Boston-based Vertical Horizon is the epitome of the do-it-yourself work ethic. Like the Dave Matthews Band and Hootie and the Blowfish, Vertical Horizon did not rely on the backing of a record company to further its career. It took it upon itself, releasing three independent albums before signing a contract with RCA/BMG. “From the beginning, we’ve always had a grassroots approach,” singer-guitarist Keith Kane told Frank Tor-torici of Sonicnet.com.
Kane and singer-guitarist Matt Scannell met as Georgetown University students in Washington, D. C. in 1991 when they were recruited to perform acoustically during a party. The two took turns at the microphone, slowly winning over the small crowd. Impressed at what they could achieve, Kane invited Scannell to join him for a weekly series of acoustic shows at a downtown coffeehouse as Vertical Horizon. According to the band’s official website, “their sound was anchored in folk music and harmonized vocals, and their catalog consisted of mostly covers and a few originals.” The duo’s cover song choices—ranging from America to Duran Duran—reflected Scannell and Kane’s own musical tastes.
Members include Sean Hurley (joined group, 1998), bass; Keith Kane, singer, guitarist, songwriter; Matt Scannell, singer, guitarist; Ed Toth (joined group, 1996), drums.
Group formed in Washington, D.C., 1991; released debut LP There and Back Again on own Rythmic Records, 1993; signed with RCA, released Everything You Want, 1999; contributed to Vol. 1 Stop Handgun Violence, 2000.
Awards: U. S. platinum certification for Everything You Want, 2000; Boston Music Awards, Single of the Year for “Everything You Want,” 2001; Radio Music Awards, Song of the Year: Pop Alternative Radio for “Everything You Want,” 2000.
Addresses: Record company —RCA Records, 1540 Broadway, Times Square, New York, NY 10036. Management —Metropolitan Entertainment Group, 7 North Mountain Avenue, P. O. Box 1566, Montclair, NJ 07042-1840. Website— Vertical Horizon Official Website: http://www.verticalhorizon.com.
Upon graduating in 1992, Scannell and Kane relocated to Cape Cod near Scannell’s hometown of Deerfield, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1993, the duo recorded its first CD, There and Back Again, at the studio in Scannell’s former high school. “I went to a boarding school up in Massachusetts, and they got a recording studio after I had graduated,” Scannell told VH1 .com. “I called up the headmaster, because we had no money at the time. And I said, ’We’d love to make a record, is it possible for us to break in your new studio?’ They let us come in, and we spent 12 days there and recorded the thing.” As they completed the record, the duo stayed at the home of Scannell’s history teacher and on the studio floor. Upon completion, Vertical Horizon pressed 1,000 copies. “We were pretty sure we’d never be able to sell them all but we’d give them away to family members when we were old and gray and say, ’Hey, your grandfather was a rock star. ’ But people actually bought them, so we made more,” Scannell told VH1.com.
Kane and Scannell then returned to the Washington, D. C. area where they met Cary Pierce and Jack O’Neill of the now-defunct Jackopierce. Like Jackopierce, Vertical Horizon was rooted in acoustic rock, which made for the perfect touring package. The two acts performed together for three weeks and the experience gave Vertical Horizon the connections it needed to embark on its own jaunt. Wishing to fill out its sound, Vertical Horizon hired back-up musicians. Tortorici quoted Kane as saying that the hired hands made it easier for him to write “rock songs.” “They need to have that noise. [Going electric has] opened up my mind a little bit, [because] it’s rare that I can hear distortion when I write. Even though our style has changed drastically, we stake everything on songwriting.” Kane’s songwriting piqued the interest of the Dave Matthews Band, the Allman Brothers Band, Train, Shawn Colvin, and Third Eye Blind, all of whom recruited Vertical Horizon as their opening band.
The Dave Matthews Band tour proved beneficial. Drummer Carter Beauford offered to lend a hand on Vertical Horizon’s sophomore effort, 1995’s Running on Ice. After Running on Ice hit stores, Vertical Horizon continued to tour religiously. Then-future drummer Ed Toth met up with Vertical Horizon after Scannell’s mother came into the Borders Books and Music store in which he was working to look for her son’s CD. Toth, along with the bookstore’s manager, caught a Vertical Horizon performance at Aerosmith’s Mama Kin club in Boston. When the touring drummer left Vertical Horizon, Toth stepped in. Before the 1996 release of the live album Live Stages, Toth became a permanent member of the group.
The relentless touring paid off. Vertical Horizon sold more than 70,000 copies of its three independently released albums. The success led to a frenzy of record company interest but the band opted to sign with RCA, which had inked a deal with the Dave Matthews Band. In 1998, Vertical Horizon recorded its major-label debut Everything You Want, which focused on “strong songwriting, vocal harmonies and impressive guitar work,” according to the group’s official website. To advance promotion of the forthcoming record, RCA repackaged and re-released Vertical Horizon’s There and Back Again, Running on Ice and Live Stages. Shortly before the new album’s June of 1999 release, bassist Sean Hurley, a veteran of Arlo Guthrie and Mark Curry’s bands, became a permanent member of the group. He was the first person to audition for the bass player position.
“When I joined, I got a real taste of the hard work that everyone had done,” Hurley told Wall of Sound online. “They had sold 70,000 copies of those first three albums—it’s probably closer to 100,000 now—and they probably saw every CD, touched every one of them as it passed from them to the fan. Everybody had their hand in everything and knew what was going on. Now we can appreciate doing the things we want to do and having people that will work for us and with us to do the things that we don’t.”
Everything You Want went largely unnoticed for six months until the title track hit the radio. The success of another single, “You’re a God,” pushed Everything You Want past platinum status, which marks sales of one million copies or more. To promote its record, Vertical Horizon performed as part of Woodstock 1999 and appeared on the Fox television show Party of Five in January of 2000.
Vertical Horizon has continued its non-stop touring both as an opening and headlining band. Scannen told VH1.com that the grassroots approach helped solidify the band’s reputation: “It helped us to get our live show down. I think there are a lot of bands out now who don’t spend a whole lot of time figuring out how to play stuff live. We really knew how to do a live show. Another thing is, just grassroots organization. Kids just talking about us, college kids trading tapes, encouraging kids to record our shows.”
There and Back Again, Rythmic, 1993; reissued, RCA, 1999.
Running on Ice, Rythmic, 1995; reissued, RCA, 1999.
Live Stages, Rythmic, 1996; reissued, RCA, 1999.
Everything You Want (includes “Everything You Want,” “You’re a God,” “Best I Ever Had”), RCA, 1999.
Billboard, September 25, 1999; February 12, 2000; July 15, 2000.
Entertainment Weekly, June 16, 2000.
Billboard, http://www.billboard.com (May 28, 2001).
“Going Electric Pays Off for Vertical Horizon,” Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/ai_singlestory.jhtml?id=61917&ai_id=510063 (May 28, 2001).
“Vertical Horizon,” ARTISTDirect, http.V/imusic.artistdirect.com/showcase/modem/verticalhorizon.html (May 29, 2001).
“Vertical Horizon,” CDNow, http://www.cdnow.com (May 28, 2001).
“Vertical Horizon: Working Their Way toward Stardom,” VH1.com, http://www.vh1.com/thewire/news/vertical/;$sessionid$QZHZ2FAAAATQECQBAFHCFEQ (May 28, 2001).
Vertical Horizon Official Website, www.verticalhorizon.com (June 4, 2001).
“Vertical Horizon’s Long Road,” Wall of Sound, http://wallofsound.go.com (May 29, 2001).
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