By all music-business logic, a Christian-influenced, female-fronted screamcore band that was a virtual unknown a year and a half ago should not be able to conquer the entire local scene -- and make a pretty decent stab at wooing national acts looking to fill opening slots, too.
No way. Not a chance.
But that's exactly what's happened. In just less than 18 months, the foursome -- singer and bassist Kim Anderson, vocalist and guitarist R.L. Brooks, guitarist Manuel Sanchez and drummer Aaron Crawford -- have made some serious waves, sharing stages with the likes of Alkaline Trio, Death by Stereo, 30 Seconds to Mars, the Kinison, Dead to Fall, Cake, Weezer and a slew of local bands, all before the release of its first full-length.
Kansas City fans have taken notice. Last week, FTS became the Lord of the Rings of the Pitch Music Awards, taking home trophies in all of the categories for which it was nominated -- Best Female Vocalist, Best Punk and Best New Act.
At this point, you might be thinking the band has some sort of superagent. The Kansas City music equivalent to, say, Jerry Maguire, or maybe Jeremy Piven's character on Entourage.
Except there is no agent. Nor is there a record label, a distribution deal or a big-name studio, other than the one Crawford has successfully run as a business -- Poor Boy Records -- from his parents' home in Lansing, Kansas, for the past four years. And there hasn't even been that much press -- the article you're reading right now is one of the first features about the group.
So who's making all this happen? For the band, there's only one explanation.
"We have been completely blessed," says Anderson, as the band members gather at Joe's Pizza in Westport, one of their favorite hangouts and a noticeable change from the nearby bars that seem to be havens for KC's earthier musicians. "Usually, there are different stages in a band. But every time we get to a different level, like recording our album or playing with national bands, something just comes along and makes it all work out. It's totally unexpected."
The band's faith in God is more than just a casual shout-out, but it's not the right-wing overzealousness that can alienate as many fans as it attracts.
Lyrically, there are some obvious props to the man upstairs -- phrases such as Seconds pass without a passing glance/Decide to live (from the single "Wire Tap Out") are understated but uplifting. And musically, the band is closer to mainstream hardcore than its members realize.
"We have no idea how to classify ourselves," Anderson says. "We pull from everything -- rock, hardcore, punk, indie."
"It just makes sense to us," Brooks adds.
Flee the Seen is an anomaly onstage as well. Near the back is Crawford, a head of wild, bushy hair dotting the i over his break-beat drumming. To the right is Sanchez, whose soft-spoken mannerisms and Saddle Creek-esque mop-top contradict his searing guitar. On the left, there's the Castro-hat-adorned Brooks, whose guttural screams bring the rest of the band's postpunk melodies to shattering climaxes.
And in the middle is Anderson, the dark, waifish matriarch of the group, who looks like she's in a constant arm-wrestling match with her bass -- and losing. But it's not her stature that most people notice -- it's her raspy, slightly saccharine voice, which teeters between hoarse and harmonious.
Crawford describes her vocal range best: "When she sneezes, it sounds like somebody kicked a dog."
A motley crew they may be, but these four know it was fate -- or maybe faith -- that brought them together. Brooks and Anderson began playing in bands together while they were both attending Missouri Western State College in St. Joseph in 2000, but it wasn't until a few years later, after Anderson had changed schools a few times and eventually graduated from Maryville University in St. Louis in 2002, that she decided to return to KC to reunite with Brooks.
"After I graduated, I was like, OK, what do I do now?" Anderson says. "And nothing was as great as playing in a band with R.L. So I just called and said, 'What if I just moved to Kansas City?'"
"And I said that would be awesome," Brooks says.
The beginnings of what would later mature into Flee the Seen took shape quickly. In December 2003, the pair added Sanchez to the lineup and recorded a first EP, Fighting Chance. But many months passed and several drummers came and went before the trio finally found what they were looking for in Crawford.
"I went to see them play a show in Leavenworth, and I just thought I could play drums more like what they wanted," Crawford says.
"He knew our EP better than we did, actually," Brooks adds.
However, by the time Crawford joined the team, he was able to contribute only a few last-minute details before a second EP, The Sound of Sirens, was released in October 2004. Which means that for almost an entire year, the band has been touring in support of an album that's a snapshot of a former life.
"As soon as we were done with it, we were beyond it," Anderson says as she begins to discuss the differences between the group's last release and its first full-length, Doubt Becomes the New Addiction, which arrives in mid-October. "We've been dying to write this record."
Almost a year and a half after its start, a band that's already seen the national spotlight and a whole lot of local praise is ready to put the horse back in front of the cart.
Is there an answer to how they got here? Maybe there's more than one. The band members have no doubt: Faith in the unknown -- being able to flee what is seen -- is what's moving their career along so quickly. They may be right about the divine aid. But a lot of hard work hasn't hurt.
"For us, it's go big or go home," Brooks says. "It's our lives. All the hard work is paying off, but we know there's a lot of hard work ahead. There's a whole other level, and we're going to get there."