Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 2 a.m.
When the Killers and Panic at the Disco hit the big time, it made local bands realize that Las Vegas could be their launchpad for fame and fortune. Two of the bands seem a little closer to liftoff than the others.
Hard 8 recently signed a music deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, which should give the band maximum exposure. Adelitas Way enlisted Grammy-winning producer and engineer Skidd Mills to help it record its album.
Here are their stories:
Hard 8 hopes that hooking up with the UFC will start its breakout roll.
The group pitched a couple of songs to the mixed martial arts giant headquartered in Las Vegas. UFC officials liked the songs so much they asked for more, and ended up contracting the band for 17 songs to use on televised bouts.
Hard 8’s aggressive sound combines elements of rock, hard core, alternative, metal and hip-hop. It has performed at the Palms, House of Blues, Empire Ballroom, Celebrity Theater and Jillian’s.
Lead singer and guitarist Kurtis Imel, 30, was inspired to submit his music after attending a few of the fights.
“I felt like I was at a concert,” he says. “All the music I do, I thought my stuff would be perfect.”
Apparently, so did the UFC.
The group has been together for about six years. It features Imel (whose stage name is K-8), drummer Patrick Stockburger (P.A. Trick), keyboardist Ryan Moore (Professor Blue) and bassist Anthony Pirrello (Lil Homie).
Imel began playing in a cover band in Boulder, Colo., when he was 15. The band was considering moving to Los Angeles. But Imel had a premonition and didn’t make the trip. The lead singer went alone and was killed in a car wreck. Imel moved to Las Vegas nine years ago and started to put together a new band.
Hard 8 is almost ready to roll the dice again with a new CD, “Heartbreak Boulevard,” which is expected to be released in late summer or early fall.
If the national exposure of its UFC songs works its magic, Hard 8 should make it the easy way.
Rick Dejesus learned the hard lessons of life growing up in Philadelphia.
“I left there and came to Vegas because all of my friends were getting into drugs and into trouble and a lot of them were dying,” says Dejesus, 24. “I was kind of at a crossroads, heading in that direction as well. So I made the decision to get out before I ended up like all the other guys.”
He threw his belongings into the back of his pickup four years ago and headed West, chasing the dream. He made it as far as Las Vegas.
“I was going to move to Los Angeles, but it was too expensive,” Dejesus says. “And the music scene was growing here.”
The road hasn’t been smooth. He lived in his truck for a time.
Even the band’s name was earned the hard way.
Dejesus explains that the band was early for a meeting in Los Angeles and couldn’t check into the hotel.
“This buddy I was with, a knucklehead, says, ‘Hey, let’s go to this beach at San Diego; it’s only 45 minutes from Hollywood.’ I didn’t know, so I say, ‘Cool, man.’ I fell asleep in the camper in back of the truck. When I woke up we were being arrested in Tijuana, Mexico. A cop is banging on the back of the glass. They’re taking us out of the truck and stealing all our money. I’m yelling at my friend, ‘You idiot. Why did you bring us to Mexico?’ He says, ‘Cheap beer, man. Lots of places to party.’ ”
After being released, they went to a bar called Adelitas, which was filled with beautiful young women and old men. Dejesus was touched by the story of one of the young prostitutes who was supporting her parents and seven brothers and sisters.
“ ‘I’m the only one who can make money. There are no jobs. I can’t get into the United States. You think I like doing this? I hate my life. I hate doing these things,’ ” Dejesus remembers her saying.
“So I wrote a song about it, about being born into the harder end of life. I called it ‘Adelitas Song.’ I liked the name and so that’s what I named the band.”
Dejesus eventually sold his truck to make a demo CD, and the band recently returned from Nashville, where it worked on a CD with producer Skidd Mills, who has worked with Third Day, B.B. King, ZZ Top, Saliva, Sister Hazel and 12 Stones. The album, as yet untitled, will be the band’s first major release.
“I think this is our time,” Dejesus says. “This will be our breakout year. We’re going to be reading about how another Las Vegas band has just broke big — Panic at the Disco, Killers and now Adelitas Way.
“I think we’re the next band to come out of Vegas.”