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Boy loses girl, boy finds dream - Local band `Dating Delilah" hopes demo brings major label fame

By Cody Ellerd

Love is a powerful thing. It can make you compromise all you hold dear. It can make you want to scream your lungs out. It can inspire art, music and messages for the masses. And with the right connections, it can lead you to the big time you've always dreamed of.

Twenty-one year old John Humphrey recovered from a heartbreak by channeling his anguish into music in his Mercer Island garage. Six months later, he was fronting a rock band, screaming his pain to crowds of adoring teenagers around the Seattle area, and before he knew it, flying to Los Angeles to talk to Geffen Records, a major label.

``It's surreal,'' said Humphrey from beneath the just-so skewed brim of a drab junta cap. Over six short months, among the ruins of a failed relationship that was holding him back from doing what he loves, he has found the courage to scrap college and pursue his ultimate dream: ``to become the most influential band of all time.''

That band is called Dating Delilah. Humphrey formed the group with Sam Alvarez, a friend from his church in Bellevue, last spring. After writing a few songs, they recruited three others from the Seattle-area music scene with the right talent and musical influences.

Humphrey dropped out of Bellevue Community College and quit his job waiting tables to at last focus on his music. Dating Delilah spent the summer playing venues around the area, including the Catwalk Club and El Corazon in Seattle. Most often, the band played at teenage hangouts like the Kirkland Teen Center and Ground Zero, a teen center in Bellevue, attracting an excited flock of underage fans that follow them with gushing devotion.

Suburban community centers aren't exactly a major destination for talent scouts, but Dating Delilah had other connections. One of them was Rick Weiss, ``a guy who played harmonica with some 80s band called Huey Lewis and the News'' and who also is an acquaintance of Humphrey's father, Humphrey said.

Weiss left a meeting on Mercer Island with Humphrey's dad with a copy of the band's self-released CD, Humphrey explained, and from there it journeyed upstream through several more music industry hands all the way to 3 AM Studios, a Los Angeles production studio that records Geffen artists.

Dating Delilah was invited to 3 AM to record four new songs, which Humphrey said are now in post-production. While there are no guarantees, the band hopes that the demo will impress Geffen -- or another label -- enough to give it a recording contract that will launch it into stardom.

``I'm amazed at the opportunities and doors that have been opened for us,'' he said. ``It's about networking and it's about risk taking.''

Everything about the band, from its song lyrics and cover art to its curious name, speaks to the theme of taking risks and refusing to compromise. And all of that goes back to The Girl.

Delilah is not her name. That was Sampson's girlfriend, who in the Bible led the lovesick warrior to reveal the secret of his strength. Delilah divulged Sampson's secret to his enemies, who then gouged out his eyes with hot pokers.

For two years, Humphrey was under the spell of his own Delilah. She kept him from pursuing his passion for music -- then ran off with another musician from his previous band, he said.

``There are things that hold people back from their dreams and their passions,'' Humphrey said. ``For some it's drugs, others it's a relationship. Delilah stands for compromise. We don't want people to date Delilah.''

It's obvious from listening to Dating Delilah's first album ``The Making of a Man'' that Humphrey got hurt and has something to say about it. But it's hard to picture the slight young man with long-lashed doe eyes producing the throaty, hair-raising screams that are supposed to communicate that message.

``I'm bitter as hell!'' he wails on the song `Jack's Broken Heart.' ``Go on, lick your lips to hide the fact you've been feasting on the remains of Jack's bleeding heart.''

Antonia Rovig, a 14-year-old fan from Lynwood, said the band's lyrics make sense to her. ``You can relate to a lot of things they say,'' and the music, she said, ``is something you can dance to.''

Humphrey thinks his songwriting combined with the band's hard-core sound appeals to kids because it has ``tapped into what's going on in music right now.'' He describes a discontent in pop culture in which people are seeking more meaning in music than they've been getting.

Kaden Tompkins is a senior at Sultan High School in Sultan who Humphrey identifies as Dating Delilah's No. 1 fan. ``Something about them just makes me freak out when I'm in the (mosh) pit,'' Tompkins said. ``Their music is amazing. They're true to their fans. They don't just blow them off.''

The band's Web page on MySpace.com, a networking site with a focus on music, buzzes with personal messages from the group's fans, who clearly feel a solid connection to the band members. But as many of them lament the fact that they can't make shows because of parents, homework or being grounded, Humphrey admits that he'd like to broaden the group's appeal.

``We might have to expand our topics a little more,'' he said, ``like talk about politics or something.''

No. 1 fan Tompkins said he's happy that the band is growing up, but he would hate for them to end up like other bands who have become ``stuck up'' and cave in to compromise.

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