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Finding California Wives

By Stump Mahoney, Draftfcb Chicago Music Producer / Music Supervisor / Radio Producer

The mission: find a young, up-and-coming band with songs that tied nicely to the Sharpie brand and that would capture the scope of what the creative team – Kelly Durham, Gigi Carroll and Mike McGrath – envisioned for this project.
The end result: a Sharpie music video featuring California Wives, a Chicago-based indie band, and artwork from Sharpie fans.
Before they approached the client, Kelly, Gigi and Mike wanted me to start looking into band options.  Since I often go to local clubs to see touring bands, and am exposed to a variety of local talent, it made sense for me to scout out the best fit for this project. So I began with what I knew. I started digging into the plethora of bands that I knew little or nothing about. I relied on friends and sites like Bandcamp and as additional resources.
I'd previously been exposed to California Wives, but nothing really penetrated until the first time I heard their song "Blood Red Youth" from their first Extended Play (EP) ‘single’ release. I read a blurb about them on some blog while sitting at home one day and clicked over to their Bandcamp page. I remember thinking that the lead singer’s voice was unusual enough to be interesting but not weird, and the song was very energetic and hooky.  I immediately liked it.
After picking a handful of groups, I sat down with the creative team and presented the list of bands that I thought fit the bill.  Some of the bands that were presented at that time had a range of styles.  Some were well-known, others were just getting started. Some were unsigned. Others were signed with indie labels.  Bands like Empires, The Kickback, Maps & Atlases, Summer Girlfriends, Young Man, YAWN, Hollows and California Wives.
Once the creative team reviewed all of them, they quickly whittled the list down to two that they would present to the client.  The finalists were Empires and their song “We Lost Magic” and California Wives with “Purple.”

After hearing the two options, the client gravitated toward California Wives; they felt that their overall tone and energy colored inside of the lines of Sharpie’s brand voice. As it turned out, the band had just signed a contract with indie label Vagrant Records and was set to release their first full length record and begin a national tour, coincidentally after the Sharpie video was scheduled to air on MTV’s VMA show.  The timing couldn’t have been better!