Springsteen lyrics inspire band’s unique name

FAIRFIELD — After hearing what seemed like “a million dumb suggestions,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” came on the radio.

And, with that, the Concord-based trio, Go Kart Mozart, chose its name. The song, penned by Springsteen, includes the lyrics “And go-cart Mozart was checkin’ out the weather charts to see if it was safe outside.”

Members Anna Cuccdiardo and Vincent Lay have been playing together for more than 12 years. The two formed a band they called Kid Moe. They were joined by Shane DeLea. Disagreements split the band for a short time.

They regrouped in 2007, adopting the band’s current name. The band got a trademark for the name, since there was another band in England calling itself Go Kart Mozart.

Cuccdiardo said she’s never heard from the English band, but has received a few not-so-kind messages from some of its fans about using the same name.

On Feb. 3, the United States version of Go Kart Mozart — which lists its influences ranging from Elvis to Green Day – makes its debut at The Rellik in Benicia.

Being the band’s first gig at the place, Cuccdiardo said it’s kind of difficult to predict what the night will be like.

However, she said there will be covers and original tunes of genres from blues to rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s sound is often compared to Green Day.

“We’ll feel out the crowd and adapt to that,” she said.

Cuccdiardo is the band’s drummer, as well as handling all the publicity, producing the recordings and handling bookings.

“I do just about everything but write the songs. Vincent writes the songs,” she said.

Cuccdiardo also teaches drums, runs a music lessons studio in Contra Costa County and plays in some cover bands.

A few years ago, the band logged almost 33,000 miles, doing 143 shows in 40 states in a year.

Today, Go Kart Mozart sticks pretty much to the West Coast. It’s really difficult to guess the number of miles she’s traveled with the band, Cuccdiardo said.

“We’ve done several tours where we made it all the way to Maine,” she said.

Cuccdiardo still finds herself somewhat a novelty as a female drummer.

While many of her drum students are female, Cuccdiardo said there’s only one band in about every 20 they play with that has a female drummer.

“And sometimes we do a show with three bands and they’ll be three female drummers. It comes in waves,” she said.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or amaginnis@dailyrepublic.net.

 

The Hardest-Working Band in Rock City
Go Kart Mozart is big in Concord — and Minot, North Dakota
By Nate Seltenrich
August 26th, 2009

From The East Bay Express (Oakland, CA)

Concord Rock City, population unknown, should not be confused with the City of Concord, a bustling yet decidedly non-rocking Contra Costa County suburb. Concord Rock City is someplace else altogether, and has its own MySpace page to prove it. The page boasts of “music from the greatest city in the history of the world,” yet its bio blurs the line between the Rock City and the real city by disclosing some of Concord’s more mundane features: It was founded by Don Salvio Pacheco; it was once the eastern terminus of the BART line; its 5,000-acre Naval Weapons Station is in the midst of redevelopment. The final sentence, thankfully, cuts to the chase: “Also, the best bands in the world all live in and around Concord.”

Among these best bands in the world are All Heroes, Azrael, Two Left Feet, Jumbo Regular, Bunson, the Seth Chaplas, Breaking Custom, and Space Monkey Gangstas. But there is a ninth best band in the world, and it happens to be the hardest working band in Concord Rock City: pop-rock trio Go Kart Mozart. Only one-third of Go Kart Mozart actually resides in the City of Concord, but the band was founded there, and still rehearses and records there. And anyway, Concord Rock City is more a state of mind than a spot on the map. Proudly plastering the slogan on fliers and T-shirts alike, Go Kart Mozart surely qualifies for residence.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Go Kart Mozart is the hardest working band in Concord Rock City. In 2008, after forming only a year earlier, the group played 143 shows in forty states, racking up nearly 33,000 miles on its van. Earlier this year, the members toured from mid-April to mid-May. Averaging 300 miles a day, they made it all the way to Maine. Last year they made it to Maine, too, then trekked all the way down to Miami and back. They’ve passed through all of the lower 48 states and played in 45 of them. In a two-month tour they can cover pretty much the entire country.

Drummer Anna Kremenliev books all their shows. She schedules with a vengeance. “The only days off are basically because I can’t book anything,” she said. “I would book every single day if I could.” Go Kart Mozart plays bars, clubs, teen centers, homes, bookstores, coffee shops — “Everywhere that’ll have music,” said guitarist, singer, and songwriter Vince Lay. On rare days off, they’ll go sightseeing at places like Niagara Falls and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Or they’ll simply explore a city on foot. But they’d just as well play a show. Kremenliev’s booking philosophy is that the more shows they play, the more opportunities they get to really rock the house.

Last year’s marathon yielded one of their best tour stories yet. Driving through Indiana in a February storm, they hit a patch of black ice, spun sideways, and flew off the road into a ditch. Seconds later, an SUV followed their course and slammed into the van. None of the five people inside were hurt. A tow truck arrived and pulled them down the highway to the next exit, where their tour could well have ended. But right off the highway they spotted a used car lot with seven vehicles, one of which was a van identical to the one they’d just wrecked, only nicer and a year newer. The tow truck driver left them there, where they called Kremenliev’s parents and had enough money wired over to purchase the van and drive another 400 miles to the next show in Michigan. They arrived twenty minutes early. It was their fourteenth show in a row, and they had eight more ahead before they got a night off. “We avoid the winter now,” Kremenliev said, punctuated with a customary chuckle.

This boundless enthusiasm for life on the road has fostered a productive relationship: Go Kart Mozart subsidizes Kremenliev and Lay’s cross-country tourism, and the two musicians give everything they have to the band. It’s paid off for both sides. Financially, the trips usually break even, and the band has made strides in a number of markets across the country. “We do better in Chicago and New York than we do in San Francisco,” said Kremenliev. But they also have a strong base in Minot, North Dakota, where every time they play more people come. Last time “everybody from the town turned out,” wearing the band’s shirts and singing their songs, said Kremenliev. In San Francisco, where they’ve played venues like Café du Nord, Annie’s Social Club, the Brainwash Café, and the Rockit Room, their draw is considerably weaker. The band thinks Concord’s local stigma might keep people away. On the other side of the country, Concord means nothing and Concord Rock City is the real deal.

But being the hardest working band in Concord Rock City may not be enough for Kremenliev and Lay, who first started playing in bands together in 2000 and are now in their mid-20s. They also operate a small DIY button-pressing company called HellaButtons.com and occasionally present concerts at all-ages venues like Concord’s Cue Productions through their production company Smiling Politely Presents. Lay teaches music to kids at Red House Studios in Walnut Creek, and Kremenliev co-owns and teaches lessons at a studio in Livermore called Music Time Academy.

Even that’s not enough. Both of them play in a number of other bands, including a Fifties cover band, a Seventies and Eighties cover band, a Motown cover band, and an original instrumental rock band. Go Kart Mozart’s new bassist Xavier Guerrero, another Concord native, also has a band of his own called Spirit Drive.

By now Go Kart Mozart’s music may seem like an afterthought. Once you’ve toured, rehearsed, worked, and taught, what time is left to write? Plenty, judging from the band’s second album, April’s Atomic! Supersonic! Stereophonic!. It opens with a solid batch of geeky Fifties love songs with names like “She’s a Firecracker,” “We Can Go All the Way,” and “Baby, Baby, Please.” The presence of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Chuck Berry is inescapable, and wound up defining the theme of the entire record. The cover art shows Kremenliev and Lay, toes in, knees in, and elbows out, mimicking Berry’s pose on his 1957 debut After School Session.

But Go Kart Mozart doesn’t get mired in kitsch; the middle section of the album pulls from other areas of the members’ record collections: a cover of the Violent Femmes’ “American Music,” the alt-country-flavored “Oh Baby,” the pop-punk ditty “All I Wanna Do Is Play My Guitar” featuring fellow Concord Rock City band Two Left Feet, and the tongue-in-cheek ballad “My Body (Is a Wonderland).” The record’s final tracks are a counterpart to the initial innocence; in “All That I Need,” “Over Over Again,” and “I Will Always Love You,” love doesn’t always go right.

“We tried to make an album, instead of just record our songs,” explained Kremenliev. The difference is crucial. She’d know: She recorded, engineered, mixed, and mastered the whole thing, not to mention tracked the drums alone in a 100-seat amphitheater on the Diablo Valley College campus. The day was New Year’s Eve, but it was just another day in the life of Concord Rock City’s hardest working band.

