You’re watching a Seinfeld rerun, or the late-night news on the WB. Cut to commercial. “Woke up this morning/ Cable’s triple play in my head …” It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? There’s a pretty girl on your TV, dancing and singing in a huge, loft-like space, wind blowing through her dark hair, glossy lips shining, sequins flashing. You’ve seen her before. But where? And that catchy pop-ska beat—it’s all so familiar. “One simple connection/ One low price all on one bill …” Wait, here comes the hook! “I want it all! Yeah, I want it all!” And the band sings, “1.800.OKCable, Cable’s got it all.” Now you’ve got it. It’s the 1.800.OKCable band!
Is this a real band? Can they be serious? It is. They are.
The band is called Future 86, and the 1.800.OKCable commercial on which they sing has been driving New Yorkers batty for months.
Future 86’s road to local TV saturation began five years ago, when guitarist Larry Nimmo, from Queens, and drummer Armand Minassian, of New Jersey, put an ad out in The Village Voice. They wanted to start a rock band and they needed a singer. Spunky Courtney Samborsky, then a student at the musical theater program at New York University, answered the call.
The band didn’t want to change the world or reinvent rock music. They just wanted to play some shows and get the people dancing. So they plugged away at local nightspots, working up a handful of 80’s covers and a few originals that they’d try to squeeze in when the bar manager wasn’t looking. They changed band names a few times—first they were Eve’s Design, then Pretty Suicides—until they finally settled on Future 86 after seeing signs for the prospective interstate highway en route to gigs. They recorded two albums on small budgets and sold them online, in between sets and at some local record stores.
This spring, they got a call from Jennifer Brooke, cofounder of Forever Films, a Long Island–based production company. She was looking for a local band—nothin’ fancy—to sing on a commercial for 1.800.OKCable, a company that packages Internet, TV and phone service together. They weren’t selling out the Garden, but still…!
After trawling MySpace for talent, Ms. Brooke and her partner, Beatrice Alda, discovered Future 86 (among about a dozen other bands). They particularly liked the song “I Want It All,” which with a few minor tweaks could easily be transposed to the thematic needs of an 1.8OO.OKCable ad campaign. And the little-known group would probably work for cheap—or even free.
At first, Future 86 was apprehensive about using their songs to move product. But exposure is exposure. Ms. Alda and Ms. Brooke tried to make the process as gentle as possible. “We worked on it long and painstakingly,” Ms. Alda said. “It’s not natural for bands to say those words. We have to be respectful. We don’t want them to be shills; we want them to be a band.”
In due time, the lyrics Woke up this morning/No sunshine on my head became Woke up this morning/Cable’s Triple Play in my head. And Woke up this morning/Couldn’t wait to get out of bed became Craving TV and Internet and Phone/Is what I said. “You’re watching Future 86 but they happen to be talking about cable,” Ms. Brooke said.
Public response, however, has not been so enthusiastic. It seems some people resent getting a catchy song stuck in their heads after repeated, unsolicited airings, especially when that catchy song is about something as mundane as cable TV and Internet service.