The kids are online

Flee the Seen guitarist-vocalist R.L. Brooks pities the teenage listeners of Aerosmith and Metallica, kids from years past who had to go without e-mailed interaction with their favorite frontman or thriving message boards with set lists and fawning testimonials. Pre-Internet, the fan experience was just so impersonal.

For up-and-coming bands like Flee the Seen, a post-hardcore-screamo quartet from Kansas City, Mo., maintaining their MySpace profile is nearly as important as gas in the van or even rehearsal, since cultivating their corner of the online network means relationships with fans, more kids through the door at shows and, ultimately, more record sales. "It's such a huge tool," Brooks says. "Kids reach out to us, and we message them back; I just replied to this girl in Germany."

As of early June, the quartet had 15,653 MySpace pals. "Come to the UK now!" one recent entry reads. Another includes a breathless message for Flee the Seen vocalist-bassist Kim Anderson. "Greetings from Sweden! Go Kim, more girls in emo bands!" Groupies in Sweden? How many other groups from Missouri can say they're big in Scandinavia?

As encouraging as their online fanbase is, the members of Flee the Seen aren't hedging their band's future on the moneybags of Rupert Murdoch. Brooks and Anderson realize bad press and overexposure could cool MySpace's current hot streak at any time. That's why they're keeping their own site active (that's one thing Murdoch doesn't yet own stock in), touring heavily and trying to make the most powerful music they can. The quartet's post-hardcore pummel derives as much from '90s punk-pop as it does metal and emo; every other line is yelled or wailed, tears and miniature psychological disasters figure heavily in the lyrics, and melodic hooks are scraped across slivers of tense, hardcore-influenced percussion. It's the reigning sound of today's all-ages club.

Flee the Seen signed with California indie Facedown in December 2005, released its debut full-length Doubt Becomes the New Addiction in March, and has been on tour ever since. While on the road, Brooks is supposed to keep the band's MySpace tour journal current, but the guy who used to make fun of the band Thursday for letting seven months lapse between blog entries has found himself slipping since his own band's tour began. "I can see how it happens," Brooks says. "So much is going on that I have a hard time keeping up with it."

Still, he and Anderson are never too busy for MySpace. They still log in for a few hours each day, and eventually respond to every message the band receives. Logging in? Site maintenance? Aren't those the mundane tasks you leave behind when you forsake cubicle hell for the warped beauty of life in a band? Maybe, but Flee the Seen sees it as time well spent when playing in a city for the first time and seeing kids in the front row singing along to every lyric. Brooks and Anderson know there's a good chance those kids found them on MySpace, discovering them and their sound after clicking a banner on the page of a friend or favorite band. "If you're not on it," Brooks says, "you're just wasting an opportunity."

Entrepreneurialism, community spirit and old-fashioned, volume-jacked teen angst — it's like Rupert Murdoch wrapped up in a band T-shirt and black hoodie.


Saturday, June 17, at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit; 313-961-8137. With It Dies Today, Haste the Day and Chidos.

Crystal K. Wiebe is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
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