They also seem to be much younger than Endicott, although it’s hard to say exactly how much younger. Endicott claims everyone in the group is “mid-twenties,” but some public documents give his own year of birth as 1974, and others indicate he graduated from the tony Georgetown Day School in 1992, which would make him 30 or 31. An alumni officer at GDS confirmed that Endicott graduated from the school but would not say when. Endicott had contacted her several weeks earlier and requested that the school withhold that specific information. Touché.
Of course, reinventing oneself is the rock and roller’s prerogative, and Endicott’s plainly got a talent for it. In his college days at Vassar, he sported blond dreadlocks and performed in a ska collective called Skabba the Hutt, as well as El Conquistador, a band that sounded like “Joe Jackson meets the Clash meets the Go-Gos, but with dudes,” according to Jonathan Togo, who played in both groups. “Sam has always had the vision, and he puts a lot of thought into it. He looks at being in a band as its own art form.”
Through all these false starts, Endicott’s vision was evolving. By the time manager Pete Galli first heard the Bravery in October 2003, he thought they sounded like a polished, professional band. He only hoped they looked like one, too: “I was listening outside their rehearsal space, going, ‘Please don’t let there be some 400-pound dude in there.’” Almost immediately, Galli began developing a strategy to keep the band below the industry’s radar. “I told them, ‘Your songs are at ten, your recordings are at ten, the way you guys look is at ten, but you’ve never played a show, so that’s a zero,’ ” Galli says. “When you’ve got great songs and you look like those guys, there’s going to be some assistant that goes, ‘Oh, shit!’ and brings you into a label.” And Galli didn’t want his hot new act breaking too soon: “I saw them as the complete future of the next five years.”
They put together a six-month plan that would limit the Bravery to warm-up gigs at minor venues on the East Coast and culminate in a monthlong residency at a New York club. On November 25, 2003, they played their first show at Williamsburg’s Stinger Club, where a knife fight broke out in the crowd. By the time they started their showcase at Arlene’s Grocery in May 2004, the Bravery was no longer a secret.
“God bless him, but Kurt Cobain killed rock as a danceable music. ”
While they were honing their live act, they were also releasing MP3s on the popular personal-networking site MySpace.com. “When you e-mail cute girls, they want to hear good music, and they want to see cute guys doing it,” explains Hindert. The homemade files soon spread all over the Internet, ending up in regular rotation on radio stations in San Francisco, Boston, and London.
The band’s grassroots marketing wouldn’t have yielded results, though, if the Bravery hadn’t arrived on the scene at a moment when musical tastes were shifting in its direction. “Everybody was suddenly into the Cure, everybody was referencing Joy Division,” says former Arlene’s Grocery booking manager Owen Comaskey, who lined up the Bravery’s showcase. “So the timing was right, and they got it just right.”
By the third week of the residency, the shows were sold out, and Arlene’s Grocery was swarming with music-industry types—J Records chairman Clive Davis was spotted, and Interscope Records offered the Bravery a contract even before the showcase ended. The band’s dance-floor-friendly sound was a highly desirable commodity.
The dirty little secret about New York’s heralded postmillennium rock acts is that they never really sold records: Four years after its release, the Strokes’ debut, Is This It, still hasn’t moved its millionth unit, and its 2003 sequel, Room on Fire, has sold only a little more than half that; to date, neither of Interpol’s albums have even gone gold. Meanwhile, last year’s self-titled debut from the dandified Scottish quartet Franz Ferdinand has already gone platinum, as has Hot Fuss, the first record from the Las Vegas New Wave tribute act the Killers, which also scored a Grammy nomination for best rock album. “These bands are selling because they’re bringing booty-shaking back to rock,” says Galli. “God bless him, but Kurt Cobain killed rock as a danceable music.”
After fielding interest from almost every major label, the Bravery signed with Island Records just before Labor Day 2004. “The thing I think is great about this band is that while their influences are obvious, I don’t think Sam set out to do that,” says Rob Stevenson, a senior vice-president of A&R at Island. “If you ask him who his favorite bands are, he’s going to tell you the Clash and Fugazi, not the Cure and New Order. So it didn’t feel formulaic to me.”