Joydrop Sitting Pretty With 'Beautiful'

Singer Tara Slone and her male bandmates take aim at the beauty myth.

Canadian quartet Joydrop are sitting pretty, thanks to a song about not

having to be.

The single "Beautiful," from the group's debut album, Metasexual,

takes aim at society's emphasis on physical beauty. Ironically, now that

the song has been embraced by rock, alternative and pop radio, the band's

future is, well, looking good.

"As a woman, I think the song gives a message that we can identify with

pretty easily," singer Tara Slone said. "We're so socialized to all of

this beauty stuff — with all of the magazines and television. I

think it's empowering for women to hear another woman say that it's OK

to be who you are. It's a subject I feel strongly about."

With its chorus of "I'm not beautiful like you, I'm beautiful like me,"

Slone's at first chirrupy, then defiant vocals spin a tale of scorned

love redeemed by a sense of self-worth.

Adding irony to irony, "Beautiful" (RealAudio

excerpt from Joydrop website) was written not by Slone but by

the band's male drummer, Tony Rabalao. The other two members of Joydrop

— guitarist Thomas Payne and bassist Tom McKay — are also men.

"It's a pretty universal thought," Slone said of the song's message, which

is similar to that of the TLC single "Unpretty."

Although "Beautiful" is a crossover hit, the process of cultivating a

higher profile has had its drawbacks. "It's been a challenge," Slone, 26,

said before a recent performance at a radio-station festival in Ohio.

"Before the show, people on the radio will be saying, generally, 'Oh,

Tara Slone and Joydrop are playing — come check her out because she's

really hot.'

"And while that's annoying," she continued, "I think we're proving ourselves

as a live band. So what people see is, [the looks are] not so much in

the forefront."

Since the single was released in April, its success has come gradually,

through a grassroots effort bolstered by nonstop touring.

Slone named Gwen Stefani of No Doubt and fellow Canadians Sarah McLachlan

and Alanis Morissette as inspirations. "I have a tremendous amount of

respect for Gwen Stefani," she said. "I think she's a terrific performer,

and she really balances everything well. Garbage, too. I wouldn't say

they're musical influences at all — but it's definitely nice to look

at them and see what they've done."

While Slone is aware of rock's gender gap, she insisted that Joydrop's

Canadian roots have not set up additional barriers in the American

marketplace.

In the past six months, the foursome has made significant inroads in the

U.S. market. There have been a few short club jaunts and a video shoot,

but according to McKay, it's at the numerous radio-sponsored festival

stops that Joydrop has made its greatest impact.

"Radio festivals are amazing," McKay said. "People have an idea from

'Beautiful' that we're one type of thing. Typically, we have a pleasantly

surprised audience. People are like, 'I didn't know they rock!'"

"They do rock," said Mike Sauter, program director of modern-rock station

WHTG in Asbury Park, N.J., where Joydrop performed at the station's annual

Surfstock festival this summer.

"The band had a great energy, which was good considering they were following

Shades Apart [an emo-core band] and performing straight into the Atlantic's

heavy ocean breeze," Sauter said. "Between the wind and her forceful

singing, Tara almost swallowed a lock of her own hair a few songs into

the set."

Joydrop's members have worked hard to make their way in the music

industry. Slone studied music and theater at two Canadian universities;

Payne and Rabalao studied musical composition, while McKay (who grew up

in Canada and England) performed with such bands as Five Guys Named Moe

and the Nightcrawlers.

Having gone through record deals in the past, McKay said Joydrop gave

him a fresh start and a chance at something big. "There's a world where

we shut the door, turn off the phone, erase everything — and go make

music.

"We don't write hit songs," he added. "Who writes hit songs? We don't

make hits — the audience makes the hits. We just try to make music

that's really, really good. Reaching people with music and lyrics is

[our] goal."