Every great band has a story about the time it turned the corner, when something magical happened that brought its members' dreams of creativity and stardom just a little closer. Perhaps a record label fat cat takes notice of the group performing at a local dive bar. Or a talent agent catches a musician busking in the park. Or a local news station starts a band down a path of progressively bigger gigs just by having the group perform on a morning show.
Or maybe it all starts on Craigslist.
"I was looking for nude models for my private drawing sessions," Bo Bulawsky explains.
"Goth twink is what you were looking for, Bo; don't be silly," Peter Garea interrupts.
"Anyway, he responded and wanted to be my nude model," Bulawsky continues. "Turns out, he also was a band manager."
While this story about how Bulawsky and his group Bo & the Locomotive got to know manager Garea isn't completely accurate, it demonstrates the solid bond that Bulawsky and Garea have forged since meeting nearly two years ago, during a holiday show at Off Broadway.
"I saw Bo's set and saw him perform in a way I had never seen before," begins Garea, telling the truth this time. "People were singing along, and Bo was just stunning. I knew something was happening here. We met two days later at a laundromat and discussed what his plans were and my goals for him."
Bulawsky, who had been manager-free since forming his band in 2011, wasn't sure how to take this sudden interest from a guy who doesn't even live in St. Louis. Garea had moved from the area some time ago, and is now a talent scout with Esther Group in New York City.
"For me, it was weird because I don't know any bands in town with a manager. Or if they do have one, it's a friend, and they want to get into the show for free," Bulawsky says. "You could just tell he was serious about it, and it wasn't some, 'Hey, let me be your joke manager who won't do anything' thing. He also bought me a smoothie."
"And then I turned around and expensed that shit on Bo," Garea snickers. "He doesn't know until now because of my shady accounting. Sorry, Bo."
Garea and Bulawsky's rapport may seem unconventional, but it's fully rooted in respect and drive -- something that has helped propel Bo & the Locomotive's upcoming album, It's All Down Here from Here, Bulawsky's first since 2011. With this release, Garea, whose agency also works with big names such as the Gaslight Anthem and the Violent Femmes, believes that Bulawsky's band has proven it's ready for a national stage.
Get information about the listening party and album release on page two.
"We wanted to create something that's just bigger than St. Louis, and this can be," Garea says. "We have a vision for this project, and while it may take time, as a team, we know what we want and where it can go."
Bulawsky asserts that Garea's confidence and New York methods are leading the band down the right path.
"Having Peter around has challenged us to go a little further than we think we can, change the way we think about the band a little bit," Bulawsky says. "Sometimes it feels kind of unnatural, at least from the way we're used to doing things in St. Louis. But in the long run, I think we're taking the right steps to make the whole thing move forward."
Moving forward has included swapping out and adding a few band members, which has changed the dynamics of the group's sound onstage and in the studio.
"It feels like starting over for all of us," Bulawsky says. "The foundation has always been there, but we can do a lot of things soundwise we were never able to do in the past -- parts that we could never play, new arrangements, instruments coming in and out."
"The guys have to push and pull each other creatively, which definitely has been happening and is a total positive," Garea adds.
Bo & the Locomotive will host a listening party for It's All Down Here from Here at the Luminary on August 14, during which supporters can hear tracks from the album, learn about the creation process from Bulawsky and St. Louis producer David Beeman, contribute to the album's pressing and check out work from Canadian album artist Daniel Murphy. Garea believes the whole package could be what puts Bulawsky and friends on the country's radar.
"I want to make Bo into a national touring act," he says. "There's a ton of competition out there, but I really want to champion this project and only see it growing and growing."
The Bo & the Locomotive listening party for It's All Down Here from Here will be held 8-10 p.m. Thursday, August 14, at the Luminary, 2701 Cherokee Street. Tickets are $25 and $40 and include various incentives. Purchase tickets here.
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