From the very beginning, Hootie and the Blowfish fans have been a faithful and active bunch. In fact, Hootie fans often take as much pride in the South Carolina quartet's success as the band does itself.
Now the fans can take an active part in Hootie's career by helping choose songs for the band's new B-sides album that will be released in October. All you need is an Internet connection, and at least a passing knowledge of the cover songs Hootie has played over the years.
"With all the negative press surrounding Napster and the Internet recently, we thought it would be nice to have something positive for the fans to do online with regards to music," said Hootie drummer Jim Sonefeld. "They can choose songs for an album, which has never happened before, choose the artwork for the cover and even produce a video online."
Here's how it works. Hootie has already chosen 10 songs for their B-sides disc, which is called "Scattered, Smothered and Covered" (picture a tour bus pulling into a Waffle House parking lot at 3 a.m. and a hungry rock band trying to decide how to have their hash browns). Fans can cast their votes for up to five additional tunes from a list of eight songs that Hootie has recorded. (Audio clips are available of each so you can refresh your memory of what they sound like.) The top five vote-getters will be included on the album.
You'll also be given three options for the album cover art. Just click on the dot beneath the one you like and cast your vote.
Fans 21 and older can cast their votes at www.budweiser.com. Fans under the legal drinking age will be routed to an Atlantic Records-hosted site where they can cast their ballots.
Here are the 10 songs already selected for the album: "Fine Line" by Radney Foster; "Use Me" by Bill Withers; "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You" by Tom Waits.; "Before the Heartache Rolls In" by Foster & Lloyd; "Araby" by The Reivers; "Driver 8" by R.E.M.; "Dream Baby" by Roy Orbison; "Renaissance Eyes" by Don Dixon; "I'm Over You" by The Silos; and "Gravity of the Situation" by Vic Chesnutt.
Here are the eight tunes from which you choose to cast your votes: "I Go Blind" by 54-40; "Hey Hey What Can I Do" by Led Zeppelin; "Almost Home" by The Reivers; "Freedom's Child" by Frank Wildhorn; "Frances" by Dillon Fence; "Let Me Be Your Man" by Kim Richey; "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths; and "Christmas This Year" by Gerald Duncan of The Accelerators.
Voting ends on September 15, and "Scattered, Smothered, and Covered" will hit stores on October 24.
In conjunction with the online song voting, VH1 is sponsoring a make-your-own Hootie and the Blowfish video contest. When the band recorded "Use Me" in Charlotte in June for their new disc, three cameras were rolling and caught the band with Edwin McCain and saxophonist Craig Shields in action. Raw, unreleased footage from the session will be made available at www.VH1.com for would-be directors to download and manipulate. The four best video submissions will be placed on the VH1 Web site for fans to review.
The B-sides album and video voting is not all Hootie has in the works these days. The band will undertake a month-long club tour from mid-October to mid-November that includes a visit to the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach.
Sonefeld will begin work on his first solo album in October, and lead singer Darius Rucker's first solo effort, an R&B disc, will be released in February.
"We always hate to hear, 'When are you guys coming back?,' " Sonefeld said. "We always think that we never left.
"We've stayed busy, working behind the scenes, putting out music and playing shows here and there. (Hootie played two sold-out shows in Reno, Nevada, last weekend.) We're excited about the tour and have a lot of fun things lined up --'The Tonight Show,' Letterman, maybe the 'Today Show.' It's gonna be fun."
And if all goes according to schedule, there will be a new Hootie and the Blowfish studio album ready for release in early 2002.
"The goal is to let the solo records by me and Darius make a run," Sonefeld said. "Darius wants to tour all next summer with his record.
"Then hopefully we'll be writing for the new album next fall (in 2001) for a release the following year."