The Austin Chronicle

Party of Three

Party Circuit Veterans, Javelin Boot

By Ken Lieck, November 29, 1996, Music

Guess which version of Javelin Boot is pictured here. A hint -- L-R: David Mider, Dan O'Neill, and Blake Patterson
photograph by Laura Skelding
It's been a long, hot year in Austin with high humidity and sunny days a given. For months and months now, I've gone to bed at night knowing it would be hot the next day, waking each morning to find my prediction had come true. Suddenly, though, when I got in the car to go meet with the members of Javelin Boot, it started to snow.

Perfect. After all, "When Hell freezes over" always seemed like the most likely date for this local pop trio to land a record deal, and that's exactly what they've gone and done -- as well as place a number of songs on "hip" evening soaps like Party of Five. And with their 18th (!) anniversary coming up in December (none of them remembers exactly which day), Dan O'Neill, Blake Patterson, and David Mider have finally released their first album for Pravda Records, titled Fundamentally Sound. Finally, it seems the time is right for this seemingly-innocuous threesome to reveal a few of their many secrets.

Secret Number One: There are two Javelin Boots. One is the bread-and-butter cover band that pays the bills, while the other plays clubs performing original material. Though they started out performing mostly cover songs at friends' parties -- as have many others -- Javelin Boot always intended on becoming an original music band. It wasn't until 1985, however, that the real splitting of the single Boot atom came along with two conscious decisions they'd made.

The first was to make the jump from parties (as Javelin Boot the originals band) to club gigs. The second was to graduate (as Javelin Boot the cover band) from their friends' backyards to well-paying frat party gigs. One big step in this progression came when they met Paul Minor, then in the Urge, whose introduction to the Boot came in the form of an impressed "Wow! You guys play the Plimsouls!"

Minor managed to convince Tom Bowie at the Texas Union that for much less than he was paying a certain hot cover band, he could get both the Urge and the Boot -- and an equal-sized crowd as well. The band that Minor scuttled with this suggestion, by the way, was the Argyles, whose ranks he joined full-time earlier this year.

Why don't more bands follow the Boots' example, bringing in fortunes through cover gigs and, hopefully, fame through their own material? It's the money, says O'Neill. "I talk to other guys in cover bands who come into Strait [Music] where I work, and they're always saying, `Yeah, we're gonna start doing an original thing.' Every six months they come in and say that, but they can't give up the money."

The Javelin members, though, make no bones about which Boot is on the favored foot: "We make sure that we get out and play our own stuff," emphasizes Patterson, "even if it means we're losing money playing the parties." O'Neill concurs, adding, "Basically, every time we play original stuff, every time we go on tour, we're losing money, but it's more than worth it."

Then Mider, the closest thing to "the quiet one" in the band, finally chimes in: "Sometimes you feel like it's work but then you've gotta say, `Look, a lotta guys would like to do this and not have to sit around at a day job for two weeks to make the same money we're making tonight.'"

In fact, the influx of cover cash eventually allowed the Boot to make and release albums on their own No Duh! label, which eventually led to a distribution deal with Pravda, who put out the band's last two albums, For Those About to Pop and The Schwa Sound. Today, because the cover band gigs continue to do so well, O'Neill confesses to a strange reversal of fate that has forced him to finally get a day job for the first time in a long while. The reason? To pay the taxes on his income from the band!

Still, 18 years is a long time for any band, rich or poor, to survive. The trio admits that they've made it through the entire "`My Sharona' cycle," in that they played the 1979 Knack song when it was new, and then recently brought it back to their set on a whim when they found it had returned to its former show-stopping status. One thing that helps, or at least explains why they don't look like a Geritol ad yet, is the fact that they started in their early teens. In fact, the seeming non-sequitur of their band name stems from visits to Foot Locker in the then-new wing of Highland Mall back in 1978. The guys say they have seen exactly one actual javelin boot, "the kind of boot a javelin thrower wears," and would plague the employees of the shoe store with questions about when they were going to get some in. "And then we'd call our parents to come and take us home," adds O'Neill.

That's still not the secret to their longevity, though. The solution to that mystery can be revealed in four simple words: "We don't sleep together." The band always springs for hotel rooms -- and three beds -- when on the road, eliminating any number of ugly situations other groups find themselves in on a regular basis. Again, they're lucky they've got those cover tunes writing the check to Best Western for them.

Amazingly, the Boot guys say that as a rule, very few people that go see one version of the band know of the existence of the other. Sure, once in awhile, some sorority girl will have bought a CD and request one of their originals at a party (they credit much of this to being in the "Texas Artists" bin right next to Jackopierce), and just as often, a fraternity member who's wandered into a club will yell out for, say, Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)." As fans of the band(s) know, they're more than happy to oblige, and in fact their "originals" gigs often degenerate into a covers frenzy as 2am looms. Rarely is the band forced to play songs they hate over and over, though they all agree that their lowest moment was having to perform Stryper's "Together as One" at a wedding.

"My part was great," smiles O'Neill. "It had a little hammer-on in the lead, 'cuz it was a metal song, basically -- a power ballad." Mider, who sang the number, received no such boon.

Moving on to the final secret: How does a long-suffering, 18-year-old pop band from Austin suddenly take a 180-degree "Texas weather" spin and end up signed to a record label and hearing their songs coming from the TV during Melrose Place? The secret there comes from the label itself, which found the band a publisher that could place Javelin Boot's tunes on popular television shows. Once that had been accomplished, the band became more commercially viable and attractive to the label, so Pravda snapped them up while they could.

So what's next? Well, the band has one more album to go in their two-disc deal with Pravda, and while they're blissfully belting out everything from Kiss to Kool & the Gang for reveling college kids, more of their songs are being scheduled for prime-time action. One can't help but imagine what will happen if the band really hits it big. Picture an IRS-hounded O'Neill at age 70, pushing a broom down the halls of some junior high school.

"Hey, Mister! How did you end up stuck with this crappy job?"

"Hrrumph! It was all that goddamned money I made as a musician!"

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