NEW YORK (Billboard) - In the spring of 2007, Georgia rock band Cartel seemed like it was on the right track: Its debut album was selling briskly, and when it was presented with the opportunity to star in an MTV show, "Band in the Bubble," the group figured it would be a great next step.
Alas, that wasn't the case. The MTV program didn't achieve its intended result; the self-titled album recorded in the bubble stiffed, selling fewer than 100,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (The band's first album, "Chroma," sold 250,000.) Cartel was released from its contract with Epic and found itself on the market.
But the band got a second chance, courtesy of Wind-up Records president Ed Vetri. The label will release its new album, "Cycles," October 20, as part of a deal that gives Wind-up the rights to collect revenue from album sales, merchandise and touring.
Vetri says he wanted to give Cartel the time and space to make its third record, especially since its earlier albums were each recorded in less than a month.
"I think (lead singer) Will (Pugh) needed time to find himself again and support to write great songs, which he ultimately did," Vetri says. "It was a long process; they were in the studio for about a year."
Pugh says, "They put us in their studio, gave us the time and allowed us to produce our own record. Listening to the record now, it's the most focused, well-organized and best representation of our band that we've had so far."
Like the group's last two releases, "Cycles" has plenty of hooks but they're tighter and more sophisticated, a by-product of the band's ability to take time and refine its work. The bass-heavy track "Deep South" pays tribute to the group's Southern pride. ("Go and get my bones/Bring them to the Deep South/Somewhere they can thaw out.") The closing song "Retrograde" contains sweeping vocals and big pop-punk instrumentation, while slower, ballad-type songs ("Only You," "It Still Remains") show the band's emotional depth.
Cartel reconnected with fans while in the studio by posting on Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. The band also did a quick tour with All Time Low and We the Kings as the recording process was winding down. It's planning to hit the road this fall to tour in support of "Cycles" with This Providence, the Summer Set, Bigger Lights and the Dares. Other marketing plans include giveaways and webisodes through the group's social networking sites and an appearance on Fearless TV October 26. The first single, "Let's Go," is being serviced to rock radio.
Vetri has high expectations for the group. "Will has an absolutely amazing voice," he says. "Once we can get the songs out there and his live performance grows, that's when we'll ultimately bring them to a platinum-plus record."
Editing by DGoodman at Reuters