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Breakup Leads To New Direction
By Aaron Phillips
March 21st, 2008

From The Amarillo Globe (Amarillo, TX)

Anna Kremenliev (drums), Vincent Lay (guitar and vocals) and Shane Delea (bass and vocals) used to be in a band called Kid Moe. Then they got mad at each other and broke up.

“Then, a few months later we decided we were not really mad at each other,” Kremenliev said.

So they got back together in January 2007 to form Go Kart Mozart and picked up Stewart Gude (guitar and vocals) in October.

“There’s a reason we started over – we wanted to be a little bit less bubble-gum pop,” Kremenliev said. “We wanted to do something people our own age would like.”

GKM’s indie sound is similar to Kid Moe, obviously because it has the same musicians. But the group ditched its old songs to start from scratch.

GKM’s debut album, “Oh Yeah,” released in August. The band did all of its own recording and production on the release.

“People are kind of used to bands having these really, really expensive-sounding albums, and I’ve been glad people have been receptive to ours,” Kremenliev said.

Lay writes all the lyrics for the band’s songs.

He writes based on what he feels like at the moment as well as the music in his CD player, Kremenliev said.

“It’s funny, he definitely gets influenced by what he listens to; fortunately, he listens to a lot of stuff,” she said.

GKM kicked its tour off Feb. 1 and as of March 14 had only two days off with no break scheduled before its planned performance Sunday at The 806. The band regularly filled any off nights on the road with shows when the opportunity arose.

“It’s been intense,” Kremenliev said.

When GKM returns to its home base in Concord, Calif., the band will take a short period off before hitting the live circuit heavily again.

“We want to build it up so we can just do music. Our goal as a band is just to get as far as we can.” Kremenliev said.

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Go Kart Mozart stays on the go
By Eric Shepherd Martin, Correspondent
February 29th, 2008

From The News & Observer (Raliegh, NC)

When he died 14 months ago, Godfather of Soul James Brown still held the uncontested title “the hardest-working man in show business.”

Fortunately for Anna Kremenliev, the label of “hardest-working woman in show business” hasn’t been nabbed just yet, and she seems a contender for the position.

In February and March her band, the Concord, Calif.-based indie rock troupe Go Kart Mozart is set to play at least 55 shows — one show for almost every night — which Kremenliev has taken the initiative of scheduling and booking herself as the band’s manager, as well as its drummer.

“It’s a lot of fun to see the country,” says Kremenliev, speaking from a tour bus before a stop in Eugene, Ore.

“We get to see so many places. We’re trying to just get the promotion by trying to … well, we hear a lot about trying to be at the right place at the right time. We’re just kind of hoping to increase our chances, hopefully.”

The band credits its influences to Say Anything, Weezer and other pop-punk acts of the past decade and shares the compulsively optimistic energy of those groups, cheerfully reminding listeners “you’re like a ball of light. You’re gonna keep me feeling all right!” in the song “Big Ball of Light.”

With starry-eyed enthusiasm, Go Kart Mozart has put a tremendous amount of effort into its disciplined D.I.Y. mentality. T-shirts are individually pressed, guitar pick earrings are handmade and even the band’s CD, “Oh Yeah,” is being released without a label.

For Kremenliev and members Vince Lay (guitar/vocals), Stewart Gude (guitar/backing vocals) and Shane DeLea (bass/vocals), their crusade for exposure is almost purely an act of altruism. Kremenliev hopes the money earned at performances will cover the cost of the trip there, but she’s not banking on it.

“We try to sell our CDs and shirts; we make more money on that, usually. But sometimes we’ll find a bar that’ll pay $200 for a night from cover [costs] or whatnot, but it’s nice when we can play for kids or people who can’t always afford it,” she says.

It’s the kind of undertaking that even the grandest of bands do only every other year, but Go Kart Mozart isn’t a grand band; its musicians aren’t even full time.

Back in California, Kremenliev teaches preschool music classes and runs her own music production company Smiling Politely Presents, all of which helps to pay for touring.

“We don’t really have guarantees. We save up between shows, but everything we do is done ourselves,” she says, adding that she often books shows, while keeping potential venues in the dark about the fact that she’s a member of the band too.

