One innovative way to stand out in the increasingly crowded teen-targeted pop video market is to appeal to the demo’s fondness for animation. Canadian techno pop group ProzzŠk launched as a toon band in October 1998 and has since racked up sales of 250,000 units for its debut album Hot Show. The video for ‘Sucks to Be You’ has hit number one repeatedly on Canadian music net Much Music’s weekly countdown, with another likely chart-topper ‘Strange Disease’ currently in heavy rotation.
Fronted by two ex-members of The Philosopher Kings, ProzzŠk began as a tour bus stand-up gig that poked fun at the pretentious Europop scene, but has turned out to be a financially sound new model for breaking into the music scene.
To entertain the PK crew on the road, Jason Levine and James McCollum would adopt the personas of hopelessly romantic aging British rockstars, a get-up that Levine describes as ‘sort of a cross between Spinal Tap and Woody Allen.’ The comedy bit evolved into a demo tape and eventually piqued the interest of Sony’s Epic label. ‘We loved it and the record company loved it, but then we had the problem of not wanting to appear in person in these characters we’d invented,’ says Levine. The solution to the problem turned out to be two anime-like figures named Simon and Milo that, according to a fan-tracking survey conducted via CD packaging and on the band’s Web site (www.prozzak.com), have attracted a core fan base in Canada of teens ages 14 to 19.
The creative freedoms that breaking out of the live-action mold affords a band are obvious, and Levine sums them up succinctly: ‘You can write any video script or story line, and you can be more honest because your image isn’t at stake-plus we can jump off buildings and not get hurt.’
Levine estimates that ProzzŠk and animation studio Toronto-based Evening Sky Entertainment will eventually be able to do a video for around one-tenth of the cost of a million-dollar Backstreet Boys video, although he adds that this is offset by the high price of touring. In February, the band embarked on its first tour, a Canadian jaunt that’ll culminate with a performance this month at the Juno Awards, Canada’s premiere music awards show that has nominated ProzzŠk for five awards, including Best Single, Album, New Group and Video. Armed with a pricey 15- x 20-foot screen that’ll play a pre-recorded animated show, Levine and McCollum will have to match the timing of the on-screen characters’ lip and hand movements carefully while performing live on-stage.
To follow up on the State-side release of Hot Show last August, ProzzŠk will embark on a U.S. tour later this year, and Sony Music Canada is looking at the possibility of evolving ProzzŠk’s touring process to a multicity format whereby a pre-recorded toon concert will play simultaneously on screens in several cities.
Outside of the music biz, ProzzŠk is entertaining offers from an animation company in the U.S. interested in producing a TV series and feature film based on Simon and Milo, and the band’s Web site recently won music fest South by Southwest’s ‘Best Band Site’ award, beating out music scene Web pioneer David Bowie. Merchandise like T-shirts and posters are rolling out to coincide with the concert tour, and the ProzzŠk Presents Simon and Milo’s Hot Show video collection recently went gold in Canada.