In the middle of one of those Arizona weeks where temperatures are threatening to scorch us at a satanic 120 degrees, the Valley band that Paste declared a “four-piece art/glam/rock monster” is seeking a different calefaction: a spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart alongside 24 other "new and developing” artists.
Fairy Bones have more than a fighting chance of generating such heat, thanks to their new single "No One Can Suffer Like I Can.”
Available for 99 cents through iTunes, the song's already passed the halfway mark to registering 500 download sales on Soundscan’s weekly tally. It’s tough-sounding when it needs to be and radio-friendly when it needs to be anthemic, with an almost subliminal ska chorus that wouldn't sound out of place blasting out of a passing car or getting piped in a Hot Topic inside a mall near you. Unlike all of Kim Jong-un's missile launches, this one could make it all way through.
A few days before the cutoff day they can be eligible to clock in their indie 500 sales, Fairy Bones’ suffering-in-song lead singer Chelsey Louise posted a video on Facebook thanking the fans who’ve gotten them this far on this campaign. “I feel like crap," she admits. "I’ve been sick for like ever and stressed out on life.” Her condition has since been downgraded from “suffering” to “anxious.”
“Definitely anxious, mostly excited and grateful,” she elaborates. “However this campaign ends, we have received an emotionally overwhelming amount of support from Phoenix and friends we've made around the country from our tours, and that has meant the most.”
Billboard, the only print music-chart compiler of note, has always seemed to be the domain of artists with a sizable record label, a big money push, and an unstoppable hype machine behind them. So watching a 100 percent indie band from Tempe attempt such a Herculean leap to the next level would almost invite discouragement. “We don’t have access to the Soundscan charts [that labels do],” Louise admits.
For instance, Louise and company didn't know that there were programs in place to report physical sales to Soundscan. "We didn’t do that for our first album [Dramabot], but we will be doing that for our upcoming album," she says. "Everything’s a learning process!"
Indeed, they've learned a lot during this campaign.
“This release has given us a taste of how exclusive and protected the higher music industry really is, really," she says. "We’ve reached out to certain people that we're lucky to know for help, so we’ll know on this one within the next few days, I think!”
Consider that Dramabot sold several thousand copies, combining online and physical sales, over the last two years. Trying to get 500 of those Dramabot buyers to pony up for a single download in just one week might be a tougher sell, especially when you can hear the song on demand for nothing. But fans well-versed in the art of fandom know that you need to be a visible means of support when it counts — even if it makes them sound like 1960s ad copy for a bra.
Have Fairy Bones had to do anything they didn't want to do to push this single over the edge, like reconnecting with distant relatives they never liked in the first place?
“Surprisingly, no!” says Louise. “Everyone who we consider close friends and family was more than happy to support us, which was great. The only thing we don’t usually do is reach out individually over Facebook, don’t like doing that. Feels very ‘attacky.’ I really only reached out to friends who I thought might not be on Facebook as much. Danny from Squeegee is the ultimate master of Facebook-messenger-hijacking. Maybe I should’ve asked him for help. I’ll send a UFO!”
Getting onto the charts by any means necessary is by no means a new idea.
Think back to the rampant payola of the late '50s, or back to 1962, when buying a Beatles record over and over again wasn’t an involuntary spasm and manager Brian Epstein bought up 10,000 copies of his unknown group’s “Love Me Do,” only see it chart and stall out at number 17.
Then fast forward to the post-millennium malaise. In an effort to get a boost in the album charts, artists of the stature of Madonna, Prince, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan have resorted to bundling a new CD with a concert ticket to maintain face in the climate of diminished sales across the board.
“Numerous artists have come forward to admit this practice is still used on a very large scale by major labels. Must be nice,” muses Louise.
And she has a response for those who ask: Why don’t you just buy 500 copies of your single?
“Well, that’s not the point, is it? We won't play games in buying Instagram followers or anything just because that's a metric they factor in. We do it our way until it works.”
After this week is over, and the Fairy Bones achieve their Heatseeking position, what’s the next logical step? Certainly not continuing to be a Heatseeker, like Ontario’s The Tragically Hip, who earned the “new and developing" badge 10 times between 1992 and 2016. Billboard has a chart for every next step upward, from its Bubbling Under chart to The Hot 100 proper.
Follow that all the way up, and you'll hit those single digits that Katy Perry and Taylor Swift compete for. How much of a lifespan does a single have to have to progress up the charts before it’s a dead item? As an unknown band, there's no time limit at all.
“A single goes through cycles, especially with an unknown artist," Louise says. "So although our fans have heard it already, millions of other people haven’t. Say they hear it in two years — it’s fresh to them then. That’s somewhat of an advantage to us. With a huge pop star, they release a single. It flops, that’s it. That’s the life cycle of the single. But with us, the right person could hear it in a year and that could start something new.”
To prolong the life of the song and re-engage fans who’ve already heard it, Fairy Bones have a video for "No One Can Suffer Like I Can” they'll unveil on Friday, June 30.
And while Fairy Bones maintain that this single mandates closer attention because producer Bob Hoag is catching the band at the ideal point of progress, maybe Fairy Bones have tapped into some affliction zeitgeist. Are there more people suffering now than ever before and getting more competitive about it now on social media?
“I wanted to express that I was fully aware that there are larger problems than mine, but that I needed to help myself first in order to help anyone else,” says Louise, definitively promoting the “Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First” principle that makes every plane safety demonstration safe. “It brings light to the fact that I think a lot of people feel this way, so the line ‘no one can suffer like I can’ is followed by ‘grabbing at straws with my hands’ because I wanted the listener to be aware that I wasn’t being entirely serious."
On an entirely serious note, having won “Best Local Band” of 2015 from New Times, is there any kind of commemoration one can expect for being a Heatseeker entry?
“I think you get a blowie from Paul McCartney,” laughs Louise. “Or maybe it’s just a B-12 shot?! Go buy a single so we can all find out.”
Wanna buy and listen to the Fairy Bones' new single? Here's your guide to purchasing it through iTunes, Amazon, and more.