To make it in the music industry, you have to believe in yourself. This is especially true of the five local guys in the up-and-coming rock band, Self Centered.
The band was founded in 2008 by brothers Blake and James Grafton, both Davis High School grads. With Blake on vocals and James on drums, they recruited three bandmates from Winters — Ellis White (rhythm guitar, scream), Jimi Guerrero (lead guitar) and Ron Lewis (bass, backup vocals).
Self Centered will perform at 9 p.m. Friday at JJ’s Saloon, 318 Railroad Ave., in Winters; (530) 795-4640, http://www.myspace.com/jjssaloon. The show is $5 at the door. The proceeds will go toward the band’s first tour. Self Centered is hitting the East Coast in support of the platinum-selling band Hawthorne Heights.
“It’s going to be insane for us,” Blake Grafton said in a recent phone call. “Hawthorne Heights were a huge influence on us. Now we’re touring with these guys.”
How did an unsigned band land this deal?
“I wrote a letter to their booking contact,” Grafton said. “I thought, what’s the harm in asking advice from people you want to emulate? I got an email back from their singer, JT. He liked our stuff and invited us on.
“We’re the only band on the tour that’s not on a record label,” Grafton continued. “It’s a little more stress and a little less sleep, but we get to call the shots. We’re a do-it-yourself band. We work hard. We’re not in it for the wrong reasons.”
The band released its debut album, “Bleeding My Dreams,” in 2009. With heavy guitars, mosh-worthy breakdowns, catchy hooks and melodic vocals, the songs appeal to fans of punk, metal and rock.
The band is working on a follow-up EP at Fat Cat Studios in Sacramento. Grafton said the band is “in the process of growing as artists. It’s about expanding your influences to make them your own and fit what you currently like.
“Hawthorne Heights were a big influence in mid-2000. Now we have more influences. We’re phasing out some of the more hard-core stuff and moving in a more pop direction.”
It’s a smart move; the catchy and melodic elements will stand out in the crowded hard-core scene.
“We want to stand out,” Grafton said. “There’s definitely still a hard-core influence in our riffs and underlying screams, but we’re liking the cleaner sound more and more. We’re writing better choruses and things are getting catchier.”
This new direction is paying off; the band’s covers of Paramore’s “CrushCrushCrush” and Ke$ha’s “We Are Who We Are” are turning heads.
“We wanted to try something poppy,” Grafton said. “The Ke$ha cover is approaching 5,000 views on YouTube.”
It’s attracting a whole new audience: “It’s no longer friends of friends,” Grafton added. “We got people from Canada. We also had people from Spain asking if we’ll tour out there! That song was a turning point.”
A standout element of the band is Blake Grafton’s vocals. He figured out his singing style while working with the band.
“The bands I listened to, their words and melody meant a lot to me,” he said. “I wanted to share a message I had with other people. It wasn’t that I wanted to be the best singer.”
Grafton said he has been learning and growing as an artist: “I feel more confident in my singing. All of us have more confidence.”
With the state of the music industry in limbo, Self Centered isn’t taking the old route to success.
“Everyone’s strapped for cash these days,” Grafton said. “From what I’ve read and heard from other bands, record labels aren’t signing unless you’re on tour six months out of the year and already making a living. We’re trying to figure out what’s trending.
“The trend now is getting placements and music in commercials. If a good deal came from a record label, we’d do it. But if we had to change anything, we wouldn’t.”
It’s refreshing to hear such maturity from a group of guys in their early 20s. But while they work hard, they also like to have fun.
“We’re not epic party animals but we like to have fun after shows,” Grafton said. “We’re really social guys. We’re all pretty down-to-earth and approachable.”
Grafton encourages people to come out Friday and support the band.
“We’re playing old favorites for the fans and brand-new stuff,” he said.
For only $5, you’ll be helping Self Centered get to Ohio, where the band starts the tour.
“Anything extra you want donate, we won’t say no,” Grafton said.