A few months back, two of the biggest and most respected names in the British music industry boarded a flight at Heathrow Airport and headed to Portland. The sole intention of this nearly 5,000-mile journey was to witness D&K (now known as the Hugs), a teenage band, the majority of which was fresh off winter break from Cleveland High. What followed were three shows: One at a coffee shop, an early evening "real" show at the Tonic Lounge (with the band's family in attendance), and a final performance at the unfortunately named "Butt Club," a house in Southeast.
By the time these two men returned to London a few days later, one was prepared to manage the band, the other hell bent on signing them to a record deal.
Not too long ago, Roger Sargent—one of the two British music industry legends in question—was advised to set up a MySpace page in order to "reach out" to fans of a new photo book he had just published on the Libertines. Sargent's music industry notoriety comes from behind a camera's lens (the Guardian UK called him "The UK's most important music photographer"), as he is known for his portraits of Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, and Bloc Party. Speaking of his first introduction-via-MySpace to the kids from Cleveland High, "I got a somewhat cryptic message from a band calling themselves D&K. It was so annoyingly cryptic I had to check it out. The first song played and I was hooked, but the only thing was, I thought it was some kind of hoax. There was no way this music could be made by school kids."
Convinced that this mysterious band needed to be seen, Sargent recruited James Endeacott to accompany him on a very unorthodox scouting trip to America. Endeacott is known for discovering, signing, and breaking two of our generation's most popular (in the UK, mind you) bands: the Strokes and the Libertines. After his trip to Portland, the former Rough Trade A&R representative is now currently working on making the Hugs the first USA band to sign to his vanity label, 1965 Records.
So, is this local band—who ironically struggle to get even the smallest gig here in town—worth all of this blossoming hype? Well, sort of. The Hugs need work. You can put that NME cover on hold for now, as their rise to stardom will, at best, be a slow and gradual ascent. But under the floppy bangs and slouched teenage shoulders lies a group of kids on the cusp of something great. Much like the early forbearers of the jangly Brit-rock sound, the Hugs have a loose charm, a perfectly content sense of confidence that permeates throughout their sound, no matter how sloppy it might be at the time. Their music has the rough kinetic energy of Slanted and Enchanted-era Pavement, and the haphazard punk of (pre-crack and tabloids) the Libertines.
What does the future hold for the Hugs? It's unclear if this band will be given the Strokes treatment and shipped off to England to be groomed for pop-star status there, before being unleashed here in the States. But for now, the Hugs will be a band to watch—that is, when they can actually get a local show.