“Sometimes I think that looks a little more professional. Once people know, though, they think it’s pretty cool — everyone thinks it’s cool, but don’t really assume that I’m in the band, or would be in the band.”

As long as the work keeps overhead costs low and its musicians fed, Go Kart Mozart will continue to perform nationally simply for the thrill of it. In a world that often feels weighed down by industry, it’s a strikingly romantic, or somewhat archaic, gesture.

“It’s something that many bands just can’t do for one reason or another,” Kremenliev says. “It’s something kind of out of the ordinary for a band like us to be doing, so I think it gives us something different.”

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California band visits Mokena
Go Kart Mozart scheduled to play at Soundlab in February

by Michelle Reyes
January 23, 2008

From The Mokena Messenger (Mokena, IL)

Fresh out of California, four 20-somethings with a passion for music are heading on a 60-day national tour, playing 57 shows in 35 states during February and March – and Mokena is on the list. On Feb. 17, Go Kart Mozart will be coming to Soundlab, 9623 W. 194th St., Mokena.

Go Kart Mozart’s music is classified as indie alternative pop rock and “sounds similar to groups like Weezer and Green Day,” according to Anna Kremenliev, drummer and band manager since 2001. She is also the tour manager, director of public relations, producer, engineer, web designer and graphic designer.

“Anna’s contribution is amazing,” said Shane DeLea, bassist. “She took care of all the booking of our upcoming tour. She manages pretty much everything.”

Kremenliev, DeLea and Vince Lay, songwriter, lead singer and guitarist, were all self-taught and have been playing music for about 10 years. They were exposed to other band members and siblings at young ages from whom they learned. But Stewart Gude, guitarist and backup vocalist, has more of a trained background. He has been playing music since elementary school, trying his hand at snare drum and trumpet. He’s also been in music classes since the fourth grade and has taken music theory and performance classes in college.

Lay is the songwriter of the group, coming up with the lyrics, basic melodies and chord progressions. During practices, the other band members contribute new ideas or suggest changes in words, arrangements or other issues.

“I come in with the stripped-down, unplugged version,” Lay said. “And then the other band members add to it until we get one big song.”

“We get a lot of influences from different places,” added DeLea. “We each come from various musical backgrounds and that helps us write better songs.”

Lay and Kremenliev are intrigued by the indie pop punk genre, with Kremenliev leaning a little towards the pop angle. DeLea prefers the heavier rock feel, and Gude appreciates more classic rock, such as The Who, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix and artists of that era.

How did this band get together? Actually Kremenliev, DeLea and Lay met each other around the ages of 14 and 15 in a music class they were all taking through a local college. They then formed the band Kid Moe and played for some time.

“It wasn’t working anymore and the songs were too bubblegum pop,” Kremenliev recalled. “We realized we wanted our following to be an older crowd, so we made some changes, including the band name.”

The band became Go Kart Mozart and has been since January 2007.

“When we were actively looking for a name, we would be open to every phrase or catchy words we would hear or see,” she said. “Then one day, I was listening to the radio on the way to work and I heard the Bruce Springsteen song, ‘Blinded by the Light,’ and in one of the verses, just in passing, I heard the new name of our band. It stuck out to me and then I knew that was to be the name – that one actually worked.”

The last member of the band joined a little later in the process. The original threesome had known Gude since 2003 and had met him through the music class they were all taking, but he didn’t become the final member until October 2007, when the band had already become established as Go Kart Mozart.

The high-energy quartet just recorded their first CD last August and is very pleased with it.

“It has 13 songs and offers a variety of topics and tempos. It is not overproduced – just guitar, bass, drums, a little keyboard and some back-up vocals,” said Kremenliev. “It’s clean as well – for kids and adults alike. The whole family can listen to it.”

Fans can pick up their CD and keep up-to-date on their tour, as well as other new announcements, by checking out their two Web sites: http://www.myspace.com/gokartmozartmusic and http://www.gokartmozart.com.

“I really enjoy the feeling I get from the audience,” Gude said about performing on stage. “There is a really special connection between the audience and the performer, a feeling you can’t get anywhere else.”

