Last year, Papa Roach had a secret. During the band’s POLLSTAR interview, word came down that it could be getting its own DreamWorks imprint. The first band it was planning to sign was a group of buds from Southern California called Alien Ant Farm. Everybody involved was excited, if still a little hesitant to go on the record.

The bands each had a huge following in the state, with P-Roach taking up the northern quadrant. They’d trade off opening slots, stealing each other’s fans. A promise was made: If one band got signed, it would bring the other along. When Papa Roach signed to DreamWorks and its first single, “Last Resort,” rushed to No. 1, singer Coby Dick spent as much of his press time talking up Ant Farm as he did his own band.

“Every single one of them did,” Ant Farm frontman Dryden Mitchell told POLLSTAR. “I know Coby talks the most, though. He’s got a big mouth.”

It was a genuine bond. Mitchell found it almost weird. “A lot of bands like to treat other bands like rival football teams or something.”

POLLSTAR saw it first hand. Dick got a copy of the August 2000 issue featuring Papa Roach after a show at Bakersfield, Calif.’s Centennial Garden. When seeing “Alien Ant Farm” mentioned in their HotStar article, he went from band member to band member, pointing it out. “Dude! This is dope. Alien Ant Farm is in this!”

“It’s just a trip,” Mitchell said. “As busy as those guys were, they didn’t have to go out and spread our name, and they still did. Those guys kept to their word and it means a lot to us. Obviously, if the roles were reversed, we would have been the same way. That’s what friends are about. … But even Papa Roach, with the friendship, I don’t think it was, like, a handout. I think these guys truly loved our music.”

So do a lot of people. Mitchell’s interview came as he was packing his toothbrush for a European tour, with the band’s second single, “Smooth Criminal,” No. 1 on the modern rock charts. “The negative side to that is, we only have one place to go from here and that’s down.”

Making the Michael Jackson tune a single was not part of the game plan. It slipped out of the band’s control when a few radio program directors spun it a couple of times and got an immediate positive response.

Alient Ant Farm

“The band and everybody talked,” he said, because everywhere the song was played it was number one phones. “(We decided) this could really solidify our third single like crazy. We just thought it was probably a good idea to go ahead and launch it everywhere.”

He said the band had its obvious concerns before giving the OK. “I mean, we pride ourselves on our music,” he said. “So here’s a song coming out and it’s not ours. We were raising our eyebrows, going, ‘We don’t want to be known as one of these bands that we’ve seen crumble over a cover.'”

Mitchell hopes the third single will come out soon, and he trusts DreamWorks to support his wishes. The band and the record label are like family, he said.

“We’re on the phone with someone at DreamWorks on a daily basis. We kind of pride ourselves on the fact that we’ll hear, ‘Man, you guys are always here.’ We feed on knowing everything that’s going on with this band.”

“I think when people are downing their label, it’s more of a lack of communication than anything,” he added. “You have all the abilities right here, everything you need to make this machine work and keep it well oiled. Even if it’s a shoddy label or an indie label, if you’re not communicating, then of course you’re going to be going, ‘Nothing’s working the way we wanted.’ Well, nothing’s working the way you wanted because you never told anyone what it was you want.”

The band had only a couple of days between wrapping the Warped Tour and hitting the U.K. with Papa Roach but not as an opener. This time, it’s as equals, running into each other at the various festivals.

This was more along the lines of what Mitchell and bandmates were aiming for. He felt a little out of place during Warped.

“In a way, we were the punk band because we weren’t punk.” One of the upsides, though, was meeting their heroes, 311. Better yet, the band found out 311 was a big admirer of Alien Ant Farm, too, and 311 asked them to open for the next tour in October.

“We’re only doing 10 dates with them,” he said, turning down the touring slot. “We’d be playing bigger venues with them, without a doubt, and I think a lot of people will go, ‘What are you guys doing?’ It’s just that we feel right now it’s important to tour for our careers, if this is going to be a career. … We kind of need to establish a name.”