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Chicago's Blacktop Mourning formed around songwriter/guitarist Max Steger (a guitar prodigy who got his start playing area blues bars at a precocious 11 years old), bassist Joe Levand, drummer Jon Meredith, and vocalist Marty James Abezetian. The punk-pop outfit got together in 2004. For the next two years, Blacktop Mourning honed their infectious and melodic rock sound, playing shows in and around Chicago and writing material for their debut album. Rhythm guitarist Shawn Nystrand joined the group during this time, adding to the band's energetic live show. Blacktop Mourning's eponymous debut, produced by Doug McBride (Fall Out Boy, Veruca Salt, Rachael Yamagata), was self-released in early 2006. By that time, Joe Levand had assumed the lead vocal position when Abezetian left the band; the crew later added bassist/keyboardist Sammy Kordys so Levand could fully concentrate on singing at shows. Songs such as "Another Day," "As Time Crawls By," and "Hardly Recognize" were also featured in an episode of MTV's Meet the Barkers, a reality show following the family life of blink-182's Travis Barker and wife Shanna Moakler, and by the end of the year, the band's music had been included in over a dozen of the network's shows. Also by this time, Blacktop Mourning was found to comprise Steger, Levand, and Nystrand alongside drummer Greg Gerard and touring bassist Nate Wethy. In February 2007, the crew became one of the first acts signed to Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz's newly created label Tyrannosaurus Records (aka T Recs). A slot at spring's SXSW festival followed before No Regret, the band's second album (and label's first), appeared in May 2007. ~ MacKenzie Wilson