Left Front Tire in the driver's seat

Two years ago, Left Front Tire reached a point in its career that thousands of bands would kill for. Following a showcase for Universal Music Group President Monty Lipman, the unsigned foursome scored a slot on the American Pie 2 soundtrack. The punk-pop nugget "Bring You Down" got some impressive spins from 99X, but the band wasn't happy. "We just didn't really feel like we were getting the support we needed to make that song sell some records," frontman Chip Dillard says.

What happened next might sound like sacrilege to the scores of hopefuls eyeing this year's Atlantis Music Conference: When Universal asked for an extension to decide whether to continue to work with the band, Left Front Tire put on the brakes. The return to relative obscurity is a decision Dillard doesn't regret. "We wanted to build something," he says, "and from our past experience with them, it didn't seem like we'd get to do that."

Now signed with independent Redeye, LFT just released 42 Ways To Lose a Friend. The freedom of a smaller label helped the band stay true to its core sound, says Dillard. "I would say that this new record is the closest we've come to being as happy as we could be with something we've done."

Not that Left Front Tire's first brush with a major label has soured the band on schmooze-heavy confabs like Atlantis. "You get to meet a lot of people, and mingle a little bit," Dillard says. "We don't really love doing those showcases [where] you have 20 labels at each show, and they're the only people there. But Atlantis is good; we've done it three or four times. Whatever you wanna know, you can learn there."

Left Front Tire plays the 10 High Thurs., July 31, at 11 p.m.