Heath Farmer wants The Bolts to be the biggest band in the world.
But before the band starts selling out arenas, it must overcome the breaks that face newcomers. Namely, a covers band of 9-year-olds also called The Bolts and a four-year-old video of the kids covering Weezer’s Island in the Sun which has three times the views as the music video for The (adult) Bolts’ single, Walk Away.
Farmer compliments the kids on their musicianship and laughs at the confusion the name dilemma has caused for fans.
“We really want them to succeed,” the singer-guitarist says, “just under a different name.”
Still, in terms of page view, Farmer’s band dominates thanks to a commercial from beverage company, SoBe, featuring Walk Away and model Kate Upton. Farmer hopes the commercial, along with upcoming albums and residencies at two iconic California attractions, gets word out about his Irvine, California, band.
The SoCal musicians comprising The Bolts are brothers, figuratively and literally. Farmer shares vocal duties with his brothers, 23-year-old bassist Addam and 20-year-old keyboardist Austin, and guitarist Ryan Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick and Farmer, 22, have been friends since pre-school. They had their first guitar lesson together and went to school dances with the same groups.
Farmer met Matt Champagne, 20, through his church band and was impressed by his drumming skills. Farmer says The Bolts’ sound is a mix of the music he grew up with and the indie rock movement he experienced.
The band prides itself on its four-part harmonies, a move inspired by classic pop rock acts such as The Beach Boys, The Eagles and Queen. Farmer says he’s even spent Christmases and Superbowl parties with family friend Dean Torrence of surf rock pioneers Jan & Dean, another influence. Musically, Farmer was impressed by the groovy, funkier beat of the ’00s post-punk revival scene. He says songs by bands including The Killers, The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand grabbed listeners’ attentions over the radio.
“We try to create something new,” Farmer says. “From what we’re seeing, its looks like people are, hopefully, liking it. But, more importantly, we ourselves are loving it.”
According to Farmer the band hasn’t struggled with sharing vocal duties or the five-person songwriting effort. And now that they’re adults, the Farmer brothers have moved past their boyhood sibling rivalry, he says.
However, he says they still divulge into hour-long, heated debates over insignificant disagreements, such as whether the ceiling fan in their grandparents’ house turns clockwise or counterclockwise.
“Nobody’s diva,” he says. “We all goof around and stuff, but when it comes to collaboration and our relationship with each other, we’re very mature.”
Each band member ventures into other art areas as well. Kilpatrick writes poetry, Addam Farmer produces, Austin Farmer’s short story was published in the April/May issue of Zooey Magazine and Champagne directed the music video for Walk Away.
It’s this creative spirit and mega-aspirations that drive the band, says Farmer. He compares his desire to what Bono wanted for superstars U2 before they broke out.
“We’re not going to stop until we get to a level that is, in our eyes, unreal.”
As The Bolts prepare to make their mark with debut studio releases, they try to gain a wider following as the resident band at the Disneyland theme park and with monthly performances at The Roxy Theatre on the Sunset Strip.
The Fall EP will release Sept. 21 followed by the Winter EP and a self-titled full length next year.
Though the band already released two albums — 2008’s “Like a Fantasy” and the Play the Music EP in 2010 — Farmer considers the upcoming releases the debuts for the new, national-ready Bolts striving to shred the local band moniker. Yet, they haven’t abandoned their fanbase. On June 8, The Bolts played their first Orange County show in a year and a half. They were met by about 175 of their old fans at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, Calif.
Farmer says the band needed to play a small club again. Getting personal with the fans and looking out at the band shirts covering the walls felt great and brought back the intimacy lost when playing Disneyland. He says the impersonal element of playing the theme park isn’t necessarily bad, but something feels missing. Playing five sets a night 20 shows a year on a stage that rises from the ground, the band often doesn’t get to greet its audience on the dance floor.
“That’s how it is, and we’re down with that,” Farmer says. “But every now and then, it’s good to do something to connect with the fans again.”
The Bolts were first considered by Disneyland for a residency after contacting customer services. They then went through what Farmer called an “invigorating audition process.” The band had to learn 50 cover songs and come up with 20 originals.
Their first audition went well and the band played five sets a night at Downtown Disney. After a year, they were promoted to playing inside the park and received higher production value. Every night, before the band elevators up to the risen stage, a voiceover announces the Bolts’ arrival to an international crowd of Disneyland park-goers.
“It’s like going on tour in ten cities every night,” he says. “It’s definitely very cool.”
The band’s music has been licensed to the likes of Major League Baseball, NASCAR, Delta Airlines and TV shows Degrassi and Necessary Roughness. The SoBe commercial featuring Walk Away earned about 763,000 views on YouTube. Farmer says he didn’t know about the commercial until someone tweeted him about it.
“You don’t have many mornings like that,” he says.
While the licensing may be seem to interfere with the spirit of the indie rock movement that inspired The Bolts, Farmer says the band does what it wants and doesn’t succumb to any scene pressures.
“That’s the goal of The Bolts,” he says. “We transcend the stereotypes of any scenes.”
He accepts the criticism as part of the job.
“Everything is instrumental to our success as, not just a business and a band, but as human beings,” he says.
The idea of overcoming the difficulties of breaking out was the genesis for Fall. Farmer says the EP’s lyrics follow the theme of how nature appears to be dying during that season but, they remind listeners the state is temporary.
Like any band, Farmer says The Bolts felt the stress that comes with being an unsigned band. One day they’d play a show to 10 people, then another they’d play to hundreds. The fluctuation of audiences and figuring out how to attract crowds despite the many variables at the unsigned level confused the band members. This led to the creation of Fall as an album of optimism.
“If you look at things and deal with them in the moment, you’re never going to make it in this business,” Farmer says.
Luckily, the band has its loyal core fanbase, which it communicates with through social networking.
The band splits online duties—Farmer created the band website — and invites fans to hang out with the group at ice cream shops and bonfires. He says about 100 people showed at a Haagen-Dazs in front of Downtown Disney after a tweet was sent out a few days before.
“They rise up to the call of duty,” he says.
No matter The Bolts’ next project, Farmer tries to recognize the fans and express gratitude for everything the band’s experienced, for better or worse.
“It’s hard to make it out there as a band, especially with all the heart you put into it,” he says. “More than anything, we want to be a message to anyone out there who wants to achieve their dreams or live in peace. That, to us, is more valuable than any type of sales you can generate. Definitely.”