by Clint Burgess

The probability of a band signing a major record deal in today's high stakes market is slim at best -- and that's on a good day. However, every once in a while, a band like Campfire Girls comes along and shatters stereotypes about how the music business functions.

The band's latest release, Tell Them Hi, is a triumphant return to form from a group of guys who started with promise, then spent considerable time in the gutters outside several L.A. nightclubs.

The Campfire Girls were victims of the phenomenon known as too fast, too early. After a few low-quality demos and a buzz-worthy stint at a joint called Bar Deluxe, the band was snatched up by Interscope Records. The subsequent flood of cash soon gave way to mass consumption of drugs, leaving the group's two founding members, Christian Stone and Andrew Clark, without a band, without a label and without any prospects other than a probable overdose.

Several rehabs and a homeless stretch on Santa Monica Boulevard later, Campfire Girls are back (on Interscope of all labels) and making the most of their second chance. This album conveys a new sense of purpose and resolve and is full of tightly focused pop songs with the added element of some heavier guitar sounds reminiscent of the group's debut album Delongpre. The result is a more polished sound melded with the agreeable low-fi elements of previous work. Vocalist/guitarist Stone fashions songs out of a depleted mind and a broken spirit but with a just enough hope that it hooks listeners and brings them back for another round. The addition of second guitarist Mike Semple has filled out the sound, giving the Girls more depth and a sonic punch that broadens their appeal. Former fallen comrade and bassist Clark has cleaned up his act and has come to this album with a fresh angle on music. (The past couple of years found him playing with another Los Angeles band called The Bicycle Thief.)

The Campfire Girls have gone from dime-a-dozen status to something much more elusive and rare. These guys have been to the other side and back; their experiences make Tell Them Hi well worth a listen.

Publication date: 04/15/04

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