The cover of local pop-punk band Power Lloyd’s 1998 CD, Election Day, is elegantly simple: a standard white five-point star on a black field under the band’s name. The cover of national supergroup Stone Temple Pilots’ forthcoming CD, No. 4, is elegantly simple: a standard white five-point star on a black field under the band’s name.
Great minds think alike? Surely. But in the world of music, image is everything, and coincidence leads directly to court. The star treatment not only is on Power Lloyd’s album, but adorns their amps, drums, shirts, CDs, business cards—”It’s on everything we do,” says PL co-founder Gene Diotalevi.
As the band’s Web site message board—and Washington City Paper’s inDCent eXposure chat site—exploded with accusations and recriminations, SonicNet and MTV Online picked up the story, and now lawyers are involved. Initially, the band took an oh-well attitude. But, says Diotalevi, “After we sat down and thought about it, it seemed as if, you know, those guys started somewhere, like we did. They were nobodies before. And their fans are writing us [saying], ‘You guys are losers. Write better music and you won’t have to worry about suing people for money.’ And we were like, you know, ‘Come on!’ Our discs are selling. We’re working it. We’re trying to get there. We’re just exactly the same as [STP] were. So it’s not about the money, because who knows what a settlement will be, if it comes to that. We’re just trying to say, ‘Hey, we did it first.’ We’re not copycats…which is exactly what we’re gonna get labeled as: ‘You guys copied off of STP.’”
“It’s about integrity, is what it’s about,” says Diotalevi.
Power Lloyd is currently preparing its third CD, with a tour to follow. That album will also have the star logo. “Once we hit the road, we’re not going to paint over our cabinets,” Diotalevi insists. “We’re not going to stop wearing shirts that have stars from the first album cover all over it. We’re not going to stop doing that. We need to at least make the effort at this point to continue to use what we created without being slapped as copycats.”
It is that charge that hurts—and is certain death in the music business. “We’re quickly learning that had the shoe been on the other foot, this would have been a totally different story,” says Diotalevi. “Stone Temple Pilots and Atlantic [Records] would have clamped down on our ass so fast our heads would have swum.”
Regarding their David-and-Goliath contest, Diotalevi echoes the sentiments of another star-fixated songwriter, one Francis Scott Key: “It doesn’t matter how little you are—it’s just a matter of how far you’re willing to go.”—Dave Nuttycombe