Musicians often insist that everything they do starts with the music. But Chris Wallace, singer of the White Tie Affair, can make that claim in the most literal sense.
In the summer of 2006, Wallace and guitarist Sean Patwell were in another band, the Chicago-based A Perfect Gentleman, when they decided to try writing a different kind of song.
"Sean and I had played in bands in the past, and we always played kind of rock-based music," Wallace says. "We came up with an idea to do more pop-based music, more along the lines of throwing in some Prince and Michael Jackson elements, all these things that get lost in playing rock music. Then we incorporated that with the rock, and the first song we wrote was 'Mr. Right.'"
That song its full title is "Allow Me to Introduce Myself ... Mr. Right" was all it took to put an end to A Perfect Gentleman and to create the White Tie Affair.
On Halloween of 2006, Wallace and Patwell posted their song on their MySpace page. Within a couple weeks, it had attracted a flurry of hits. That, in turn, got the attention of Epic Records, which in 2007 signed the White Tie Affair on the strength of that single song.
"I thought it was a breath of fresh air, even when we were writing it," Wallace recalls. "Then we kind of got the attention [online] and put the band together and wrote the rest of the album."
Now Wallace, Patwell and their White Tie Affair bandmates, drummer Tim McLaughlin, bassist Ryan Cook and keyboardist Ryan McClain, are trying to expand on the online popularity of "Mr. Right." So far, they've yet to make a major splash, but an upcoming tour with Lady GaGa and a slot on the 2009 Warped Tour will expose them to a wide potential fanbase. On their own, the band has toured steadily since last April's release of debut CD Walk This Way.
Patwell says the band brings a different slant to its music in a live setting.
"It just comes out a lot edgier live," he says. "The stuff on the record, it's very pop and very dance-y, and it still comes across that way. But some of the songs also come across a lot more edgy, a lot more rock 'n roll. It has a lot to do with just the energy that we put into it."
In making Walk This Way, the group found a production team Matt Mahaffey (formerly of the band Self) and Jeff Turzo (formerly of God Lives Underwater) that understood the vision Wallace and Patwell had for the CD and still helped take the songs to a new level.
"They actually did the Hellogoodbye record," says Wallace. "Hellogoodbye was one of those bands that, in a sense, told us it was OK to do what we were about to do with this band, because they're real poppy. It's poppy and kind of cheesy, like over the top. I can honestly say that bands like that kind of persuaded us to say, 'OK, we can do this. This isn't so far away as we think it is.'"