings about the state of the nation or the virtues of Prince versus Michael Jackson ("Prince is a bad motherfucker"), punctuated with spastic gestures of his arms and hands.
Given his manic energy, jags of hyperactivity, and tendency to flail his limbs, it should come as no surprise that Lindell plays drums. Hard. He's practically a percussion instrument unto himself, making his own sound effects in abundance. His ebullient dialogue and stories are peppered liberally with guttural onomatopoeia like whomp, foom, and, of course, bam.
Lindell's garrulousness has served him well over the past month and has plucked him from the anonymity of a journeyman house painter and thrust him into the national spotlight. It ain't because of his substantial talents on the drums, but rather his penchant for over-the-top verbal theatrics.
After being caught up in a gnarly car accident in late September, video footage of Lindell's bizarre description of the mishap to a FOX 10 reporter went viral and nabbed him more notoriety than he ever earned from banging wooden sticks to skins.
Lindell was painting a house in North Phoenix on September 26 when he left to get an extension cord for a paint sprayer and some lunch. The 1986 Chevy Astro van he was driving was hit from behind by an SUV, which flipped over and ran into a power pole, causing the downed power lines to emit electrical sparks.
Both Lindell and the other driver were unhurt, and the resulting chaos of the accident's aftermath is when FOX 10 and other news stations interviewed Lindell. That's when the magic happened, as Lindell said the following:
"Well, I was driving down Northern Avenue, getting ready to pull into Albertson's, and all of a sudden, I was just minding my own business — bam! [It] hit me hard, right from the back! I was glued to the seat and I was like 'Wuuughghghghgh!'"
Moments later, Lindell coined what would become his catchphrase: "Bam! Reality hits you hard, bro."
He quickly became a YouTube flavor of the nanosecond and was featured on both Comedy Central's Tosh.0 (natch) and The Daily Show. A few folks on the Internet even called Lindell "the second coming of Chris Farley." Like many other Internet oddities, he was the perfect fodder for a "Songify This!" Auto-Tune remix video created by the notorious Gregory Brothers.
As for the fortune to go along with all the fame? He and his musician buddies are working on that part. Josh Irino, a longtime friend of Lindell's and drummer for local rap-rock band Property Six, has been working on getting his buddy some endorsement deals.
"George could do commercials for accident-injury lawyers, for insurance companies, collision and auto repair [places]," he says. He's even willing to star in the over-the-top commercials for local accident lawyers Lerner and Rowe, who Irino says would be a good fit for him.
"That would totally work, his personality and their commercials," he says. "'Reality hits you hard, bro' even rhymes with Lerner and Rowe."
Irino and local concert promoter Guido Ottesen, who's now serving as Lindell's manager, claim they've gotten also him a publicist in Los Angeles. At the very least, Irino promises, his friend would be entertaining.
"That's just how he is naturally. He describes everything energetically," Irino says. "His arms go up in the air and he'll try to mimic sound effects constantly. Sound effects are very big with George when he explains things."
If it were up to Lindell, he'd be making sound effects alongside Ashton Kutcher and Jon Cryer on Two and Half Men or an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (which occasionally features YouTube celebrities on the talk show.)
"Comedy shows, talk shows, anything would be cool. Anything that's more fun than painting houses," Lindell says. "And if I can make as much money doing something else as I can painting houses then I'd rather do that."
He'd even be willing to play the drums if need be, especially since he's a savant on the kit. Lindell got his first drum set at age 14 and grew up idolizing Black Sabbath's Bill Ward and Rush's Neil Peart ("He was my favorite for seven years," Lindell says. "2112 was baaad!"), much to the chagrin of his conservative Christian father. The way Lindell tells it, his dad rivaled the rage-aholic paterfamilias in Twisted Sister's video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" in terms of abhorring rock.
"My dad was a really religious guy and would yell, 'You will not play that goddamned rock 'n' roll in this house!'" Lindell says. "My sister brought home a Ted Nugent album one day, and he ripped that thing into shreds. He'd say, 'Godammit, Black Sabbath is not gonna play on Easter Sunday, motherfucker.'"
It led to some interesting situations when he was a kid and teenager.
"That's why I used to sneak the beers out, and then I'd sneak out my window at night, by the time I was 10 years old. I'd come in at 9 o'clock at night, and my dad had already had the flashlight in his hand. 'What have you been doing? Have you been drinkin', have you been smokin'?'" Lindell says, laughing. "Are you listening to that goddamn rock 'n' roll music?' My whole family's had the crazies."
Much to his father's chagrin, Lindell drummed for a few garage bands while attending Maryvale High School in the '80s, but his tenure with each was short. Ditto for Lindell's stints with the dozen different Valley rock and cover acts he's joined since then, none of which he'll identify.
