19 Jun Klipsch amplifies dreams of unsigned Bleedingkeys
Andrew Luck, Kings of Leon, Roy Hibbert and bleedingkeys.
If one of these names seems out of place, it’s true that Indianapolis rock band bleedingkeys lacks the fame (and fortune) associated with Colts quarterback Luck, four-time Grammy Award winners Kings of Leon and Pacers center Hibbert.
But Klipsch Audio Technologies provides a connecting thread. Luck and Hibbert are “brand ambassadors” for the high-end speaker and headphones manufacturer, and Klipsch sponsors both Kings of Leon and Bleedingkeys.
In the case of Bleedingkeys, the Klipsch endorsement means rare and valuable exposure for an unsigned band.
“This is a local act that I just met randomly,” Klipsch CEO Paul Jacobs said. “I learned two things really quickly: They’re good songwriters, and they’re also good people.”
Jacobs crossed paths with the band when he attended a private party at Broad Ripple’s Mediterra restaurant in 2012. Bleedingkeys played that party, and Jacobs then caught the band’s EP release show later that year at the Monkey’s Tale.
Indianapolis-based Klipsch gave Bleedingkeys their first big break by inviting the band to play the company’s showcase at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The North Mississippi All-Stars headlined the event at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
“(Bleedingkeys) stole the show,” Jacobs said.
“I don’t think we were good enough to pursue anything at that point,” Bleedingkeys vocalist-songwriter Jeremy Johnson said. “But it was really cool that he had the confidence in us that he did.”
The band received star treatment in Las Vegas, which inspired Johnson to write “Slick Black Cadillac” — a rapid-fire tune that brings together four styles the band professes to love: blues, folk, rock and soul.
Johnson mentions his affection for Amos Lee’s music, while keyboard/saxophone player Jon Beaty says he’s a fan of Needtobreathe.
The Bleedingkeys’ lineup features Johnson, Beaty, guitarist Darren Cooper, drummer Coty Leffingwell and bass player Jonathan Green.
“Nobody has the exact same taste, which is nice,” Johnson said. “I think it gives us that variety of flavor.”
“We know what we like, and we know what we like to hear,” Beaty said. “We go out there and present it, hearts on the table. ”
Following the Las Vegas showcase, Bleedingkeys spent a year working on its craft before it approached Klipsch with the idea of sponsorship. The agreement, announced in May, makes Klipsch the band’s title sponsor at performances.
Jacobs said Bleedingkeys music was heard at a Klipsch display in Sam’s Club stores, and Klipsch headphones are used at the band’s merch-table listening station.
Later this year, Klipsch will shoot a video for “Slick Black Cadillac” to promote the band’s debut album. An album-release show is scheduled for Nov. 7 at Radio Radio.
Beaty said the band added a level of responsibility when bringing the Klipsch name onboard.
“It’s not just us anymore,” Beaty said. “I like that. I think good pressure continues to press you forward and make you better.”
Johnson said the sponsorship is helping to improve his songwriting.
“I probably throw out more songs than I did before,” he said with a laugh.
A native of Bend, Ore., Johnson attended college at Seattle Pacific University. He met his wife, a native of Pendleton, Ind., at the Washington school, and their family moved to Pendleton five years ago.
Johnson won the 2012 edition of “Claddagh’s Got Talent” at the Indianapolis pub, and he used the $5,000 prize to help finance the first Bleedingkeys recording.
He said the Klipsch sponsorship is an important asset when Bleedingkeys works to schedule shows outside Indiana.
“It gives us instant credibility,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the biggest benefit.”
Closer to home, the band will perform on July 12 at Carmel’s Three Ds’ Pub & Cafe.
Jacobs said his company’s sponsorship of the band can succeed, even if Bleedingkeys don’t attend stardom on par with Kings of Leon. He said the sponsorship is part of a “pay it forward” philosophy.
“Our employees like the fact that we’re willing to help local people out and give them a platform,” Jacobs said.
-Originally published in IndyStar June 27, 2014: