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Lee musician's band celebrates major-label release

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

LOS ANGELES -- Perhaps it was fate that led Leesburg guitarist Michael Tye to leave the Southwest Georgia-based "screamo" band Dead Reckless about the time Ryan Jackson, all the way across the country in Los Angeles, decided to concentrate on musical rather than visual art.

Through the intervention of a mutual friend, Tye, Jackson and his musical co-conspirator Jono Evans hooked up via Facebook and shared their music. Within a matter of days, Tye was in L.A., and Endless Hallway was officially born.

For the next year and a half the band, which added San Diego drummer Joe Mullen and bassist Evan McCarthy -- also from Los Angeles -- wrote music, rehearsed and toured together, building a large following and recording a demo that got the attention of many major record labels.

Wind-up Records ended up winning the ensuing bidding war, and suddenly Endless Hallway found itself with its debut album, "Autonomy Games," on the shelves of record stores throughout the country.

"I became unhappy with the sort of music (Dead Reckless) were playing, so I quit and came back to Albany," Tye, now 22 and the youngest member of Endless Hallway, said. "I think it was literally the next day that I heard the demos (through mutual friend Sonny Moore) that Ryan and Jono had made, and I instantly fell in love with the music.

"I wrote the guys and told them I wanted to play guitar for their band, and through Sonny they kind of knew who I was. I moved to Houston for a couple of months and sent them some videos of me playing their songs and basically just flew out, tried out and that was it."

After the record labels came calling, flashing dollar signs in their faces, the band had all but decided to sign with a top independent label promising creative control over their music. But when Wind-up took the young band members out for a night on the town in New York City and ended up offering artistic control plus a lot more money, the label that had turned Creed into mega-stars in the late 1990s ended up adding the young rockers to its stable of talent.

"After we finished our demo, a lot of labels talked with us," Jackson, Endless Hallway's lead vocalist, said. "We felt that Wind-up had the most sincere interest in the band; they came out and saw us play live and liked what they saw.

"Wind-up is a unique label with a reputation for sticking with their bands, for nurturing them. We've been satisfied with the relationship."

Endless Hallway's debut album offers a mix of music that is as diverse as the band's interests. Jackson, who wrote the disc's 11 songs with guitarist Evans, said the diversity is intentional.

"Honestly, the idea was to create an album, not a signature sound," he said. "We wanted to create a story with songs that relate to each other. It's almost like a soundtrack that comes together in its own weird way.

"It's like we took our unique mix of influences -- Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Bjork, Portishead, Queens of the Stone Age and Japanese composers -- and threw them all together. It seemed to work for us. We're not really big on reading reviews of our music, but the critics have been shockingly supportive."

Tye's involvement with Endless Hallway is one of those so unreal it has to be true stories. Taught to play guitar by his father, James, when he was 10, Michael Tye got his first guitar for his 11th birthday.

"Shortly after that, I quit playing baseball and just played guitar all the time," he said. "I tried to get my friends to learn instruments so we could start a band, but that didn't work out too well."

Tye started playing with Dead Reckless when he was 15, and he soon came to James and Amy Tye, his stepmother, with a potentially life-changing request.

"Michael said he wanted to talk with us, and I didn't know what to expect," Amy Tye said. "He told us near the end of his junior year at Lee County High School that he wanted to quit school so that he could play music, and my initial reaction was 'No way!'

"But James talked with me and said, 'He has no interest in becoming a doctor or a lawyer; music is where his heart is.' I think we should let him follow his dream. James has always been Michael's No. 1 supporter."

Now Endless Hallway has its critically acclaimed first album in record stores. The band has played with such rock luminaries as Gavin Rossdale (lead singer of Bush), and its music has been featured on television series "CSI: Miami" and "Crash." Following a December tour of the Northeast, Endless Hallway will play a series of shows in Japan.

"As corny as it sounds, we're fighting to get the soul of rock music out to a wider audience," Jackson said. "There just isn't much rock music getting played on radio these days. That's the nature of the business: Rock music will come again, die again and catch fire again.

"We're proud to be one of the few bands out there playing rock music. We have an album we're proud of, but I'm sure as we listen to it more and more, we'll say 'we could have done this or we could have done that.' But we love this process. Part of what art is about is struggling to get to a point that you're satisfied with the finished project. We plan to keep making records until we are satisfied."