"Most all of them kicked me out because they're a bunch of lames, so I don't want to give their bands [any] mention," he says. "But I did start off one good band with a great guitar player called Psycho Circus. That was a good one," Lindell says. "All the other ones . . . man. Every time I've joined a band, I've always wanted to put some of the most energy [into the band]. I have my own philosophy. For example, I say songs should be three minutes, tops."
His love of quick, no-nonsense songwriting is why he especially dug the Gregory Brothers' transformation of his accident description into one of their signature Auto-Tuned songs.
Evan Gregory, the group's keyboard player and vocalist, told FOX 10's Ron Hook (who seemed to take umbrage at being depicted as a keytar player in the video) that they were inundated with e-mails about the original video and decided to use it for one of the latest editions of their popular "Songify This!"
The Gregory Brothers have become rampantly popular online for transforming goofy news footage and YouTube oddities into synth-filled Auto-Tuned gems, thus proving that anyone can sound like a pop or hip-hop star when aided by the infamous phase vocoder software.
Much as they took Antoine Dodson's colorful rant about a perverted home invader and turned it into the wildly popular "Bed Intruder" (which scored more than 91 million YouTube views and ranked 89 on Billboard's Hot 100 list last year), the Gregory Brothers transformed Lindell's description into the effusive bubblegum pop song "Reality Hits You Hard Bro."
Words like bam and foom became part of the song's hooky chorus, and the rest of Lindell's account became the refrains and bridges. Fittingly, they also included some brief footage of Peart playing drums.
"We're really glad that kinda the outcome of the incident was no one being hurt," Gregory told FOX 10. "And then it's kinda amazing that what came away from the story is really George's storytelling, kinda revealing his personality to the world. So we're kinda glad we encountered him like that."
Lindell's pretty happy about the song, too. Although he says he wasn't aware of the Gregory Brothers or their music (or even Auto-Tune, for that matter) before now, he's certainly become a big fan.
"It was catchy, hooky, and artistic. Everything they did was pure art. I'd never really watched YouTube before. I don't even have a YouTube account. My Internet is so freaking cheap [that] I can't get video. I have that $40 Cricket Wireless thing that you plug into the computer," Lindell says. "My brother says that these things are really big now and people are watching them all over. He told me about that Antoine guy and how he got songified and is really popular."
So far, Lindell's infamy hasn't come close to matching that of Dodson, who made an appearance on the BET Hip Hop Awards and Lopez Tonight last year following his rise to fame. Lindell hasn't made it past his appearances on Comedy Central. He and Ottesen launched a page on CafePress selling T-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with his "BAM. Reality hits you hard bro."
Converting Internet infamy into actual cash is a tricky thing, however, as the dudes from South Park pointed out in the 2008 episode "Canada on Strike." That's not stopping Lindell from exploiting his 15 minutes of fame as much as possible. He'll be hosting Property Six's CD-release party this weekend at the Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe, and Irino is thinking about using him on some songs in the future, although not as a drummer.
"I've discussed with the band possibly having him record some intros on the next album," Irino says. "Intros and things like that I think work well with George, and I think he could do that for a lot of bands or musicians. There are a lot of opportunities he could have as far as the music industry and the television industry. His type of excitement is perfect for music environment, so I think a lot of artists would want to have a drop from the guy that is the 'Reality hits you hard, bro' guy. Especially if he's as colorful as he is."
Lindell is hungry for more fame, and the monetary stability that may come with it. Before the accident, Lindell was living out of his van. Though he moved in with a friend three months ago, the house is in the process of being foreclosed upon and Lindell is likely to either couch-surf or bunk in his vehicle (which was smashed up from the accident but is still drivable). He claims that the other driver's insurance company is refusing to admit their client was at fault in the accident, though Lindell was the one hit by the other driver.
The irony of the fact that he's rich in Internet fame yet scraping by in real life isn't lost on Lindell.
"I've been on TV shows, I've been on the news, on Huffington Post. In only 10 days, I got a million and a half hits on You Tube. Like, wheeeeeee! It's so cool. But man, I'm gonna wind up living in my damn van again because of the stupid economy. No one wants to have their house painted anymore," he says. "But if the only reason I can make money now is from that video, I'm game. Now, I can go to any agent in town and say, look, here's my reel. I can do any commercial; I can sell any product. Acting is something anybody in the world can do. It's who you know; that's all it is. So put me in a movie. Put me in a TV show."
Lindell ultimately wishes he could've been more famous for his drumming but is realistic about things.
"I'll put it this way: I'll take it," he says. "We all wish we can win the lottery, but to tell you the truth, I don't play it. This hit me quite out of the blue, and is the last thing I expected. Sure, when you're growing up, you say, 'I want to be famous.' When I was playing the drums, I wanted to be a famous drummer. But that never happened, so any dreams I had of being famous were long gone, a long time ago. Until recently."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.