Shot down by Microsoft, The Ex Box Boys hasn’t let the corporative squelch get in their way.
The Eastside band – which bases their songs on Xbox favorites such as Master Chief and Halo 3 – has carved a niche for itself as the No. 2 most downloaded band on MySpace.
“We think we’ve really struck a vein with our songwriting,” said lead singer Phil Fischer on a recent afternoon.
He points to an award on the wall that recognizes The Ex Box Boys as a MySpace Top Ten Artist, with over two million downloads of the band’s songs “Master Chief” and “Cortana.”
“At 2 a.m. the ticker started and we’re already at 12,835 plays today,” Fischer says as he pulls up the band’s MySpace page on his computer.
The self-proclaimed geeks and Xbox gurus met while playing Halo 3 online last year. They discovered they were all musicians by trade and started meeting up.
“Then we just started working the magic,” Fischer said of the band, including members P-Box, Beat Box, B-Box and D-Box: Fischer as the oldest member at 37, drummer Joseph Childres, 32; lead guitarist Bryan Barrows, 22 of Bellevue, and bass player David Sproul, 24, also of Bellevue.
Singing in modern Beatles’ harmony, they came up with their first song, “Xbox Live” and then the band tracked “Gears of War.”
“Then I came up with this idea that since gaming has now become the number one entertainment medium in the world – it’s even bigger than sports – it would be really cool if we could get Microsoft to support us.”
In an effort to get Microsoft to endorse them, the band donned Microsoft green and white face paint and clothing, produced a couple videos and started up a MySpace page.
Fischer also invested $25,000 and the band began tracking songs at Robert Lang Recording Studios in Shoreline, including “Master Chief” and “Call of Duty.”
With nearly 1500 MySpace downloads a day, the band garnered attention in gaming circles and beyond. But the popularity didn’t stick with Microsoft Corp.
“Everybody was talking about us at Microsoft – what are they going to do about us, how are they going to work this,” Fischer recalled, adding that the band’s attorney met with Microsoft officials in Manhattan several months ago. “Microsoft basically said they didn’t have the money to monitor us … It was a real kick in the teeth.”
After The Ex Box Boys released their love song “Cortana,” about a beautiful hologram image in the game Master Chief, they shot up to No. 2 on MySpace in June. That’s when they dropped the face paint. And since Microsoft had “divorced” them, they called themselves the “Ex” Box Boys.
Fischer explained the band is based on “The Prophecy of the Orb” legend, an idea that came to him in a dream, wherein a coveted orb was buried in the Redmond Woods at the edge of the protected Microsoft campus in Redmond.
The band’s songs range from their No. 1 downloaded song, “Braid,” about a man marching through 17th century England to save the princess, to their hit based on the Xbox game Grand Theft Auto.
“It’s about a guy who comes over from Bulgaria,” Fischer explains. “His brother says, ‘Oh, I live in a mansion in New York, come over and party.’ But the guy finds out his brother lives in a one-bedroom apartment, so we call the song, ‘Welcome to America.’”
Though the band generated some revenue after they sold their song “Master Chief” online, days later the song was on pirated music Web sites where people could access it free of charge.
“So that’s the thing and the labels know that,” Fischer said, noting that the band won’t sell out and sign with a record label. He explained that record labels are owned by corporations, which are owned by “brother-in-laws” that own the radio stations.
Without signing a contract for a record label, there’s no way to get on the radio and “you’re a victim out there,” he continued.
That’s why The Ex Box Boys wanted Microsoft.
“Microsoft was the key to that,” he said. “They could have put us out there; we could have really pushed the Xbox brand, pushed the games, pushed all this stuff, but they didn’t get it at all. They didn’t understand what we were trying to go after.”
Though the gates are closed on any hope of getting Microsoft to endorse the band, The Ex Box Boys will use their own resources – and fan support – to keep going.
They just finished their first album, which will be released online this February under a record label they produced. The band also will play their first big concert at Hayley’s Bar and Grill, 1716 Hewitt Ave., in Everett
at 9 p.m. Jan. 9. Tickets are $10 at the door.
“We’re going to try to do one big concert a month, and we’re going to sell our music online and we’re going to try to beat the odds,” Fischer said.
Carrie Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166, ext. 5050.
More information: www.myspace.com/thexboxboys