Like most bands, Kansas City's Five Defy appreciates a little free publicity — even if it's on a past-due electric bill.
"We were playing this Earth Day show sponsored by KCP&L, and there was an advertisement on my disconnect notice," recalls drummer Justin Skinner. "You know, that did go out to a lot of people. It's more handbills than we've ever made."
It may be awhile before Five Defy can dip into the band fund to pay bills, but things are on the right course. Formed from the ashes of local bands Raising Grey and Tabla Rasa, the two-year-old quintet sought a fresh start that traded in world-beat folk-rock for a more electric sound.
"We wanted to develop something beyond what we were known in our little circle for doing," singer and guitarist Mike Tipton explains. "I hadn't played electric guitar in 10 years."
A fledgling incarnation of Five Defy got off to a comedic start by auditioning on a whim for a bush-league American Idol dubbed Best New Talent. After an audition at the Marriott with bongos and an acoustic guitar, the band headed to Los Angeles to compete for the grand prize — a Plexiglas star imprinted with the legend "Best Band 2005."
"It was like Star Search but crappier," recalls Aniko Adany, the group's singing violinist. "They were shouting at 13-year-old girls backstage — like, 'Entertainment is a serious business!' It made me not want to be in a band anymore."
Shortly after they were paraded onto a catwalk with teen dancers and kid actors, the group decided to forgo the Elton John sing-along and go get drunk.
"I looked over at Aniko, and she had tears in her eyes," Tipton says. "We looked it up a month later, and it was completely gone."
Now fully recovered from that sobering experience, Five Defy wields a mighty set list that blends the thick drama of the Arcade Fire with the propulsive rhythms of Dogs Die in Hot Cars. An array of synths fuse with Adany's violin to hogtie listeners with thick, melodic chords — a ruckus that Tipton describes as "a sound guy's nightmare."
A giveaway EP is Five Defy's only output to date, but the band plans to cut a record and take it to the ends of the Midwest.
"We try to play all the college towns and hit up as many drunk chicks as possible," Tipton jokes. "You get enough people drunk, and something good is bound to happen."