Persevere long enough, and sometimes a stroke of great luck will come your way. That’s something Wrinkle Neck Mules have learned in recent months. This past November, Geico–yes, the insurance company famous for its Gecko spokes-creature–began airing a TV commercial featuring a snippet of “Central Daylight Time,” a song the Virginia-based band had recorded but not yet released. Neither the song-title nor the Mules are mentioned in the ad, but savvy viewers became determined to learn more about the track.
“This is our 12th year, and we’ve been moderately successful,” says Wrinkle Neck Mules singer-guitarist Andy Stepanian, who wrote “Central Daylight Time.” “We have a cultish following that’s been supportive enough to enable us to continue as a band. But that said, we’ve probably gained as many fans and as much attention in the past several weeks as we did in the past decade. It’s been crazy—the amount of emails, merchandise sales and inquiries we’ve gotten based on that commercial.”
The prized placement of the song essentially “fell into [the band’s] lap,” says Stepanian. Collaborating with Geico on the commercial spot was the Martin Agency, an advertising firm based in Richmond, Virginia. The Martin Agency’s art director, Adam Stockton, had worked previously with Wrinkle Neck Mules, designing their album cover art and posters. When the search got underway for a song to accompany the 30-second ad—staged to resemble the famous Billy Bob’s Texas honky-tonk establishment in Fort Worth—Stockton immediately thought of the Mules.
“Adam called me from the set in Hollywood and described the scene,” explains Stepanian. “He felt we might have something that would work perfectly. I threw him the kitchen sink, in terms of the most country-sounding songs we have. But I did highlight ‘Central Daylight Time,’ and suggested they look at it closely.”
Stockton adds that, for such projects, it’s not unusual for the Martin Agency to seek out independent artists. “There are two reasons for that,” he says. “First, they’re usually much cheaper to get than someone like, say, Kanye West. The second reason is that it’s a good way to expose [viewers and listeners] to things they may not have heard before.”
The frenzy that ensued when the commercial began airing took the Mules by surprise. Although the band had recorded “Central Daylight Time” a year earlier, the song—and the album for which it was intended—had been delayed while Stepanian recovered from injuries suffered in an automobile accident. “People started going on a hunt for the song,” he explains. “They were clamoring for it and sort of freaking out when they couldn’t find it. Something about that song really resonated with people.”
The Mules scrambled to release the track on iTunes, but that effort was proving to be a time-consuming process. That’s when Geico stepped in and exercised a previously-negotiated option to give the song away as a free download. “We were like, ‘That’s great for us,’” says Stepanian. “We want it out there anyway.”
Wrinkle Neck Mules have since shot a Geico-produced video—starring the Gecko—that’s been posted on a variety of social networking sites. Stepanian says the video shoot nearly made him forget he was involved in a commercial endeavor. “We were working with highly creative people who were having a good time,” he explains. “It didn’t feel like we were trying to sell auto insurance, although of course at the root of it all that’s what we were doing.”
Stepanian says it’s too soon to predict what sorts of additional opportunities might present themselves to Wrinkle Neck Mules as a result of the commercial. Still, the timing could hardly be better. The band’s long-delayed new album, Apprentice to Ghosts, has just been released—and yes, it includes “Central Daylight Time.”
“We’re trying to handle this attention in the right way,” says Stepanian. “We’re hoping it can springboard us to something more sustainable, such as increased distribution of our albums, things of that sort. Music fans are typically pretty loyal, so maybe they’ll look beyond this song and look into our other music. We hope they like what they hear.”