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— by James Montgomery

On the surface, getting famous without doing anything at all seems like a pretty sweet gig. Yet when that gig includes associating one's self with Paris Hilton, well, let's just say things can get a whole lot less sweet. Really quickly.

Just ask Los Angeles electro-rockers Shiny Toy Guns, four tight-trousered, heavily eyelinered hipsters who — up until a few months ago — were probably more concerned with getting their photos snapped by the Cobra Snake than getting famous. Then, out of nowhere, Paris entered the scene.

Seems that there are lots of rumors floating around that Ms. Hilton is not that vocally gifted (gasp!) and that perhaps it wasn't her voice that people were hearing on her debut album but rather that of Guns singer Carah Faye.

And almost overnight, Faye and the rest of Shiny Toy Guns — guitarist and co-singer Chad Petree, keyboardist/bassist Jeremy Dawson and drummer Mikey Martin — became the darlings of the celebrity-gossip blogosphere. This was a bit worrying for the band, especially since it had nothing whatsoever to do with Paris or her record.

"It's false. Absolutely false. My vocals are not on her album," Faye sighed. "I did some dummy tracks with Jeremy, and one of them was a song that was hopefully going to go to this person or that person. I had done that before with some other people, and one song had been made in the vein of, 'Oh, maybe this will go to [Paris].' But it never went outside of that. And that's the bottom line."

But it's not like the whole theory was that far-fetched. After all, the Guns have been a celeb fave for years in L.A., thanks in no small part to Faye's tireless schmoozing. And while some bands may shrink away from the whole celebrity association thing, the rest of STG see it as a necessary evil.

"Carah would go out as much as possible. She'd go to these parties, meet all these key people — people in bands, celebrities — and she'd say to them, 'This is my band,' and give them a CD," Dawson laughed. "And they'd call her, like, four days later and be like, 'Dude, this is really, really good. I know this guy who can get you a private party here or there.' And so while all of our friends were having to pay to play at the Knitting Factory — because you have to pay to play in L.A. — we'd be snuck in the backdoors of these celebrity parties and play before an A-list crowd."

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And thanks to their gigs at Hollywood hot spots like the Roosevelt Hotel, Shiny Toy Guns were soon being asked to open up for acts like Maroon 5 and Veruca Salt when the bands would blow into town for a secret show. Soon, their A-list status — coupled with the whole Paris thing — had made them one of the most buzzed-about acts in L.A. Insane rounds of touring took the Guns through Alaska, Canada and straight into the heart of Hurricane Katrina.

"We had a show in Baton Rouge, [Louisiana,] and then the next night, we had to be in San Antonio, and our manager just said, 'Well, you're going to have to cancel the show and get out of there,' " Dawson said. "And I was like, 'Dude, are you kidding me? I get to drive through a hurricane.' So we just headed out, right into the eye of the storm, and U-Hauls were bouncing all over the road, and the wind was blowing us all over the place, but we made it through. It was amazing."

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And if a band can overcome both Paris Hilton and a hurricane, is there anything that can stop it? Well, Universal/Motown is betting there isn't, which is why the label's gearing up to give the Guns' debut album, We Are Pilots, a major push when it drops October 17. And the band, for one, can't wait. Because, who knows, in a few years, maybe people will be asking, "Who's Paris Hilton?"

"In five years, we want to put all this behind us and go global. We want to go to Slovenia, and Russia and Israel," Dawson said. "I want to go to Turkey, Greece — all over the place. Our goal is to have the same impact in New Zealand as we do in Wyoming."


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   Photo: Universal/Motown