The Used

It’s a long road from the conservative town of Orem, Utah, to touring the country as one of the headliners of the Vans Warped Tour and, for The Used, that path has been lined with homelessness, parental disapproval and a whirlwind courtship by major labels. Oh yeah, and an appearance on a little show called “The Osbournes.”

When the majors came calling on the band, its members had only been playing together as The Used for about eight months.

Each one – singer (and former Kelly Osbourne smoocher) Bert McCracken, bassist Jeph Howard, drummer Branden Steineckert and guitarist Quinn Allman – had played in other bands around the staunchly Mormon town, and even with each other in some acts.

McCracken and Steineckert grew up in Mormon families, who didn’t much care for their sons’ love of unholy music.

“[It] tended to cause some family problems because the thing to do is go serve a mission when you’re 19 and we just weren’t into it,” the drummer told POLLSTAR.

So, at a young age, they left home to worship at the church of rock ‘n’ roll.

Eventually, with Orem being such a small town, the future members of The Used came together to form something new. The difference between the members’ former bands and The Used was all in the approach.

“We were just like, ‘All right, we can play in fuckin’ Provo, Utah, all we want and we can keep playing shows here for the same 25 kids at the same little venues … or we can take some time and write some songs and try to actually do something with this,'” Steineckert said. “And so that’s what we did. And I don’t know how, but we managed to be one of those fortunate few that a lot of people really took interest in.”

Early on, Steineckert sent producer and Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann copies of the songs the boys were working on. Feldmann was impressed enough to ask the band to record some demos and do a short tour with his band.

Luckily for The Used, Feldmann tipped off his management company, Freeze Management, to the young band’s chaotic live show and the company soon added the Oremites to its roster. The rest, as they say, is the rest.

“Suddenly, our management started submitting our demo to labels and everyone was taking interest and just, like, totally falling in love with it,” Steineckert said while driving to Sally’s Beauty Supply with some fans. “We were being flown all over, doing showcases and just being taken out.

“It felt overnight to us. We had been a band for eight months and here we were flying to New York City and in strip clubs because these rich record executives were throwing bills at the strippers and taking us out for a good time. It was fucking crazy.”

The Used

According to Freeze Management President John Reese, the interest was both immediate and unanimous.

“I’ve probably gotten 50 bands signed, and [The Used] is the only band I’ve ever shopped that nobody passed on,” he said. “It could’ve turned into a gigantic bidding war, but we didn’t want that.”

The band eventually settled with Warner Bros. and its Reprise imprint because the label “saw their vision,” Reese said.

In keeping with the band’s wishes, “We didn’t go for radio; we did everything the opposite of the way people try to put bands out these days,” Reese said. “It was all through touring mainly. People saw them play live and they were moved.”

In fact, even though KROQ’s Lisa Warden heard the self-titled debut in June and immediately wanted to add it to the influential Los Angeles radio station’s playlist, Reese said they held off until July to spin it because, “We wanted to get all our ducks in a row first.”

Or, as Steineckert put it, “We wanted the kids to discover us on their own and not be one of those bands that MTV and radio shove down their throats until they’re forced to like us.”

Instead, the band hit the road, playing on the side stage of the Warped Tour, picking up the second half of Ozzfest, supporting on cross-country tours, heading to Europe, and eventually in launching a largely, if not completely, sold-out headlining club stint.

So what’s on the plate for the boys? After their current headline trek, they play the MTV Campus Invasion Tour in late April, major radio festivals in May and then jump to the main stage at Warped with their name on the marquee.

And what a difference a year and 320,000 albums sold can make.

“Last year, we were doing [Warped] in a shared bus with two other bands,” Steineckert recounted. “There were 21 of us on the bus and we had to wake up at, like, 7 o’clock every morning and unload all our gear from the diesels and unload all of our merch … and then at the end of every day, we had to load it all back up. We had no crew at all.

“Now we’re paying people to do that shit for us.”

Cover photo: Greg Allen