May 27, 2009

Sky high: Parachute’s debut soars in first week

After nearly a year of anticipation, the numbers are finally in, and a Charlottesville-based band’s debut album is officially a hit. Members of Parachute learned Thursday, May 21 that Losing Sleep entered at #40 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.

“It’s way better than we had expected,” says frontman Will Anderson. “We had a day off, so we were all in different places when we found out, and we were texting each other like crazy.”

The news comes a week after the album got an early release on the iTunes Music Store, and quickly shot to #1 on the digital vendor’s charts. This was due in part to the strength of the band’s second single “Under Control,” which iTunes offered as a free download for the week.

According to Anderson, seeing his band’s name atop of the iTunes chart was a stunning moment.

“When we went #1 on iTunes,” says Anderson, “that was a definite wake-up call about what an incredible opportunity this is. That’s when we knew this was the real deal.”

It also helped that Parachute’s songs already had a familiar ring to them by the time their disc had reached record stores. Beginning in January, skin care company Nivea began using the band’s song “She Is Love,” in one of their commercials. Anderson says that while it was never the band’s plan to set their music to images of creamy lotions, he’s happy to have his music heard anywhere.

“Their head of marketing came to us after having heard the song on a new music sampler he’d stumbled onto randomly,” says Anderson. “We didn’t know what to expect, but they came to us with the commercial already made, and we decided to go for it.”

That led to Nivea grabbing a second song, “Under Control,” and that’s a song the band has been performing since the days when they were called Sparky’s Flaw (and gracing the cover of the Hook’s inaugural “Under the Radar and Dreaming” issue in 2007).

The Nivea deal also earned the Charlottesville-based rockers a prime spot in Times Square on New Year’s Eve along with the Jonas Brothers and Taylor Swift, where Anderson says the band got an early showbiz lesson.

“It was really cold, and we were worried about how it would go,” says Anderson. “But then we see Taylor Swift get up there in a dress and think, ‘Okay, it’s not that bad. We can do this.’”

For Anderson, the most unexpected aspect of the Nivea campaign has been the slew of cover versions of Parachute songs that fans have posted of themselves performing on YouTube.

“I saw a couple of them,” says Anderson, “and at first my thought was, ‘Why on earth would anyone want to cover this?’ But it’s very flattering, to be sure, and it’s been fun to see people try to take our song and make it their own.”

Though he does have one quibble.

“It’s funny to see how different people play the guitar part,” says Anderson. “It’s very simple, but a lot of people don’t pick it up.”

Ultimately, though, Anderson says the band’s success is equal parts cutting-edge marketing and good ol’ fashioned touring.

“We have had a great marketing campaign,” says Anderson, “but we’ve also had time to build our fan base playing all of those shows. That allowed us to take our time to get the album just right, and when it was, we had an audience.”

Still, Anderson says he’s careful not to let the recent attention go to his head.

“We played the South by Southwest festival in Austin not too far back,” says Anderson, “and we were on the same bill as [English songwriter and five-time Grammy nominee] P.J. Harvey. We got a chance to meet her, and she was definitely very nice, but we stuck out like a sore thumb playing next to her. We’ve still got a long way to go to get to her level.”

–updated May 26 at 12:06pm, original headline “Parachute’s Losing Sleep debuts at #40?

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