How can success be defined when it comes to local music? Is success filling up bigger venues? Is it selling records, getting press or (gasp) turning a profit? Who knows. That's just quantifiable stuff. If success is an absolute, then a local band isn't truly successful until they grow beyond their localness – that is, when they tour, and eventually, through a myriad of tight sleeping arrangements and crappy door deals, do regionally what they can do locally, and, as a long shot, one day do nationally what they can do regionally. Or maybe not. Maybe local success is none of these things.
From 2005-2010, Orlando's own radio-friendly pop-rockers, Poverty Branch, booked big local shows, packed them with people, sold records, got press and did the one thing most bands can't do – made money. Yet, although a touring schedule became the next logical step after four years and two records, the band decided against it.
"If you can fill up one of these kinds of venues in Orlando, you probably have something worth sharing in a touring environment, but I think that's just not for us," singer-songwriter Dave Burleson says. "For most of us, that's kind of a circus life."
Soon after, the band called it quits. Everyone, in a social sense, grew up. Each member got married. Burleson, who married just before the band split, had a baby. Marriage, babies … these are, in most cases, punctuation marks on a music career.
Two years have since passed, and now, on Dec. 15, Poverty Branch hosts a reunion show at BackBooth, their most familiar venue. But the show is more of a revival than a reunion. They've added a new member, and a new album is in the works.
This past year, Burleson recorded solo demos with the hitherto unaffiliated guitarist-pianist Marco Randazzo and, in the process, realized the sound they'd captured was still Poverty Branch's, but more in the spirit of their first release, Putting the Old Horse Down, a whimsical, folk-flavored take on the Top-40 sensibilities that overwhelmed their second album. The rest of the band saddled up for it, quickly.
Burleson says, "This third album will be more fun than the second record, but it'll probably have even more social commentary, which is, I think, just getting older."
Conventional logic might ask, what's the point? By all accounts, in the standards of quantifiable success – shows, albums and income – Poverty Branch was one of the few successful local bands in recent Orlando history. And if there's no expectation, no goal of going on tour, why bother hitting the low ceiling of localness once again?
"I'm thinking about it probably like a 22-year-old musician would think about it," Burleson says. "I want to have a lot of fun, making the shows as big as we can here in Orlando." For him, local success is not about "making it," but quite simply, "making it awesome here." And in Orlando, that's not as small a task as it seems.
with Gasoline Heart, Neon NiteClub, Death on Two Wheels
7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15
37 W. Pine St.