In the '60s, The Monkees started out making music as a made-for-TV band. Now it's time to meet the All-For-Nots, an indie rock band created for the Web.
The online series "The All-For-Nots" is the story of a fictitious indie band on an ill-starred cross-country tour. Part sitcom, part rockumentary and part music video/performance, the series premieres today on HDNet and makes its wider launch Tuesday on the Web and at the South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference in Austin, Texas.
It's no coincidence that the band is based in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood -- since 2006, "All-For-Nots" creators Kathleen Grace and Thom Woodley have produced "The Burg" (theburg.tv), a popular Web series about a group of underemployed twentysomethings living in Williamsburg.
On their Web site, Grace and Woodley describe "All-For-Nots" as "an epic journey of hubris, Shakespearean betrayals and Greek-level inner tragedies." The series follows the band on its disorganized tour, capturing performances at clubs and college campuses.
One of the All-For-Nots has local roots: 25-year-old Erica Harsch of Harmony plays the drummer, Shirley Burke. The band was chosen from a field of about 150 young actor/musicians. Other band members are Woodley, Kevin Johnston, Michael Moravek and Vanessa Reseland.
Harsch, who graduated in 2000 from Ambridge High School and who now lives in Brooklyn, was doing sketch comedy performances with friends when she met "The Burg" creators.
Harsch performed with the Ambridge school district's steel drum band, where she learned what she describes as her in-your-face style of drumming.
"A lot of people compare me to Animal from 'The Muppets' and Keith Moon," Harsch says.
She's excited about this one-of-a-kind opportunity to work on a project that she describes as "Spinal Tap meets The Monkees." And she's thrilled about the prospect of performing at the series premiere at SXSW -- the annual music, film and new media festival.
"When they told us we were doing that, I think I stopped breathing for a little while," Harsch says. "That's the coolest thing. I prefer that to playing amphitheaters full of people. That intimate setting -- on your way up -- that's the greatest thing in the world. Life is pretty good right now."
In recent weeks, she has been camped out with the rest of the cast and crew shooting episodes in Allentown, Lehigh County, which is doubling for many of the places on the band's cross-country tour.
Shirley is the show's "most mysterious character," Harsch says. "In 'The Breakfast Club,' I am Ally Sheedy. In the first six episodes, I barely speak at all and wear the same dress."
She says the motley crew of characters are "kind of thrown together" on the band's road trip. The keyboardist is a lawyer who keeps working while going on tour. "He's like the dad," Harsch says. "We have this manager -- he's very enthusiastic, but he constantly screws up."
Unlike the fictional All-For-Nots, the real management behind the series is not disorganized or underfunded. The series is produced by Michael Eisner, the former Walt Disney Co. executive who reinvented himself as a new media producer through his Vuguru production company. Vuguru's first Web series -- "Prom Queen" -- has drawn more than 20 million viewers through sites such as MySpace.
There will be 24 seven-minute Webisodes of "The All-For-Nots," which will post online over the next six months. There are about 30 shorter episodes that will reveal a little more of the band's back story, characters and dynamics. Nine more will feature interviews with people encountered on their road trip. There will also be several videos of live concerts.
The series can be watched online, through mobile devices and through cable network HDNet. It premieres today on HDNet, and the first episode will go online Tuesday. It's being promoted through social networking sites. The All-For-Nots have a MySpace page, where fans can keep up with the series and listen to the band's songs.
As for Harsch, the plan is to enjoy the All-For-Nots ride -- whether or not they become the next-gen Monkees -- and to find more work as a drummer and performer.
"I'm out for adventure. I'm playing whatever hand is dealt and keeping doing what I do."
Adrian McCoy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1865.