Everyone's heard of the Cowsills, but that doesn't make Bob Cowsill particularly happy. His band is working on all-new, original material, but he worries that people will include the Cowsills in that group of oldies bands that regularly play the "nostalgic circuit." At the start of the conversation, he set things straight right off the bat.
"We're not ashamed of our past, it's just that it isn't relevant. Susan was seven years old. It's hard to relate to that. We did use our name initially to get our foot in the door, but once we played in L.A., we had to take ourselves seriously for what we are today. In the Seventies, we went by the name the Secrets, but you can't hide from who you are.
"Our name, and I'll be honest, not with radio, not with the press, and not with the people, but with the decisions makers of this town, they get nervous. 'How do we market the Cowsills?' Well, how do you market Bryan Adams? How do you market Sting? How do you market the Traveling Wilburys? You get that nervousness, which I can understand, because it's a major investment for the labels. That's okay with us, because we'll overcome it."
The story of the "new" Cowsills begins about two and a half years ago. The band had gone into the studio to cut three songs that Bob had written with his wife Mary. Pleased with the results, they made the decision to treat themselves like a brand new band, a local band, and for one year they went out to the Midwest and did some shows, some television and some press to get the word out that the Cowsills were back and not going down the oldies road.
SAGAS OF THE UNSIGNED
By Richard Rosenthal
The second year was spent in the club scene in L.A., getting reviews and getting the word out locally that the Cowsills were back doing original material. "We were saying, 'Give us a break. We were young children back then, take us for what we are now,'" says Bob. "We succeeded in that goal, in terms of the club scene."
"It's gratifying that these reviews happened all during the past year, and it helps you feel valid at this stage. If they had been bad reviews, we would have had to take the stand, oh, you can't listen to critics, what do critics know. We're fortunate that they have liked us, and hopefully, the reviews do the job of informing people. Every good review serves a purpose. We had been looked at, we have been checked into, we've been rejected, we've been offered deals - not with a major label yet, but the smaller labels. Still, it's been gratifying because ultimately they concentrate on the fact that the Cowsills are a new band, and they talk about the new material."
Bob Cowsill is so enthusiastic and motivated, he even looks at rejections in a positive light. Atlantic turned him down without listening to a note of their music just because they are the Cowsills, but that's okay, because that means he can move on. Capitol says they're sure the band is going to be signed, just not with their label. Hey, that's progress, too.
"We don't get down about this, because we are aware of what we are involved with. We came out of that studio two years ago and said, 'Look, we're going to go for the long shot here, and we're going to do it right from scratch.' We knew we were in for a long battle."
The next step for the Cowsills was to go back into the studio. Thus far, they've spent the whole summer recording new material. "The tape that we have is a good tape, but it's two years old. After that tape, that band evolved into what it is today. We're in the studio now, and we're going to finish making this project. We're going to finish making it ourselves while we're waiting to get singed. If we get signed tomorrow, great. If we don't get signed, at least we're standing with product, and that's good."
"We're going to go in and record fifteen songs, and we also have three that are done. We keep writing, and the band keeps evolving, and we feel it's definitely time to go in and document where we're at right now. We're not going to limit ourselves."
When the Cowsills do get signed (it's always "when" and not "if" to Bob), they want to hit the ground running. Bob says he is in the process of assembling a team to get his band to Number One. Selling a "respectable 20,000 units" to get people's attention won't cut it with him, and he feels that with the right backing, they can have a major, major debut.
"Our audience, there are millions of us. They're the people that didn't want Fleetwood Mac to break up, the Beatles to break up. They like U2, they like Bryan Adams, they like Tom Petty. If someone says, 'Where are you going to get your music played on the radio? Come on! These are people that are thinking about a band that had my sister Susan in it, and they're thinking of her as a seven year old. It's our job to rectify that kind of thinking, and we know that it's going to take us longer than most bands, although we also feel that most bands would trade places with us right now. We're in a good position, even though we're not signed."
They would be in a better position if they were signed, but that's what this summer's studio sessions are for. Besides, they are now to the point where they can get heard by the decision makers at a record label, which is an accomplishment in itself. "It's starting to be known that, 'Hey, these guys are serious,'" says Bob. "We're not going away."
The Cowsills can be read at (818) XXX-XXXX.