“I love the way people respond to the live performance,” added Lay. “In shows with a larger crowd, it’s wonderful to see the fans singing our songs. Sometimes I don’t even need to sing a certain verse or chorus, because the whole room is doing it for me.”

With regards to pursuing music as an independent band without the financial backing of a record label, Kremenliev said it would be great to have that kind of support.

“It can be quite challenging to have to work at various jobs to earn income to pay rent and everyday bills and then to have to make additional income to cover the band’s expenses, such as touring, recording CDs, purchasing and maintaining equipment/instruments and marketing,” she said.

Nevertheless, all four members value the freedom to be in charge of every aspect of their band. Lay is excited about seeing the progress they are making with their hard work. He is very proud of them all earning the money to make the tour happen.

“To see that our music is strong enough on its own as independent artists, to be able to do this tour and support four people for two months to play around the country… It’s nothing short of fantastic,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner after our tour.”

The cost of the show at Soundlab is $7 and starts at 7 p.m. Visit the Soundlab site at http://www.myspace.com/thesoundlab to get more information. 

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Local Band Profile: Go Kart Mozart revs up and gains support for a brand new sound

By: Travis Bill
Published: 3/16/06 in The Page: Volume 56 Issue 5

It’s a Saturday night and my first scheduled meeting with Go Kart Mozart. The band is scheduled to play in a Battle of the Bands at the Golden Skate in San Ramon. As a local concert-goer, I had already had the opportunity to meet three of the band’s four members, yet I was excited to see them play another show. Despite my initial apprehensions of not knowing anybody at the show and not understanding how a roller rink could possibly provide for a concert, I went to the show ready to see the new band. Upon entering the Golden Skate, one of my first sights was vocalist and guitarist Vince Lay, playing with a squishy purple ball that he won at one of the arcade games in the lobby. It’s hard to have apprehensions when you’re watching a six-and-half-foot tall red-headed guy play with a purple ball and talk to everybody around him with a smile on his face. Before long I was roller skating and having an excellent time.

The band was missing guitarist Kevin Ahmadi for the evening, but still managed to deliver a great set. Although it was not my first time seeing these three play, I was still amazed by Lay’s goofy disposition and ability to engage the crowd in the show, Anna Kremenliev’s drum solos and Shane Delea’s intense devotion to the music. Although they don’t like Battle of the Bands, they cleaned up the show and advanced to the finals. This was just another day in the life of Go Kart Mozart: a concert, a little roller skating and a very unique time. The story of this band-a band who dared to name itself after a moniker for a person who checks the weather before deciding whether to go out, from Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded By the Light”-is really the story of two completely different bands. Three of Go Kart Mozart’s members were originally in the successful local band Kid Moe, the other is still in the band All Heroes.

Kid Moe, known to some Walnut Creek residents as that band that won the Red House Battle of the Bands, was formed by drummer Anna Kremenliev and Lay in 2001. Between Kid Moe’s first gig in 2001, and their breakup in the summer of 2006, the band went through nine different lineups, self recorded and produced three full length albums and one EP and played shows in 27 states. The only two members that were constant throughout the process were Kremenliev and Lay.

The journey into both Kid Moe and Go Kart Mozart started in the classroom … well, a rock-and-roll classroom. Kremenliev and Lay met in a DVC class dedicated to teaching music and forming bands. Every Wednesday night the two friends would hang out and play some music, and eventually they decided to start Kid Moe. Six years and three albums recorded at DVC passed before they met the last Kid Moe bassist and the only Go Kart Mozart bassist to date Shane Delea, then a new member of the DVC music class. Soon, he was also a new member of Kid Moe.

The beginning of the end for Kid Moe was a cross-country tour in promotion of their most recent album, Hella OK. Delea, Lay, Kremenliev and guitarist Casey Saran packed up a trailer full of gear, attached it to a Volvo and drove all the way to the east coast and back, playing shows along the way. Although they look back on the tour fondly now, at the time it was extremely difficult for all members of the band.

Eventually, everybody got sick of each other and Kid Moe was history. This, however, paved the way for the formation of Go Kart Mozart. Ahmadi, the fourth member of Go Kart Mozart, found himself ready to start a new musical venture apart from his already successful band All Heroes in the fall of 2006. He suggested to Kremenliev, Delea and Lay the idea of forming a band and, with that, four friends turned into four band mates.

