Cute Force

Cute Is What We Aim For succeeds through hard work, resilience

Life’s too short to remain unnoticed, at least that’s what Dali said. This is the catch-all mantra that many of today’s appreciable artists — including Rock musicians — whisper to themselves at night. In order to make a mark on a place and time, one must do so quickly, earnestly and with great zeal. Or work hard enough that people can’t help but notice.

The examples of such artists are plentiful: One could conjure up images of Jewel practicing on an acoustic guitar in the van she was living in at 16, dreaming of the day she would cut her first record. Be Your Own Pet was discovered at a club by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore even while every member was still shackled to the rigors of final exams and gym class. Younger bands as a rule have to work harder than more-aged Rock groups in order to be taken seriously, almost without exception.

Such is the case with Cute Is What We Aim For, the Buffalo-based rockers that should be as recognized for their psychotic work ethic almost as much as their radio-friendly tunes. The average age of the musicians in the band is 21, but what they lack in age and experience, they make up for in stamina and endurance.

Dave Melillo, bassist and songwriter for Cute Is What We Aim For, finds that the band’s touring regiment — having kept the band on a perennial sonic campaign since 2005 — has allowed them to solidify a fan base that is unlike other competing groups.

“Especially in the genre that we’re in, all the bands got where they are because they tour a lot,” Melillo says. “You can meet (fans) face to face and shake their hands” which makes music fans more apt to remember and possibly enjoy their sound.

Melillo finds that touring and playing out is more socially potent than just mere media publicity.

“It’s really easy to get a song on the radio, but we’ve kinda gone a different way and gone really grassroots to make sure we win people over one fan at a time,” he says.

CIWWAF is fairly adroit at using social networking and grassroots-style touring to further its credibility. However, even the most resilient of young artists are often burdened by the strain of non-stop work.

“It’s a pain in the ass sometimes, touring nine months out of the year,” Melillo says.

Nonetheless, he believes it’s the best way to succeed.

“It’s like we’re door-to-door salesmen with our music,” he adds. “You get a fan base that will always stick by you.”

During its behemoth touring schedule, Cute Is What We Aim For also finds time to sculpt new songs for new records. In addition to the gamut of performances, the band has found a way to operate in the most (read: least) efficient of manners to perpetuate their career.

“Every musical process that we go through we kinda just take it as it is,” Melillo says. “Whether it’s writing a record, whether it’s practicing, we don’t really plan it out. We just go at it.”

This relaxed style actually keeps the band from imploding while on the road.

“We like to keep things loose like that because touring is such a rigorously scheduled lifestyle,” Melillo says. “When we’re off the road we just like to take it easy because we know sooner or later we’re going to be right back out there.”

“We always have ideas and we’re always working on them on the road,” he adds. “It’s super collaborative.”

Melillo also attributes Cute Is What We Aim For’s preternatural resilience in the face of hardship to their extreme youth. Since 2005, the band’s brief stint in the limelight has seen the ousting of three members.

Losing three members in such a short period of time is enough to drive many bands to fold. But CIWWAF keeps moving along at whiplash speed regardless.

“I think the only thing (having such problems has) done is made us stronger and made us realize that there is life after people leave a band,” Melillo says. “Going through such bullshit makes you see that nothing is going to stop you if you don’t let it. You can always make up for mistakes that you made in the past. You can always make things better. You just have to be willing to put the hard work in.

“In the long run, if we just stick with each other and keep a positive attitude now, then it’s going to show that those things that happened to us were for a good reason.”

One recent exemplary circumstance highlights the credo of the band most succinctly: While on tour with Simple Plan in the fall of 2008, their drummer left in the middle of the night. They though they were going to drop off the tour until Melillo discovered a manager from another band was also a drummer.

Melillo sat in a room with the manager for only a few hours before the show, teaching him how to play their set list. They went on to perform a near flawless show the next evening. It exemplifies what can be done if a band is determined enough to channel the dynamic qualities of their supreme creative ability when confronted with catastrophe.

That show proved to Melillo that the bonds holding the band together were far stronger than the frayed ends threatening to pull them apart.

“We realized as long as we stick together then it doesn’t matter if one person leaves. It’s just going to keep going,” Melillo says.

CUTE IS WHAT WE AIM FOR plays Bogart’s on Wednesday on the “Take Action Tour” with Breathe Carolina, Meg & Dia, Every Avenue and Anarbor. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.
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