Reds hope fans 'Paint the Town Red'
Club strikes deal with New York City band on new anthem
CINCINNATI -- The refrain should be familiar, but the song is entirely new and hasn't reached a large audience.At least not until now. "Paint the Town Red" is a song by The Hotcakes, a fledgling rock band from New York City. Because of the Reds, a lot of people will be exposed to the group's music for the first time this baseball season. When you watch or listen to the Reds' new advertising campaign this season, female vocalist Erin Marsz will be heard belting out "Paint the Town Red." The tie-in between the song title and the team is an obvious one, but it took some initiative from the band to get hooked up with the Reds. "We called a bunch of teams. The Reds showed the absolute most enthusiasm," said Hotcakes drummer Lee Leshen. Leshen went on to Reds.com in September to find contact names and numbers and eventually left a voicemail for Karen Forgus, the Reds' vice president of communications and marketing. In the message, Leshen invited Forgus to listen to "Paint the Town Red" on thehotcakes.com, which sent her to the band's MySpace page. "They were calling anyone with red colors in sports to see if they wanted to use the song," Forgus said. "I listened to the song and loved it and then kept listening to it on and off and had others listen. When I listened to it, it really seemed to work with highlights." Forgus, who was looking for a new song to play in commercials, returned Leshen's call the very next day. Within a couple of months, the Reds bought the rights to use the song as proprietary music for two years for the team's marketing, promotion and ballpark entertainment. They also have the ability to distribute the song on local radio in the team's market. The Hotcakes are a band without a record label. To say they were ecstatic about selling their song to the Reds is an understatement. "We were thrilled. It's been nonstop smiles from the get-go," Leshen said. "The Reds have been a pleasure to deal with. They embraced us right away. Our goal is to embrace the Reds in the same way. That's not lip service. We're passionate about the partnership. To bring our brand of rock and roll to Cincinnati and the surrounding areas will be a real thrill for us." Forgus said there will be no marketing effort to make "Paint the Town Red" a Reds rally cry during the season. The club prefers to go with more subtle exposure to see what happens. "It sounds young and progressive and it's not in-your-face like a jingle would be," Forgus said. "This needs to be an organic thing. If fans like it enough to force the issue, we'd consider it. 'Who Dey' worked for the Bengals, because, it's my understanding, it came from the fans in the seats. Our intention isn't to make a slogan. It's to get people all over town wearing red. We want them to do it, not just say it." The Hotcakes, Leshen said, have only been together for about a year and a half and generally play small clubs in Manhattan that hold a few hundred people. Without a label, they rely on the Internet and iTunes to get their self-titled, five-song EP to the public. If "Paint the Town Red" catches on, The Hotcakes are hoping it leads to other things -- including a chance to perform and build a fan base in Cincinnati. "We are itching to get to play at the ballpark," Leshen said. "We'd like it if fans loved us that much that we could come out there and play. It's every person's dream to walk on the field. I can't imagine the feeling of walking on a Major League field. When you catch the bug of seeing the field, you don't lose it. The brass ring for us would be playing at the stadium." Marsz wrote the song and considered it "a call to a great adventure. 'Paint the Town Red' is written about the place of innocence that accompanies childhood. The lyrics are simplistic and the chorus is full of energy and surprise -- like a kid thinking they are doing something really dangerous or bad by sneaking into the mean neighbor's yard to retrieve a ball or hiding behind a wall to jump out and scare your little brother." For at least the next couple of years, the Reds hope the song has fans thinking about seeing Reds games at Great American Ball Park.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.