Ahmadi proved to be an interesting addition to the pop-punk trio. With roots in classical flute, which his father made him learn in fourth grade, Ahmadi’s influences are very different from those of his bandmates. His garage is full of posters from experimental bands like Dredg and The Mars Volta, and also includes a strange synthesizer for All Heroes songs and a cello bow that Ahmadi uses to play guitar with from time to time. That isn’t to say that Ahmadi doesn’t share influences with the other members of Go Kart Mozart. In fact, he and Lay share one unbreakable bond between them-a love for the Smashing Pumpkins. If you think that bands can’t tie friends together, look at Lay’s upper arm and you’ll find a red and silver tattoo branding him to the ’90s alternative band for the rest of his life. Between his influences and his naturally comedic style, Ahmadi has proven that he was the perfect addition to the former Kid Moe trio.

***

It’s one of the most depressing Sunday afternoons that Walnut Creek has seen in quite a while. Even though the weather is cold, dreary and rainy, Lay can’t stand still. That is to say, his over-six -foot frame can’t stay in one spot in the Civic Park gazebo for more than two seconds. From the bright yellow Converse high tops on his feet to his flaming red head of hair, Lay presents an amusing picture-it doesn’t matter that he played a show last night or that he hasn’t changed or showered since. Lay still brings an absurd amount of energy to menial tasks, like doing an interview for a high school reporter. This energy, if nothing else, defines Go Kart Mozart.

Another notable attribute that all of Go Kart Mozart’s members possess is the ability to be completely random, goofy and laid-back. At one point Lay interrupted an interview question of mine to point out that a rat that was “hella big” just ran across the park. After he had asked all of us if we had seen the rat and launched into a discussion on rodents, he realized that he had interrupted and swiftly apologized. At that point though, I didn’t mind at all. I was still trying to find the rat.

Some of the other topics that we covered that afternoon, aside from meaningful facts essential to this story, included Carrot Top’s potential steroid abuse, rich girls who act like hippies in Berkeley and Wal-Mart. The latter conversation started after Delea made a passing remark about making enough money to turn a profit after a tour. Lay soon jumped on the opportunity to make a joke.

“Have you got any corporate relatives? We’ll slap a Wal-Mart sticker on our van. Well, maybe not Wal-Mart.”

It’s hard not to feel comfortable and have a good time around such open characters. This comfortable appeal is what Kremenliev says is a trait that all aspiring musicians must possess. Her advice is to show up early to everything, meet as many people as possible and always have a good time. It’s hard to argue with a formula that’s worked so flawlessly for Go Kart Mozart so far.

Additionally, both Kremenliev and Lay encourage musicians to get involved in all aspects of the music. Learning how to record, book shows, promote music and deal with fans is almost as important in creating a successful band as the music itself. Kremenliev is a perfect example of a musical entrepreneur who is involved in all aspects of her music. Her two companies, Smiling Politely Presents and Hella Buttons, provide live sound, booking and buttons for Bay Area bands.

As the four members of Go Kart Mozart have gotten more involved in the music industry, their sound has changed as well. The main difference between Go Kart Mozart and Kid Moe or All Heroes is that the sound is less produced, yet more professionally done. Ahmadi attributes the change to musical growth.

“[Over time] you grow and want to do less produced music,” said Ahmadi. Lay, on the other hand, thinks that the change in sound has come with a growth in recording skill among all four members.

“It’s a lot easier now to do the thing that we actually, physically had problems doing,” said Lay. He went on to explain how the experience in using complicated recording tools has benefited their more recent recordings.

Regardless of what caused the change in sound, Go Kart Mozart is a band with a very unique, raw sound that easily draws listeners in.

Although the band was just recently formed, they are already looking towards the future. By May or June they hope to release an album, and in Fall they hope to tour across the country again, hopefully playing in some of the states that Kid Moe missed. Their first two recordings, “Believe Me and Everything Will Be Alright” and “I Want Love,” are receiving considerable attention on MySpace. It’s hard to doubt this band’s chances for success. With a bright future ahead of them, these four friends are ready to take on the world. No matter what happens, though, they will always have a good time.