Into the spotlight

Vermillion-based band Paradise Fears is about to step out of its supporting role and into the spotlight.

After four years of playing supporting slots on various tours, the six-member group will be embarking on a nine-date headlining tour that kicks off in Boston May 31 and wraps up in Vermillion June 17 at the Eagles Club.

"It was time to step back and determine how much we were worth," said lead vocalist Sam Miller via telephone. "We figured we'd do it all ourselves and see how many people would be excited about coming out to see us. So far, the response has been pretty incredible."

Despite Vermillion being Paradise Fears' home base, it's been about a year since the band has played there. Lead guitarist Jordan Merrigan said via telephone the band is excited to perform in front of a familiar crowd.

"Hometown shows are very different from a regular show, but in a good way," he stated. "It's playing for our friends and family. It's playing for people we've known our whole lives. They get to see you in your element. It gives people a different view of what we do."

Miller said about 200 tickets have been sold for the upcoming Vermillion show, which is approaching the total number of people who came to last summer's concert. Those tickets have been sold to fans all across the nation.

"It's crazy the number of people who are traveling a long way, not because it's the closest show but because they want to see us in our natural environment," Miller said.

The tour caps off a busy spring for the band, which also includes Cole Andre, Marcus Sand, Michael Walker and Lucas Zimmerman.

In March, Paradise Fears shot a video in Vermillion for a re-worked version of the song "Sanctuary." It was released as a single May 1 as a way to create excitement for the tour.

Miller said the decision to re-record the song with different instrumentation and a spoken-word section was made because of its growing importance among fans.

"We had been playing the song live for a long time, and there was a super long instrumental in the middle of it," he stated. "I got bored on stage, so one day I decided to try a spoken-word section. I took all these lyrics that hadn't made it into the song but I had written for the song. I also added lyrics from songs from my biggest influences. There is a Bob Marley line and a line from The New Radicals.

"Kids started learning it, and it was really exciting," Miller continued. "It became one of the most popular parts of the song and the most quoted we'd ever been."

The band felt it was important to film a video for the song in Vermillion. Locations include the Vermillion High School and the United Church of Christ where Miller first wrote the song at the piano. His father is the pastor at the church, so Miller spent a lot of time there.

"The song is kind of about the piano featured in the video," he said. "Every time I felt frustrated in high school, I used to go and play that piano and write music. Because of my time spent there, I was playing my frustration into this piano. It became a symbol of feeling safe and feeling good about myself. It only felt right to do the video in that sanctuary with that piano."

In order to get the product they wanted, the band recruited director Jay Ness. Among the actors in the video are Paradise Fears drummer Lucas Zimmerman's sister, Katie (who plays the main character), along with his mom and stepdad.

"(Ness) assembled a team, and it was a very collaborative effort," Merrigan said. "We got different cuts of the video and gave feedback on what we wanted. Seeing how well-accepted it's been and how much it means to people, it's been cool seeing it come full circle from a few years ago when 'Sanctuary' was just another song to becoming a very important song not just to us but a lot of people who have found strength in its message. It's a song of acceptance and recognizes that a lot of people feel left out. Every time I see the video, I'm proud."

The video has had more than 74,000 views on YouTube. It can be seen at

The band has also been covering songs by other bands on YouTube as a way to challenge itself, stay active between albums and gain new fans. Bands covered include Maroon 5 and Gym Class Heroes.

"I hate it when bands go dormant for 12 months and don't release anything," Miller said. "We figured it was a cool way to not only keep releasing music but also create traffic and keep ourselves relevant."

A couple of weeks ago, Paradise Fears also signed with a booking agency, according to Merrigan.

"A goal of ours for a long time now has been to tour more consistently and get spots on good tours," he said. "It's a huge step for the band."

In between all of this, the band has also been writing new songs that they hope to record and release by early next year, if not sooner.

As the band's popularity grows, Merrigan said he is proud the group is still able to call Vermillion home.

"It's pretty cool to say that six kids born and raised in a small town in South Dakota all had the same dream and were driven enough to pursue it," he said.

For more information about the band, visit

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