Memphis radio-metal stalwarts Prosevere harbor few illusions after nine years of making music together with the same lineup. While they all have day jobs, their focus on making music has matured, not diminished.
"Everybody wants it," singer Gary Segars says. "Everybody works hard to make sure that there are people at the shows, and that people know what is going on. Promotion is just a big a part as writing. If we didn't care about people coming to see us, we could just sit in our rooms and write songs. The live show is not nearly as much fun if there are not 200, 300 people."
When Segars walked in to Dan McGuinness to meet and talk about Prosevere's new record, Hurts Like Hell, the first thing he did was place a flier in my hand. Despite the title of this rag, it's been some time since I had seen a flier. Nobody has left one at the desk during my tenure. It's one of many old tools of the trade that have fallen out of practice.
"We promote like crazy," Segars says. "There are not a lot of bands that do it now. Everybody thinks, 'We've got Facebook. Why would you go out?' Handing somebody one of these, standing out after a concert and saying 'Come see my band. Nice to meet you.' It's a much more personal connection. For us to build up an audience, it's what I just handed you. We ground and pound a lot. For example, at Minglewood, they have the V3 Fights. There were over 800 cars around in that little area. We walked two-and-a-half miles [putting fliers on cars]. I track it on my phone. We draw 300 to 500 in town just because we're relentless."
The original lineup includes drummer Rocky Griggs, Eric Ashe on guitar, bassist Matt Riley, and Segars on vocals. The band started out heavy, drawing on influences like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foo Fighters, Sevendust, and Candlebox. They did everything for themselves and got some fortuitous breaks along the way. Such luck comes from preparation, networking, and keeping an open mind.
"We're so stubborn as far as the label thing goes," Segars says. "You don't want to get stuck in a shitty deal. We've been able to do it DIY forever. There's no sense in going out and losing money and having somebody own all of your stuff. I like to think that I am a student of the industry. I've kept up with this stuff forever. We won't be able to chart through commercial radio. But there are so many other avenues that you can still be successful without it."
It's easy for musicians to get stuck in a myopia of Memphis-Nashville-New York-L.A. But lots of work and opportunity go unnoticed by ignoring other audiences.
"Our biggest market [after Memphis] is Poplar Bluff, Missouri," Segars says. "They've got a station up there called Z95 The Bone. It's a mix between active rock and classic rock. We've been a top-5 requested band up there for five years now. We'd go up and help headline their big radio festival every year. [Godsmack] played there and needed an opener. They called the radio station. That led to more dates. That place really helped us out. That's kind of where independent bands like us [can] make your mark: places that bigger bands don't go."
After nine years, Prosevere has learned what works for them.
"We're a long ways into this," Segars says. "You can call it marriage basically."
That marriage has just spawned its first full-length record, Hurts Like Hell. Recorded in Nashville with producer J. Hall at Kent Wells' studio. Wells has worked with the biggest country artists, notably Dolly Parton.
"You walk in and you see platinum record after platinum record," Segars says. "It's crazy. Not a lot of it is rock. But if it sounds good, it sounds good. It opened us up to another dimension. Not that our stuff is country by any means. Sonically, it just makes us sound better. The room is just good. It's got great vibes. Everything about it was awesome."