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— by James Montgomery, with additional reporting by Christopher "CJ" Smith

Buffalo, New York, is known for many things — chicken wings, Vincent Gallo, its proximity to Canada — but a vibrant local music scene is not one of them.

Famous exports include the blistering hardcore of Snapcase and the numbing medio-core of the Goo Goo Dolls, two acts that are pretty accurate indicators of the city's musical stylings. Most Buffalo bands can either be classified as aggro-rock or middle-of-the-road pop, and never the twain shall meet. Until now.

Can't get enough of Cute Is What We Aim For? See how they got plucked from Buffalo by pop-punk's hottest label in this video interview, only in Overdrive.


Meet Cute Is What We Aim For, four squeaky and geeky kids from the mean streets of B-lo who are a little bit punk and a little bit pop and, by their own admission, really huge dorks.

"We are the geekiest band ever. We're a laptop band. The majority of our time that we spend online is talking to our fans," bassist Fred Cimato said. "Sometimes it's really cool and they'll say how our music affected them, but then there are other times when a fan will ask us, 'Will you play my friend's birthday party?' "

The Cute guys — frontman Shaant Hacikyan, guitarist Jeff Czum, drummer Tom Falcone and Cimato — have taken the express train to success, thanks in no small part to their near-omnipresence on MySpace and general mastery of all things Internet. The band's profile on MySpace even lists each member's IM name, which puts them in constant contact with their fanbase.

"When we first started our band, we just got a MySpace page because, well, that's what you're supposed to do when you start a band, because the networking powers of MySpace are far superior to anything else out there," Hacikyan said. "Plus, it's free, so how can you say no to that type of opportunity to touch people? The amount of promotion that's been spent on our band from the very beginning is like $400. It's been word of mouth from the kids we talk to online."

Cute's meteoric rise — they formed in January 2005, landed a coveted spot at the inaugural Bamboozle fest in April, then quickly signed to red-hot Fueled By Ramen Records in November — coupled with their online presence have earned them their fair share of haters. But rather than address their detractors head-on, Cute Is What We Aim For decided to extend an olive branch with their first record, the fizzy and buzzy The Same Old Blood Rush With a New Touch.

"The record is about all the social pressures that come with being a teenager: the sexual pressure, the social pressure, the pressure to be cool or slag someone off. And I think it's pretty apparent," Hacikyan said. "We tried to make a record that can appeal to everyone, something that's fun for kids but also can appeal to an older audience. Because we're kids, we love what we do, but we're also maturing. And I think a record that you put out will be out for a couple years, and we needed something that would not only grow with us, but grow with our fanbase, too."

The band's gotten some helpful advice along the way, from labelmates the Academy Is ... and Panic! at the Disco, who basically told Cute Is What We Aim For to let all the hateration roll off their backs.

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"We've gotten a chance to talk to Panic and pick up tips on how to deal with all this, and William Beckett from the Academy Is ... and I talk all the time because he's gone through all this stuff before," Hacikyan said. "And that communication is so widespread throughout everyone on Fueled By Ramen. They're all incredibly supportive, and we're so amazed to be a part of what they're doing here. The whole thing just makes me smile."

And besides, with a full two months of touring ahead of them (with acts like Spitafield, Valencia and Anberlin), the guys in Cute Is What We Aim For don't really have a lot of free time to keep track of all the smack talk. But that doesn't mean they're going to be disappearing from the IM scene anytime soon. After all, that's what got them here in the first place.

"We realize every day that we're living a dream," Hasikyan said. "You think, 'Wow, people work really hard for this,' and it makes us appreciate it more because we realize how lucky we are. And we realize that we owe a huge debt to all of our fans and all the people who've come to our MySpace page and all the people who send us Instant Messages. It's weird because 15 years ago, people weren't on IM and MySpace, and now that's all we do. And I'd like to think that in 15 years, we're still gonna be doing it."


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   Photo: Fueled By Ramen


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