Shout the phrase “Dayton, Ohio” at any fairly diverse party of people under age 50, and they’re bound to shout back: “Guided by Voices!” “The Breeders!” and/or “Hawthorne Heights!”
OK, maybe not Hawthorne Heights, but you get the drift. After GbV and the Breeders sprung from the city of roughly 137,000 and made the jump to major labels, Dayton cemented its spot on the nationwide map of indie rock.
A lesser-known fact is that, beyond the bands that made Dayton famous, the rock-friendly city has another ace up its sleeve: Sweet Cheetah PR. Also a New Noise contributor, Tim Anderl,founded and began operating his firm more than a decade ago, building up to a current roster that includes Jawbox, Bloomr and Spaceships.
The son of a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Anderl and his family relocated in various states for a considerable amount of his childhood. He moved to Dayton in 1989 and continues to call it home.
“I’ve always loved music since an early age, but it wasn’t until probably my sophomore year in high school that I really started paying attention to the local music scene,” Anderl said. “When I found out who [GbV] were, Bob Pollard was still teaching 5th grade science. It was an awesome time to be young and excited about music and have so many formative alternative and indie-rock bands right at your doorstep.”
Finding himself in the orbit of so many engaging, artistically minded people, Anderl originally became involved in music journalism. But eventually he segued into publicity, all the while working full-time as a government contractor, a role he still has.
“When I decided to launch Sweet Cheetah, the impetus was that I wanted to use my time and talent to benefit others and serve the greater community,” he said. “I wasn’t necessarily looking for an opportunity to make money by doing publicity. I was really just hoping to help my friends with opportunities.”
Anderl’s desire to help friends is reflected most clearly in Sweet Cheetah’s businessmodel, which revolves around handshake agreements. Yes, you read that right. Rather than charge bands $1,200 a month for representation, Anderl only asks for a physical copy of their new release, $10 to cover his Mailchimp and Dropbox expenses (although he usually donates it), and that the band donates or otherwise supports some kind of charity effort.
Talk about doing a friend a solid.
“This methodology [isn’t] purely because I’m some sort of ethical punk,” Anderl insisted. “By not monetizing the PR, it allows me to prioritize my private life. I have a 7-year-old son. If I have a choice between sending an email for a band and taking my son to his dance lesson, you’re going to have to wait.”
Anderl abides by another rule for his roster too: Musicians who aren’t accepting of LGBTQ+ or minorities can look elsewhere for PR help. Sweet Cheetah’s founder said he “garnered some of my adult values and ethics from punk rock,” including making space for people who are considered “the other.”
Another role model in Anderl’s life was former Brainiac singer Tim Taylor, who tragically died in a car accident in May 1997.
“Tim was such low-key, nice and approachable,” Anderl recalled. “To have someone that highly regarded be that approachable, having them be so gracious, it’s really something that shaped me as a young man. Those kinds of people are my heroes over people who are billionaires or things like that.”
Speaking of Brainiac, thanks to Anderl’s strong work ethic in working what are essentially two full-time jobs, and his widespread reputation as a stand-up guy, a dream of a lifetime came true for him. When Brainiac re-formed last year, they took on Anderl as their publicist.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Taylor
“Tyler Trent, the drummer, is my brother’s pastor,” Anderl remarked, reminding us about Dayton’s small size and neighborly feel. “That was a very busy time due to the surprising number of outlets that were really interested in [Brainiac reissue material and their] tour. It was really exciting to have an artist I was representing be approached by the New York Times and The Guardian.”
Despite those memorable moments surrounding Brainiac, Anderl said he’s back to helping all bands on his roster try to get a foot up with their latest efforts.
“I’d like to help level the playing field,” he said.
Learn more about Sweet Cheetah by visiting their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profiles.