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Pop-Punks Cartel Show Off Grandma's Digs

Cartel are not the sort of guys you’d expect to catch on an episode of MTV’s “Cribs.”

For one, they all live under the same ancient roof: a home guitarist Nic Hudson inherited from his grandmother last year. They don’t rock the bling, nor do they drive fancy automobiles. In fact, up until the show’s taping, the band had just a ramshackle touring van and drummer Kevin Sanders’ Volkswagen Golf to get them from point A to point B. But that didn’t stop Cartel from opening their doors to the “Cribs” cameras; the band will be featured on an upcoming episode to air this spring.

“We all just moved in together because we were all sleeping on [guitarist Joseph Peppers’] floor and sh–,” frontman Will Pugh said. “[Hudson has] a nice house. It was built in the ’20s, when they didn’t build houses that big. The house is kind of small, and we don’t have these crazy things that you’d typically see on the show. But we did show off our van, which was pretty funny. And Joseph lives in the dining room, so his segment was hilarious.”

Still, Cartel decided that, if they were going to do “Cribs,” they were going to do it right – which meant parking something a tad fancier in the driveway. So Cartel called their manager Chris Black’s uncle, a Mercedes-Benz dealer who, Pugh said, “totally hooked us up” with an incredible deal on a sweet, communal Benz – a car the pop-punk act eventually returned. But who needs a high-priced luxury vehicle when you’re “going to be on tour for the rest of your young adult life”?

The fact that Cartel, who played 50 dates on last summer’s Warped Tour, would even be considered for the reality series is a sign this band’s star is quickly rising. Its latest single, “Honestly,” is getting tons of spins at pop radio, and the video for the track is garnering heavy MTV and MTV2 airplay. The song will even be featured on an upcoming episode of “The Hills,” and starting February 7 in Carrboro, North Carolina, Cartel will launch their inaugural headlining tour. The trek runs through March 23 in Athens, Georgia, and Cobra Starship, Boys Like Girls, New Atlantic, Quietdrive and Permanent Me will support.

For Pugh, the timing couldn’t be better to start thinking about the band’s next studio offering. The boys have been working on their sophomore LP – the follow-up to their 2005 debut, Chroma, which sold more than 181,000 copies – and have already tracked drums for 12 cuts. Pugh said they’ve written a considerable amount of new material and would like to release the effort before year’s end.

“This is the best time for us to actually work on an album,” he said. “We had a good bit of material to work with because we’re writing all the time. The only time we don’t have new songs is right after we get out of the studio.”

So far, just one of the songs they’ve written has been given a proper title: “No Subject.”

“We’re not the kind of band that likes having 30 songs going into the studio, and cut it down, but we might end up doing that this time,” he said. “For us, it’ll be tour and studio for the rest of the year.”

Surprisingly, the members of Cartel aren’t the least bit nervous about anchoring a tour. Pugh said they’re ready to close out gigs and are beyond excited to be the night’s main attraction.

“Whenever we get out there and have a good show with a sold-out crowd on a tour we’re on, it’s always like, ‘Man, I wish we could play five more songs,’ or, ‘I wish we could have played this song,’ ” he explained. “In a 30-minute set, you just don’t get to play some of the songs you think you’d have a really good time playing. With the headlining slot, we just get to go up there and play whatever the hell we want, and when we’re done, that’s when you’re leaving. For us, some of the pressure’s taken off.”

On Thursday, Cartel will shoot a video for their next single, “Say Anything (Else),” in New York with director David Ahuja (They Might Be Giants, Rainer Maria), who helmed the clip for “Honestly.” Pugh didn’t want to reveal too much about the video treatment but did let a few details slip.

“It kind of relies on these cool graphics,” he said. “[Ahuja’s] forte is doing really badass graphic animation, and we wanted to see him involve that in some way with this video. When it cuts to the graphic parts of the video, it’s kind of like an iPod commercial without the dancing. It’s got performance footage, and at times you’ll see us standing on blank speech bubbles that pop out of people’s mouths. We wanted to do something that speaks our age a bit more, with lots of vibrant colors. It’s kind of cool. It kind of looks like you’re [hallucinating] for a second. At least I’ve been told that’s what it looks like.”

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