The Badlees are going national.
In a move many local music fans have anticipated for months, the central Pennsylvania band flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday and agreed to a national recording contract with Polydor/Atlas Records.
A recording contract with a major record label is the goal of many artists because it means national distribution, promotion and touring.
The Badlees' deal calls for their latest independently released album, "River Songs," to be re-released on Polydor/Atlas, and comes with a guarantee for a second album. The album was originally released on Rite-off Records.
As for the financial aspects of the agreement, group manager Terry Selders of Selinsgrove would only say that it was "not too low, not too high."
"We're very excited that we actually just signed a record deal and we're going to be touring and putting records out," said group vocalist Pete Palladino of Selinsgrove.
"But in reality, all it means is that you're in the game. From what we do from here on out is going to be a lot of hard work ... I think if we weren't ready, this wouldn't be happening. You work your whole life to get to this point."
Atlas Records was recently formed to handle newer groups. Rock legend Van Morrison is signed to Polydor, and the parent company of Polydor/Atlas — A&M Records — is the home of such artists as Sting, Bryan Adams, Soundgarden and The Gin Blossoms.
Polydor also holds rights to back catalog albums of such artists as Eric Clapton and Elton John.
The Badlees, including Palladino, vocals; Bret Alexander, guitars, vocals; Jeff Feltenberger, guitars, vocals; Paul Smith, bass, vocals, and Ron Simasek, drums, have been a favorite in Northeastern Pennsylvania for several years.
In December, the band took first place in The Times Leader's "Sound Choice" reader's poll, and since their debut five years ago, have built a strong regional following.
Now, the rest of the country will have the opportunity to discover The Badlees.
"We shook hands and said that we would do it," said Selders, about the contract. "They're going to put out 'River Songs' as it is. It doesn't need any work done to it."
"River Songs" has been a regional success with record buyers and radio stations. Everything on the album, said Selders, right down to the cover art, will stay the same.
"It's a real testament to the band's craft," he said. "They produced the record themselves, they recorded the record themselves. We did everything ourselves as far as getting the right mixers and studios and mastering facilities... for (Atlas) to say this stands up to any other release out there — it's really a great thing."
National recording contracts are a rarity, especially here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In 1983, pop/rock group Dakota, whose members were from Harveys Lake and Hazleton, secured a one-album deal with MCA Records. In 1989, Plymouth's Jimmy Harnen recorded an album for CBS/WTG Records. Neither group recorded a follow-up for its labels.
For the Badlees, however, a follow-up is assured because of the second-album guarantee in the contract.
"Assuming all goes well," said Selders, "there could be several more."
"We thought the album was very strong," said Nick Gatfield, president of Polydor/Atlas in Los Angeles. "There's some great songwriting on there. When you find out what the band had done by themselves... the action that the record's had at local radio stations in the Pennsylvania markets, their tour base there... they've done an awful lot of groundwork by themselves which I think is very impressive."
Selders said the band's shows scheduled through July and August will go on as planned. He says the band hopes to be working with a major booking agency by September.
Within the band, there's a sense of accomplishment, combined with a desire to move forward. Palladino said Polydor/Atlas wasn't the only label that made the band an offer, but that he's confident the group made the right choice.
"We had the luxury of actually choosing from a bunch of different labels that were interested in us," he said. "One thing that really attracted us to the Polydor/Atlas/A&M people was the fact that those companies are really based in music. They've never forgotten that music is paramount — and the reason why we do this whole thing. They're all incredibly down-to-earth people who really work hard... I think it's going to be a great relationship."