Fats Pompano

Jingle House Rock: BradLeo's down to put some 'nilla in it

So I checked my mailbox the other week and found a package from one BradLeo Fabian, postmarked with a Fort Lauderdale address. The last I'd heard from this guy, he was living in Orlando, playing in a band called BradLeo and the Heartstoppers (and before that, the Consumers). I've seen Fabian perform several times since 2003, and every time, I walked away with a smirk on my face. Not a smile, like, "Oh, wasn't that a nice show," but a smirk, as in, "That guy's got a really fucked-up sense of humor." Anyway, it seems Mr. Fabian's back in town and has a new project, the BradLeo Administration, and a new EP, Happy, Lucky, and Going Places. Like his previous bands, the Administration falls somewhere between Wreckless Eric and Johnny Thunders; it mixes punk and pub rock ("Seven Days a Week") with mellow, slide-guitar-driven melodiousness ("Sierra"). Good, I thought, this will make an easy review. However, when I contacted Fabian to go over the usual bio stuff, I learned that rock musicianwasn't the only thing on his artistic résumé. In the past five years, Fabian has tried his hand at doing standup comedy, writing ad jingles, and developing a cartoon show. Sure, none of it panned out to anything more than a learning experience. But then again, all roads eventually lead back to rock 'n' roll.

"I thought it would be great for a year to write these jingles," Fabian told me, explaining how a friend of the family lived in New York and worked at a jingle house, as it's called. "I moved up there at the end of '01, and he got me a job at his company, washing windows. I told him I was interested in writing jingles, so he tried to help me out by putting me in touch with his boss. I guess he felt bad for me."

Fabian described his ad ideas to me, and I couldn't help snickering. Here's a guy who told variations of the "I just flew in from Australia, and boy are my arms tired" joke nearly every time I saw him. Fabian's totally unabashed in his bad taste; it's what makes him so damned amusing. Picturing this guy in a room full of middle-aged ad executives is, well, priceless. Fabian still has all his old pitches on file, so I had him e-mail them to me. Here's a jingle he wrote for a Vanilla Coke commercial, called "Put 'Nilla in It": "Yo, yo pop the top and let 'em flow/This new soda-busta is about to blow/Everybody in da crib should know/Put 'nilla in it, yo!"

All right, so maybe it's not as poignant as that old '70s tune "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," but it's still kind of catchy. And it's considerably more thought-out than another ditty Fabian wrote.

"I wrote a PSA for New York to get everyone to go downtown. It goes, 'Downtown everybody, everybody, everybody/Downtown, everybody, everybody...' I actually pitched these to the company's CEOs. I got such blank stares from all of them. They hated it. That's when I decided that I was not cut out for the advertising business."

Exactly. Why should Fabian write ads and public service announcements when he's got his own group of Consumers in Orlando? So he moved back to O-Town in '02 after learning that one of his songs was a hit with the college kids.

"While I was in New York, the Consumers' song 'I Care' was number one on the Rollins College radio station," Fabian said. "The station said they wanted to fly me down for a weekend gig, but I never got the call. There was some sort of miscommunication, and I never made it down there. Now the station won't play my stuff 'cause they think I blew them off."

And by 2004, the Consumers had run their course. Time for Plan B: cartoon writing.

"My friend Damon had a two-minute short on his website called The Global Guard'ner," Fabian said. "I thought it was really funny but needed some work. So we sat down and wrote a pilot episode. I came up with the villains, and another friend, Aaron, came up with the character illustrations."

Having spoken with a rep from Cartoon Network, who gave him all the forms to officially pitch the series, Fabian mailed the network the first drafts of The Global Guard'ner. It needed work, they told him.

"They said they wanted us to rewrite it and send it back in," Fabian recalled. "But by the time they got these drafts, they told us there was no more room that season."

OK, so that didn't work. But Fabian's next shot at stardom involved far less work, even though it met a far worse fate.

"My big claim to fame as a comic was opening for Doug Stanhope at the Backbooth," Fabian said. "There were like 400 people there — and I didn't get one laugh. No one knew what to make of my jokes."

Such as?

"I'm sorry that I'm late," Fabian began. "There was a guy driving in front of me with a Darwin sticker, and he was going at the speed of evolution. Hey-oooooh!"

Say what you will about corny one-liners, but at least Fabian didn't pull a Michael Richards when no one laughed.

So now Fabian's doing the band thing again and living in Fort Lauderdale. He plans to release a full-length BradLeo Administration album next summer. And if that doesn't work, there's always the construction business.

"Why would you want the founding fathers to build your house?" Fabian quipped. "Because they'd frame the constitution."

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