When he was a working-class kid in dismal Bradford, England, planning on a successful sports career, footballer Danny Bemrose would listen to dour interviews with Smiths legend Morrissey and sneer.
“I’d hear him talking about the music industry, and I’d think, ‘Shut up, you miserable, whining old bastard!” says the Oasis fan, who – after a broken foot doused his soccer dreams – picked up a guitar and formed the meat-and-potatoes rock band Scars on 45, which hits The City next week. “But now I understand exactly what he was talking about.”
Bemrose learned showbiz ropes the hard way, then documented them on his group’s latest sophomore CD, “Safety in Numbers,” in straightforward anthems such as “Only a Game,” “My Eyes Are Still Bright” and the opening “Golden,” in which he mockingly addresses today’s major labels with: “I can play what you want me to play/ I can lose when you need me to lose/ Together we’re golden.”
He says, “When you get signed, you think that everyone’s on your side, everyone’s going to work as hard as you, but you quickly realize who your true friends are.” Staunch self-belief got Bemrose through, once he added co-vocalist Aimee Driver.
“We knew that we weren’t doing anything groundbreaking – we were just writing and recording songs that we liked, but I knew they were too good not to get noticed,” he says.
He was right. The group landed a “CSI: New York” soundtrack slot for “Beauty’s Running Wild,” leading to a deal with then-Atlantic subsidiary Chop Shop, which secured more Scars placements on “Supernatural,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Pretty Little Liars.”
One self-titled debut disc later, and Bemrose was back to square one. Chop Shop was switching distribution, and Atlantic retained the rights to Scars’ next album. “We were told, in no uncertain terms, that they wanted a hit song,” he says. “They wanted us to be like Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers.”
Through countless co-writes, he struggled, until he had enough and exited the imprint.
But he had the songs, a full album’s worth. Scars flew to Minneapolis and recorded “Numbers” cheaply at a friend’s studio. Shopping it proved difficult.
“People love you one minute, and the next they won’t even take your calls,” he says. “We had the stigma of being on a major label, where it didn’t work.” Finally, Nettwerk heard what Bemrose heard and snapped Scars up.
And now? “Trying to be what other people wanted and not being true to myself, I realized something,” says Bemrose. “If you stick together as a band, you’ve got good songs, and you’re willing to work? You can still succeed in this industry.”
IF YOU GO
Augustana, with Scars on 45
Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 10
Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com