SANTA MONICA, California Southern California's Something Corporate just spent a few days with Playmate Summer Altice, several of her gorgeous friends and one of the guys from the "American Pie" movies.
As stars of their own video, they got to tear around a high school, jam in the hallways and walk away with the leading lady. It was a true rock star weekend for the newcomers until, of course, everyone left and they had to pack up their own gear.
"We had done two 14-hour days. We were all so tired," Something Corporate singer Andrew McMahon recalled. "Everyone was like, 'That's so cool, you guys break down your own equipment.' And we're thinking, 'Well, I guess it was cool for a couple days.' It's just kind of a funny thing to have happen after you shoot your first video."
Not that they minded the work. It wasn't long ago these ego-free rockers were still in high school, practicing in garages, working to spread their unique piano-punk sound (think Ben Folds meets Blink-182) around Orange County.
It's just that Something Corporate are so close to reaching rock star status, which, as everyone knows, includes roadies. Their infectious first single, "If You C Jordan," is a hit in California and is snowballing eastward. Meanwhile, McMahon, guitarist Josh Partington, guitarist William Tell, bassist Clutch and drummer Brian Ireland are recording their full-length debut in a posh Santa Monica studio with red-hot producer Jim Wirt (Hoobastank, Incubus) and preparing to spend the summer on the main stage of the Warped Tour.
"We want to get the album out in the middle of May, since we have a single on the radio that we are crossing our fingers will blow up," McMahon said, kicking his sandal-clad feet up on a table in the recording studio.
At first listen, the song at hand, "If You C Jordan," is a charming little pop song with a memorable Weezer-like chorus. On second listen, you hear the line in the chorus "High school's over/ And you still won't quit" and verses like "I don't care if you dye your hair/ You'll always be a little redhead bitch." A closer look at how the song title appears on the album cover ("iF yoU C Jordan") clues you in on what McMahon changes the "If you see Jordan" chorus to by the song's end.
To vent some anger, McMahon wrote the song about a high school classmate in 15 minutes, thinking he would never play it again (hence the line "I won't play it often"). He took it to his band as a joke, but everyone fell for the song's energy.
As for the dispute that spawned the song, McMahon said, "It was like the typical total cheesy high school fight. We were just about to graduate and got in some stupid spat over a chick. A lot of people ask me, 'Do you hate this kid?' It's not even like that. It ended up being a bigger deal now that it ever was."
That didn't stop Something Corporate from re-creating the character for the song's video. And after the world watches actor Chris Owen (best known as the Shermanator from "American Pie") portray Jordan, he could become the next public enemy number one.
"The likeness is striking between the real Jordan and him," McMahon said. "He does certain scenes and you think, 'What a di--!' You really want to punch this kid, which is perfect. That's what you should feel."
The clip was directed by Drive-Thru Records co-founder Richard Reines, who when not discovering bands for his label, has directed videos for the Bloodhound Gang and New Found Glory. It opens with Jordan pulling up in his Porsche and cutting off the guys in Something Corporate, clad in their prep school uniforms.
"He does a bunch of lame things," McMahon said. "Finally, the band snakes equipment from the choir room and plays in the hallway. It comes to the last line and we're like, 'F--- you,' and you see him all embarrassed and he goes running."
Owen's performance is stellar, though his co-stars stole the show for some. "The girls are so good looking," McMahon said. "That was the idea, just get ridiculously hot girls to jump around in these uniforms and everyone will be happy. The whole band was running around and getting phone numbers. It was hilarious, half to watch the video, half to watch the guys chasing them."
"If You C Jordan" has been a lot of innocent fun for the band, though McMahon does feel a little guilty about the song. "I don't want people to feel like I'm after this kid," he said. "A song is a song. I sing love songs about chicks that I don't even care about anymore. You just do it because it's a good song."
Aside from Jordan, Something Corporate's Audioboxer, their debut EP released in the fall, is mostly about "chicks." "Punk Rock Princess" is a serenade to a perfect girl for a "garage band king." "Little" tells the story of couple whose "comic book crush got them nowhere." And then there's the straightforward piano ballad "Walking By" and the band should be forever grateful to the girl who inspired that one.
McMahon wrote "Walking By" the night before the band started recording the EP last July and convinced the band to add it to the record at the last minute. The song that it bumped off: "If I Were a Terrorist, I'd Bomb Your Graduation."
Going with "Walking By" was a wise decision regardless of what happened September 11. "My current girlfriend who I was just totally head over heels, it didn't look like it was working out," McMahon said of the song's origins. "You can tell there is an urgency to it. That song was a moment in time. It couldn't have been any more true."
Something Corporate's still-untitled-album won't include "Walking By," but it will feature "If You C Jordan" and new versions of "Punk Rock Princess" and "(Hurricane) The Formal Weather Pattern," all from Audioboxer.
Expect to hear those and new numbers like "I Woke up in a Car" when the Warped Tour kicks off in June (see "Warped Tour '02 To Feature Bad Religion, NOFX, New Found Glory, More"). Just don't expect Something Corporate to be packing up their own gear.