Sarah Cronin and Tommy Allen have just opened a box of T-shirts sent by their record label. The colors aren’t quite right, and the logo is too small and off-center, not emblazoned across the chest as Cronin had envisioned. Such are the minor nuisances with which Drug Rug must now contend.
MEETING CUTE: Their songs are “all about dying — they have nothing to do with love!”
But it’s all worth it for a band who began as a folky, acoustic duo with little or no following. In the past year, as they’ve added members, Drug Rug have become Internet darlings, all without setting foot in a club outside the Boston/New York axis. Much of their notoriety can be attributed to Apollo Sunshine’s Jeremy Black (see correction, below), who gave the band a profile boost when he signed them to his fledgling Black and Greene label and initiated a promotional push long before their Drug Rug debut dropped on September 18.
Allen remembers the night Greene approached them. “It was the first show we played with the full band behind us. Just as we were wrapping up our guitar cables, Jeremy was like, ‘Hey, I really want to put your record out,’ and I was totally like, ‘This kid’s joking.’ ”
“And then he bought me a Shirley Temple,” adds Cronin, “and we knew he meant business.”
By the time Greene came into the picture, Allen and Cronin had taken steps to bolster their rootsy blues songs with drums and bass. And producers Carter Tanton (Tulsa) and Julian Cassanetti (Frank Smith, Lot Six) were instrumental in helping Drug Rug flesh out their material. Allen: “Most of those songs weren’t really rock songs until Carter and Julian got involved. They added the drums and bass and brought them to life and gave us a good lesson in how we should continue.”
Allen and Cronin have done their best to deflect the attention they’ve received as a cute indie-singer-songwriter couple. Cronin: “We’re in it to have fun and not just have this display of affection for each other. It’s more just to have a good time and make good music.”
Allen adds that their relationship and the musical collaboration began at the same time. “It all happened when we started dating.”
“We went to the Other Side and then we went back to Tommy’s place and we played,” Cronin continues. “We had traded demos before that, and it was kind of before we had hung out, so all we really knew of each other was this demo that we had of each other’s music.”
When they played their CD-release show on September 21 at P.A.’s Lounge, backed by bassist George Lewis Jr. and Allen’s older brother John on drums, the songs came first, showcasing their Stonesy guitars and rootsy vibe. And yet their relationship is integral to the Drug Rug experience — as they trade lead vocals, harmonize, or spar in urgent, banshee call-and-response choruses — and they realize that it’s part of the appeal. Cronin: “I think that’s why initially everyone was like, ‘Let’s make it the cute-couple thing,’ because that’s something anyone can grab onto. But that’s not us; there’s more going on. It might work in our favor that people have that image of us as this cute love duo, and then they come to a show and see that this is sort of a face-ripping rock thing.”