When American Idol made its'02 debut the pop-oriented singing competition became an instant phenomena and spawned numerous imitators. It was only a matter of time before its all-pervasive influence would have an impact on Rock.
First, INXS, an '80s band in need of a vocalist (Michael Hutchence had died several years earlier) let viewers choose their next singer. Rockstar Supernova started with three journeymen musicians. Then they gave a bunch of unknowns the chance to front this faux band.
Seriously, conducting a competition to find a vocalist makes about as much sense as trolling for band members at a Guitar Hero play-off. There's more to being in a group than having the ability to go through the motions. As it turned out, winning a singing competition really is more a means to an end rather than an end itself.
Guitarist/vocalist Ben Foster and drummer Chris York were in Ocala's (FL) 60 Cycle Hum. Not being able to hang on to a bass player made this group's existence difficult. While trying to deal with that problem Foster and York recruited Eddie Sweeney. His task, and not a small one, was to provide vocal dynamics and simply command the stage - make people want to watch him. The addition of bassist David Oliver completed the initial Stereoside line-up. The group went into the studio and recorded their debut "Wake Up."
So far, so good but not for long. Sweeney and the group soon parted company.
After winning a local singing competition (put on by a radio station - WTNT Tallahassee Idol) and touring regionally fronting a group named Rizer, Shields, a former drummer, headed for Nashville. He worked on projects here and there but nothing much came of it. But then Shields got a call from Stereoside's sound tech who remembered Shields' Rizer vocal chops. It wasn't long before Shields headed back to Central Florida for an audition.
"There was an immediate chemistry there," claimed Foster. "It was not easy for someone to come into a band that was already formed."
"Music is a second language for me," Shields told his local newspaper. "I have worked very hard to get to this point and it is finally here."
Shields' first show with Stereoside was in his Tallahassee hometown.
The following year, '07, the group signed with indie label Beiler Brothers Records and released "So Long."
2005 Wake Up
2007 So Long
Stereoside's "So Long" sound is dense yet melodic. Their songs often dwell on drug use - getting high or staying clean - and the damage done. Give credit to Foster whose guitar work drives this set. On "Sinner," he's unstoppable giving the track its muscle. While the ballads "On And On" and "Little Pill" are engaging it's the more uptempo "Wasted," "Tattoo," "Ain't So Bad" and "My Life" that are the album's strengths.
"Wake Up" is a solid effort. The group has a heavier sound that tends to get clunky here and there. Bottom line, Sweeney was a good frontman but Shields is better.