Having already earned a passionate online following, Cute Is What We Aim For is now ready to spread their joyful noise into the wider world. Described by singer Shaant as "power pop with intellectual lyrics," the Buffalo-based band's Fueled By Ramen debut, "THE SAME OLD BLOOD RUSH WITH A NEW TOUCH," abounds with contagious energy, flaunting a distinctive gift for brightly brash melodies and endlessly witty turns of phrase. Throughout exuberant songs such as "I Put The 'Metro' In Metronome" and the animated first single, "There's A Class For This," Shaant flips though his virtual journal to unleash canny couplets detailing anxious post-adolescent introspection as well as his own observations on life, love and the teenage class struggle.
Having paired off in other local combos – Shaant and guitarist Jeff Czum in one, bassist Fred Cimato and drummer Tom Falcone in another – Cute Is What We Aim For came together in January 2005, driven by the four members' desire to cast their own upbeat spin onto modern pop.
"We just wanted to do something that was fun and refreshing," Shaant says. "Something different, with catchy melodies and a lyrical twist. Our mantra, our mission statement, was let's be ourselves – let's be fun, but let's be deep and intelligent at the same time."
Adopting the Cute Is What We Aim For moniker as "an homage to a friend," the band was productive from the get-go, cranking out a series of bedroom demo recordings just moments after uniting. They posted the tracks on MySpace and PureVolume and quickly captured the attention of the blogosphere. "The Internet is amazing," Shaant enthuses. "We owe everything to PureVolume and MySpace and LiveJournal and all the kids out there. I can't even say how adamant I am about giving all the credit for what we've done to the online communities."
From the start, there was a genuine connection between Cute and the kids, much of which can be credited to the simple fact that they too are barely out of their teens. Who better to express the sentiments of their peers than a band of teenagers?
Cute's online presence allowed for widespread national exposure that once upon a time could only be garnered through full-steam-ahead touring. With songs like "Lyrical Lies" and "Finger Twist & Split" lighting up broadband connections coast-to-coast, the band were eager to establish themselves as an equally poptastic live act. In the spring of 2005, mere months after getting started, Cute won PureVolume's online Battle of the Bands competition, securing a high-profile spot at that year's Bamboozle.
"It was crazy," Shaant says. "It was just the third show we'd ever played!"
They spent the following months recording and playing more shows, building upon their new fanbase while simultaneously fending off the many record companies that were vying for their services. But when the call came from Fueled By Ramen, they knew that they'd found the right home.
"We were in rush hour traffic, stuck in a van without air conditioning," Shaant says. "My phone rang – the voice on the other end said, 'Hi, this is John Janick from Fueled By Ramen Records…' and I said, 'No it's not!' I was like, why is this amazing dude calling me? There's such an amazing sense of community about the label. That's why I was such a fan. From the outside looking in, I just wanted to be a part of it so bad."
The band signed onto the Fueled By Ramen roster in November and quickly began getting ready to record its debut album. In February 2006, they packed their gear into the van and headed down to Beltsville, Maryland to work with producer Matt Squire at his Salad Days Studios.
"We'd recorded our own demos so we had some experience in the studio, but nothing like this," Shaant says. "The pressure was ridiculous. Even with all the online success, we're not under any illusion that we've accomplished anything yet." Squire – known for his work with such bands as Panic! At The Disco and Thrice – helped the band focus their energies, directing their efforts and encouraging them to fully find their own voice in the studio.
"Squire, he's like a guiding light," Shaant beams. "He has this confidence that he inspires in others. This record wouldn't be what it is without him."
The resulting "THE SAME OLD BLOOD RUSH WITH A NEW TOUCH" more than fulfills Cute's mission to mesh jubilant tunefulness with savvy verbal gymnastics. Songwriters such as Conor Oberst and William Beckett of The Academy Is… proved a major inspiration for Shaant, moving him to match the band's vibrant melodies with equally energetic lyrical expression. "I've got the gift of one-liners," he announces on "The Curse of Curves," proving it time and time again with his complex and clever wordplay.
"For me, the lyrics are everything," says Shaant. "You can put together a catchy kind of chord progression but none of it matters if the lyrics aren't there."
"The record is about the everyday ins-and-outs of social cliques," Shaant explains. "It's about the pressure that they put on you, to live up to something that you're not, to be somebody that someone else wants you to be."
Among the album's many highlights is the exuberant first single, "There's A Class For This," which features guest vocals from one of the band's key inspirations – and now Fueled By Ramen label mate – William Beckett of The Academy Is…
"He's definitely an idol of mine," says Shaant. "I asked him if he'd sing on our record and he very cordially said yes. He wasn't able to come into the studio with us because he was on the 'Truck Stops and State Lines' tour with Panic! At The Disco. So they recorded his part on the back of the tour bus, then just sent the file over to us."
Though their time in the studio saw new material flying out fast and furious, the band were also sure to include remodeled takes on the demo songs that first caught the audience's attention, including "Finger Twist & Split," "Lyrical Lies," and the album-closer, "Teasing To Please."
"We kind of wanted to pull away from some of those songs," Shaant acknowledges, "but at the same time, we understand that most people haven't heard them yet."
Since finishing the record, Cute has begun playing more and more live shows, including headline dates and tours alongside such like-minded artists as Punchline and Jack's Mannequin. With each show, the band has grown in both confidence and charisma, giving euphoric life to the songs of "THE SAME OLD BLOOD RUSH WITH A NEW TOUCH."
"From here on in, we're on the road full time," avows Shaant. "Our biggest concern now is to go out and experience all the things we might've missed so we have a full appreciation of what we've got. I very much worry that because of how fast all this has come that we start taking things for granted. We don't want to abuse this incredible gift that we've been given by everybody."