It was the worst kind of wake up call.
Disorienting. Scary. Like being stirred from some dream only to find that the real nightmare had just begun.
The sound of a buddy screaming.
The angry screech of metal on asphalt.
The mean thump of limbs thrashing against iron.
In the midst of their first big tour, crossing the wintry plains of Wisconsin in a packed van, young Las Vegas power pop quintet The Cab hit a slick patch of highway and suddenly saw their ride — and their world — turned upside down.
“I just woke up to people yelling,” The Cab singer Alex DeLeon recalls. He was asleep in the back of the vehicle when the incident happened two weeks ago. “I opened my eyes, and then a few seconds later, bodies are flying across the van. We hit a patch of black ice, and you just can’t see it. It blends in with the road. We lost control, and we were just flipping on the median of the highway.
“After we crashed, after the van skidded across the snow, it took me a few minutes to realize what was going on,” he continues. “I had no idea what just happened. My leg was super wet — I didn’t know why — and it was blood. It was pretty gross. We had to climb out. Some guy pulled over to the side of the road and helped pull us out one by one.”
Badly bruised, battered and sore, their gear smashed up, the band took but a single day off, went to the hospital, rested up in their hotel, and then hit the road the next day.
“We thought about coming home, because we were all pretty mentally and physically beat up, and we just decided that it was better for us to keep going and get back on our feet fast,” DeLeon says, noting that fans have given them homemade cards and even $100 gas cards to help them return to action. “Stuff happens like that. We played acoustic in Kansas City a day and a half later.”
The accident was a rare setback for this bunch, fresh out of high school, who’ve only been together for a little more than two years.
In that relatively short period of time, they’ve managed to land a deal with Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz’s Decaydance Records, home to Vegas’ last breakout act, Panic at the Disco, as well as the popular Gym Class Heroes and Cobra Starship, with whom The Cab is touring, playing mostly sold-out shows.
The band hooked up with the label almost by happenstance after running into a couple of the Panic guys at a concert and slipping them a copy of some of their early recordings.
“I never used to carry demos around, but I just had a demo on me at a Cartel/Boys Like Girls/Cobra Starship show,” DeLeon recalls. “I ran into Spencer (Smith, Panic drummer) and Jon (Walker, bassist), and I gave it to them. Spencer recognized me from being in the crowd, front row, at their first show. He was like, ‘Oh, I’ll give it a listen.’
“In my head, I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way in hell they listen,’ ” he adds. ” ‘They’re just being nice, they’ll throw it away. But it’s worth a shot.’ And then Ryan (Ross, Panic guitarist) contacted me a few days later, and he was like, ‘I really like these songs, let’s hang out, get something to eat, talk about it.’ And it kind of slowly built from there.”
Panic would hook The Cab up with their management company, and a record deal soon would follow.
The band’s full-length debut, “Whisper War,” is due out on April 29. Its first single, “I’ll Run,” already has garnered more than 300,000 plays on the band’s MySpace page and helped The Cab land on Blender magazine’s “Hot List” recently.
Buoyant and pop savvy, the band’s piano-laced tunes are driven by DeLeon’s doe-eyed voice, which is as light and sugary as whipped cream. The band’s heart-on-the-sleeve repertoire is tailored for the radio, with a persistent swing and mild guitar bite present in most tracks, lending the band’s songs a bit more groove than some of their pop punk peers.
“Our style of music has got a lot of pop and soul and R&B elements,” DeLeon says. “Hopefully we can steal kids who listen to that stuff, yet at the same time, steal fans from pop rock, kids who listen to Fall Out Boy.”
It’s kind of ironic that such a saccharine sound initially was born of tension. While both attending Liberty High, The Cab founders DeLeon and bassist Cash Colligan initially became acquainted while contentiously vying for the affection of the same girl.
“Me and Cash were fighting over some chick,” DeLeon says. “She kind of played us, stopped talking to both of us. And so we just started talking, and I went to his house one day and jammed.”
From there, The Cab would morph from a two-man project making acoustic demos to a full-fledged band that sold out its very first show at now shuttered all-ages coffeehouse/concert club the Rock N’ Java.
They’re among a flurry of Vegas acts — Panic, Escape the Fate, The Higher, the recently disbanded You In Series — that have landed national record deals in recent years, generating a considerable amount of attention for the local rock scene.
It wasn’t that long ago that these guys were crowd members at those bands’ shows — not sharing the stage with them — and you can tell that DeLeon still is getting adjusted to all the newfound attention his band is garnering.
And so even though he’s speaking less than a week after a potential life-threatening accident, DeLeon still is counting his luck.
“Vegas definitely had a lot of momentum, but I never thought that we’d be a part of it,” he says. “I never thought, ‘Here’s our chance.’ We got very lucky, the fact that I ran into Panic and they liked our stuff and even called us back. We definitely didn’t think this was going to happen. We were just playing because it was fun.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 383-0476.who: The Cab
when: 6 p.m. Sunday
where: Jillian’s, 450 Fremont St.
tickets: $12-$14 (759-0450)