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Busy Guns return home with a shot at a Grammy

December 21, 2007|Kevin Bronson | Times Staff Writer

Jeremy Dawson was traveling the morning of Dec. 6, heading back home to Los Angeles for a DJ gig at the BPM magazine holiday party, when his cellphone buzzed.

"It was a text from the president of the record company," the keyboardist for electro-rock quartet Shiny Toy Guns said. "It said, 'Congratulations, I'll take that.' "

Not until Dawson heard from his manager later in the morning did he learn what that meant: Shiny Toy Guns' debut "We Are Pilots" had snagged a Grammy nomination for best electronic/dance album alongside the Chemical Brothers, LCD Soundsystem, Justice and Tiesto.

"I didn't think we had taken anything to that level," Dawson said. "We're humble, and we're not the kind of band that shouts our name out the window. We don't sit around and Google our band name, or bathe in any hype. We just look ahead."

Indeed, "We Are Pilots" had the most modest of beginnings -- the collection of synth-heavy, danceable rock is essentially the same album Shiny Toy Guns first released in 2005. "We made a demo and, using one of those horrible credit cards with 23% interest, we went over to North Hollywood and had 1,000 CDs pressed."

The track list was revised the second time the band had more CDs made, then after the quartet was signed to Universal Motown Records, "We Are Pilots" got a spit-shine in the studio of production guru Mark Saunders. The album has spawned three singles ("Le Disko" had made it to L.A. radio by early 2006) and has sold more than 200,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The band's stylings might seem out of place alongside the other nominees, "but I'm not going to argue with the recording academy," Dawson said. "It's very androgynously genre-specific. The music is just as based on guitar and vocals as it is zeros and ones. Still, it's very flattering. We think of it as a future-forward rock album."

Dawson, an Oklahoma native, formed the band with singer and multi-instrumentalist Chad Petree in 2003 after the pair moved on from their electronica act Slyder. The key component was the addition of Carah Faye, whose vocals provide a sexy counterpoint to Petree's yearning.

Most instrumental in the band's rise, however, had been its "gypsy life," as Dawson called it. The foursome has averaged more than 300 shows a year the last three years -- in fact, its gig Saturday at the Wiltern is its first hometown headlining show in almost 20 months.

"We're such a viral band. . . . It's almost like the Amway system," said Dawson, who has watched crowds churn as Shiny Toy Guns' music cropped up in various outlets and cross over from rock radio to pop and beyond.

"We just played Salt Lake City for the eighth time in two years -- we had the same core 100 fans who'd been there from the beginning and 1,500 new fans," he said. "Every time we come around, we seem to get a new swath of people."


Shiny Toy Guns

Where: The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Saturday, 9 p.m.

Price: $19

Contact: (213) 380-5005

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