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SPOTLIGHT: Conshafter

Attack of the underdog.


Sounds like: Pure, upbeat, Beatles-inspired, indie-rock slick, guitar-driven, youthful, fashionably dressed, irreverent and attuned to the sensibilities of young post-teen fans. Though he's sick of it, lead singer Konstantinos says the band often gets compared to Weezer.

Signature lyric: "She thought I was cool. 'Cause I played in this band. Until she saw the ground effects on his minivan. Now I can't get a straight answer. All she rocks out to is, 'Rhythm Is a Dancer,'" from "Porn Star Mustache" on "Fear the Underdog," released in mid-June.

Getting started: Konstantinos says he and his fellow band members are true independents. "We're really proud of the fact that we do everything DIY," he says. Bassist Rob Teague owns Pebble Creek studios, where the group manages everything from writing the songs to the recording and production to the CD art design.

Building character: Being an independent is not always the easiest or most direct route. Conshafter began its career in obscurity, touring the distant outposts of the Richmond music scene — West End venues like the now-closed Boulevard Deli and Rick's Green Room. They were the kinds of places, Konstantinos remembers, where "management would charge you $3 for a coke on the night you are playing," and the regulars scratched their heads over why a hip rock group was opening for their favorite bluegrass band.

The Shocklee connection: Even independents need to make some connections. Conshafter made a big one when it hooked up with Keith Shocklee, the well-known producer of such '80s and '90s hip-hop groups as Public Enemy, Ice Cube and Bell Biv Devoe. His wife, a Sony executive, brought him a copy of the band's first CD, and he liked it enough to contact the band and express his interest to work with it. One of the few songs that resulted, the atypical "Autopilot," ended up on the new album.

Up next: Since its Boulevard Deli days, Conshafter has graduated to playing venues like Alley Katz and the Y101 Birthday Bash last spring. Konstantinos says he's aware that even moderately successful bands tend to live short lives, and so energy is already being devoted to other aspects of the music industry. Pebble Creek is a licensed Richmond business, and there are plans to turn it into a working recording studio and production label. In the meantime, the band is trying to get its name out, especially with radio play in various markets. Co-workers often congratulate him on mornings after a Conshafter song was heard on the airwaves, but Konstantinos says he's yet to hear one himself. "I'm sure it would be a thrill," he says. "I guess I need to listen to the radio more."

Conshafter headlines a show at Alley Katz Saturday, July 10, with The Gaskets, Cordelene and All the Dead Pilots. Download a live acoustic show the band did with Y101 on the station's Web site, "Fear the Underdog" is available at Plan 9.

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