By Mike Lauterborn
(for July/Aug issue of Fairfield Magazine)
Experienced management, natural talent and a unique look are the key factors behind the increasingly successful Fairfield-based pop rock teen band Kicking Daisies. Manager Brian Murphy recently provided some background on how the group came together, their achievements and what lies ahead.
“The band formally started in January 2009,” he said, “and had their first public appearance at the Fairfield Theatre Company.” Band members include Duran Visek, 15, lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Carly Kalafus, 15, lead vocals and bass guitar; Ben Spremulli, 14, lead guitar and keyboards; and Caitlin Kalafus, 18, drummer and vocals.
Spremulli, a throwback to the guitar heroes of rock’s golden age, was introduced to Grammy Award-winning producer Mike Mangini, who has worked with everyone from Joss Stone to the Jonas Brothers. The two hit it off immediately, and began their search for a singer who could keep up with Ben’s frenetic pace and skills. Mangini helped find Visek, whose charisma, vocal chops, guitar playing and natural frontman swagger were the perfect complement to Ben’s explosive playing. The boys then spotted Caitlin Kalafus on YouTube. She had already been hailed as one of America’s fastest (and youngest) female drummers, and lived in nearby Milford. Caitlin tapped sister Carly to join in on bass.
Murphy and Mangini partnered to lead the band. Murphy, with 10 years at Time Warner Custom Music and Warner Avalon, as well as heading Fearless Entertainment, handles business and marketing. Mangini owns GO Entertainment LLC and is the band’s creative director and music producer. Rich Herzfeld, chef/owner of Chef’s Table, is the band’s tour manager. All three are Fairfield residents.
With regard to why the trio decided to work with the group, Murphy said, “There was something significantly unique and eminently pleasing about them… two guys, two girls, very good looking, playing pop music driven by guitar, drums and three-part harmony. We saw an opportunity to move outside the typical music company model on how you build a band, using the internet, broadcast and live performances to go direct to retail and consumers to drive acceptance.”
Murphy and Mangini have been busy developing the individual band members’ organic music personalities. Murphy has also been busy making connections. “In Spring 2010, Paradigm Talent Agency signed them,” he said. “That May, they appeared in the Bamboozle Music Festival. Then, in July, they went out west to meet with the executive director of talent and programming for Radio Disney, who contracted them to participate in its “Next Big Thing” annual talent contest. KD ended up winning it in September 2010.”
One of the two songs the group performed was “Keeping Secrets.” An accompanying music video was created, which, in part, was shot in Fairfield. Disney then flew the group to Florida, where they played for 20,000 people. Disney filmed the show and aired it on its TV channel.
At the same time, “Keeping Secrets” made it onto Radio Disney’s Top 30 countdown this past January and is now at number 18. Subsequently, the band has appeared on FOX, The Hub, HDNet and Music Choice and its video aired on MTV.com. The band will also appear on Disney Channel’s “So Random” show, airing in June/July.
Murphy said the band is “poised to break big on the national music scene” and, all through July, KD will be appearing at fairs and festivals across the country. “But what’s also interesting,” he said, “are the band’s roots in Fairfield, which is influencing a big number of local bands to step up, and creating a Fairfield County-based music explosion.”
For updated tour dates and more information, visit www.kickingdaisies.com