Michael Bauer is putting up a “broke-ass flier” for his band The Front on a phone pole at the corner of Sanborn and Sunset in the heart of Silver Lake.
“Want to know a secret?”the 25-year-old asks, standing back to eye his work. “I just ordered 3,000 stickers. It’s more hardcore than anything I’ve ever done. I see other people have the idea of making stencils and spray-painting their band’s name, but I got stickers. I talked to the guy and he said they stick around threeto fiveyears, no matter whatthe weather.”
Bauer looks down at his thin stack of Xeroxed fliers. “These are gonna blow off inside a week, or someone is gonna tear them down.”
Given the fact that he is using thumbtacks, he’s probably right.
The guitarist and front man for The Front describes his trio as art rock: hard distortion, melodic, sincere, angry and “beautiful in some ways.”
“No artist likes to put their art in boundaries,” he explains. “I guess it’s, like, stoner rock.”
What is stoner rock exactly? Does it mean that the band members are stoners, or the people listening are stoners?
“Neither, necessarily,” he says, sitting down on a bench in the shade. “That’s an interesting question. When I think of ‘stoner rock’ I get ideas of, like: Kinski — this band on Sub Pop — Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age. For some reason, that particular term describes a particular kind of music. It’s heavy, drone-y rock. Distorted riffs, but not kickin’ your ass like Metallica’s Kill ’Em All. Maybe because it’s a slower rock?
“I don’t get stoned before shows.”
Bauer, who shares a rent-controlled apartment in Echo Park with two roommates, has played at El Cid, the Knitting Factory, the Silver Lake Lounge and Little Radio. He says his drummer usually makes his band’s fliers, including the one he is posting today, which has a picture of the traffic along the Champs Élysées with Fuck You inserted onto the license plate of one of the cars.
His drummer works at a production company in Hollywood that makes movie trailers, and “when she is supposed to be working,” Bauer explains, “she is making these.”
She also gave him the small Ziploc bag he is holding, filled with supplies she took from her office: thumbtacks, staples — no stapler — and Scotch tape.
Whenever he puts up fliers, the brown-eyed, full-lipped Bauer goes to the same places: Eastside coffee shops Casbah, Eat Well, Chango, The Downbeat Café, The Brite Spot and also Sea Level Music. All places he considers “Flier hubs. Places people who look at fliers will go.”
But, he adds, “I don’t think fliers really transfer into people coming to our show.”
“I’ve never seen a flier for a band that I’ve never seen and said, ‘Hey, I am gonna go to their show!’ I think it probably just makes me feel good knowing I am doing something to promote my band.”
Do you stop and look at fliers when you pass them?
“Yeah, I check them out . . . and steal ideas.”
Bauer has shoulder-length, naturally brown hair, which makes him look a lot like Michael Pitt’s character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, or a younger, prettier Billy Corgan, if you prefer.
Have you always had long hair?
“Well, I was selling Serta mattresses back in St. Louis. And, when I went for the interview, my boss said, ‘You seem like a really intelligent guy, we really want to give you the job. One thing I want to talk to you about is, you have to cut your hair. We think it will make you look older.’ I went home and I almost cried. It was pathetic that I was getting a job where someone was telling me to cut my hair.”
Last year, when Bauer told his boss that he was going to quit and move to L.A. and grow his hair, his boss told him he was going to bump him up from $50,000 to $90,000 a year if he stayed and kept his hair short.
“I told him, ‘Screw that, I want to move to Los Angeles and be poor.’ ”
Since he moved here he has always lived on the Eastside, and some of the local bands he notices regularly putting up fliers are: Future Pigeon, Irving and a new group called Lemon Sun.
In fact, he admits that sometimes when he sees a Lemon Sun flier, at, say, Chango, where he buys his coffee every morning, he experiences some anxiety.
“The fact that I am even thinking about them is a good thing,” he says of the band, which he hasn’t seen yet, but is thinking about seeing.
Bauer looks away for a moment and says, “I hope someone out there is thinking about The Front.”