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Band with small-town roots finds big success

Clinton Cunanan and Lee Norris, members of Another Lost Year.

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

It seems national and international success came overnight for alternative rock band Another Lost Year, whose lead singer and other group members come from Lincoln County and the surrounding region.

The musical quintet hasn’t been home in over a year, stopping in town earlier this month for a little more than a day in preparation for a tour named the “Breakfast Burrito Tour.”

The event will take the musicians across the country through the end of the year.

Prior to returning to the area just long enough to say “hi” to family and pack up any additional road items for their next adventure, lead singer and Pumpkin Center native Clinton Cunanan said the band completed a 40-day nationwide tour, called the “Toby Keith Rides Again Tour,” racking up more than 130,000 miles on their humble-looking tour van.

Since starting the band in 2011, when Cunanan’s attempted solo project transformed into a group effort, Another Lost Year has performed over 480 shows — twice as many as last year — alongside other popular rock sensations such as SevenDust, Buckcherry, Nonpoint, Taproot, Pop Evil, Sick Puppies and Trapt.

This year alone, the locally based music group has been on stage at more than 25 festivals nationwide and set a Guinness world record after one of their songs remained at the No. 1 position on Clear Channel radio for more than 250 days.

“The stuff we’ve done in three years is absurd,” Cunanan said. “To think of where we all have come from…our life is a fairytale.”

Every one of the tracks on their first album “Better Days” gained TV airtime on one popular cable channel after another in 2013.

Many of their hits, primarily written by Cunanan, focus on positive messages, letting people know they aren’t alone in life and that much good can be accomplished when various populations unite.

Despite watching certain members come and go over the last few years, Another Lost Year has stayed strong musically, celebrating success in just about every one of their undertakings.

Lee Norris, who claimed he never had any official drum training growing up, joined the band in January 2012 on the same day the group’s former drummer called Cunanan about quitting.

Norris had just been laid off and decided to contact the lead singer for a possible music opportunity.

The two both attended East Lincoln High School but didn’t know each other at the time. They met when the two filled in for another band needing two musicians.

Soon after, Norris and Cunanan got together for a jam session, writing their current band’s hits “Angels” and “Your Last Goodbye” — the first of the group’s songs to hit TV.

Such coincidental turn of events have been taking place for Another Lost Year since 2011.

“If it could have lined up for this band, it lined up,” Cunanan said. “Everything that could happen has taken place.”

The band even snagged former 12 Stones member Justin Rimer as their producer.

Norris said his first show with Another Lost Year took place in front of 500 screaming fans in West Virginia.

The concert crowd size shocked him, since it proved much larger than he had expected or any he had ever played for in past bands.

Since then, the fast-paced “grind” has kept him busy, doing what he loves most.

“We’re out there working and keeping at this,” Norris said.

Prior to playing their most recent burrito-themed tour, named for the band’s unique plans to eat the food item of choice every morning of the tour, the group tackled many back-to-back shows.

They often spent hours together inside their tour van — furnished with a television — and stopping at random places to freshen up.

“We figured out how to shower in Wal-Mart parking lots,” Cunanan said.

He and Norris laughed as they remembered how guitarist David Whitaker bought a Coleman shower, following 10 days without one, and set it up in the store lot.

Band members were most excited this past year about having the National Football League (NFL) grab hold of their music, featuring the song “We’re on the Inside” each time Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ran onto the field.

Other TV stations that have picked up their music have included the Oxygen Channel — for their hit show “Best Ink” — and MTV, for the station’s popular programs “The Challenge: Rivals II” and “Real World: Portland.”

Because the band continues to receive little to no radio air time across North Carolina, most of their fans reside outside the Southern state.

“We can pull 1,000 (fans) in the Midwest but barely 500 in Charlotte,” Cunanan said.

Ironically, one of their largest fan bases exists in Bismarck, S.D., which has now adopted Another Lost Year as their “hometown band” since it’s the top Clear Channel location in the United States, giving the group the most radio airtime there.

Formerly signed to Thermal Entertainment, LLC, based in Greenville, S.C., Another Lost Year is now independent, a decision the band believed was the best choice for them.

“Very few people can be their own boss and get up when they want,” Cunanan said. “We have total freedom.”

Despite the success and fame the group has achieved in a short amount of time, they often feel the weight and challenges of pursuing their dream, particularly when it comes to industry politics, leaving family at home and trying to encourage the whole world, it seems at times, to care about their music.

“This is absolutely the loneliest, most selfish thing that you can do,” Cunanan said. “I never wish any of this on anyone.”

Another Lost Year will host a homecoming celebration and show Jan. 25 at the N.C. Music Factory in Charlotte.

Once the new year starts, they also plan to get back in the studio, located in Memphis, Tenn., and record their second full-length album.

The group wants to record a sound both “real” and “authentic” for fans and the rock world overall.

For more information and a list of awards Another Lost Year has received, visit their website, anotherlostyear.com, or self-titled Facebook page.

Additional band members include guitarists Adam Hall and Jason Lovelace.

Image courtesy of Jaclyn Anthony / Lincoln Times-News

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