Craig Almquist, left, and Alex Smith are York natives whose band, Cold Fronts, recently signed with Sire Records.
Craig Almquist, left, and Alex Smith are York natives whose band, Cold Fronts, recently signed with Sire Records. (Submitted photo)

As a music hub that produced bands such as Live, Kingsfoil and Halestorm, York is no stranger to the spotlight.

And just last week, two York natives took a big step toward becoming rock stars when their band, Cold Fronts, got a legitimate record deal.

Up until then, 24-year-old Craig Almquist was baby-sitting to pay the bills.

Almquist, who now lives in Philadelphia, formed Cold Fronts in 2011 with fellow Yorker Jake Hammill, who has since left the band.

Cold Fronts has switched up considerably since it started, but he and Alex Smith are the two mainstay members. They both graduated from York Suburban - Almquist in 2007 and Smith in 2005.

Almquist is the group's singer, songwriter and guitarist, and Smith is the drummer. Two friends from Philadelphia, Peter Helmis and Chris Baglivo, play bass and guitar, respectively.

How it all started: Back in high school, Almquist and Smith were known to have a serious penchant for music.

Almquist wanted to start a band but didn't have the confidence, so he started Crunk Alms, a hip-hop and folk fusion that began purely as a joke.

Featuring an anthem to his hometown, "The 717," the high-schooler started to become well-known around York.

As it turned out, his "crunk" alter ego brought out the performer in him.

"I think that kind of just gave me the confidence to write songs and put on a show," he said.

Dave Almquist, Craig's father, advised and supported Cold Fronts as it got started. Music has been a major part of his son's life since high school, the Spring Garden Township resident said.

"He loves to write music, so he's always interacted with people who play music," he said. "I'm thrilled he has the opportunity to make a record and perform and do what he loves to do."

Smith, who also moved to Philadelphia, has spent a long time on stage, as well, notably drumming for the local band Tea, a rock-funk group. He has played the drums for about 11 years, he said, studying theory and nontraditional drumming methods along the way.

Almquist found his love of music in "Pinkerton" by Weezer, and the catchy, dramatic album inspired the music he makes today, he said. Smith said he's most inspired by The Zombies, Stevie Wonder, Prince and "old-school dance music."

Smith described the Cold Fronts' sound as "raw Philly rock."

Making it big: Cold Fronts owes much of its success to its live presence - and a little bit of luck.

The band was performing on a street corner during last year's South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, when Seymour Stein took a copy of the band's EP. He's vice president of Warner Bros. Records and founder of Sire Records.

"We had no clue who he was," Almquist said. "We just kind of went about our tour."

The band spent the next year going back and forth with the label.

"Next thing you know, they're asking to meet our lawyer," Almquist said.

Then they had to get a lawyer.

On May 21, the band signed a record deal with Sire Records, a Warner Bros. company. Other bands on the label include Regina Spektor, Tegan and Sara and Lights - notable acts that combine pop elements with folk and electronic stylings.

What's next: In the meantime, Cold Fronts will pick a producer and begin to record its first full-length album. The label will help it narrow 30 or 40 songs down to an album's worth, Almquist said, which is a big decision-making process.

He said the band is interested in getting a little more experimental in the studio, as it will have more time and resources to try new things while recording.

The band aims to record in August and go on tour across the country in September. Almquist said the album will drop toward the end of the year.

He said the band is aware of and has discussed the consequences of "signing with 'the man,'" but it's not worried about losing its sound.

"We don't necessarily feel any different," Almquist said. "To me and Alex, we just feel like we're playing in the garage."

Listen: Cold Fronts' next big performance will be with The Front Bottoms at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on July 11. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12-$15 and can be purchased online at philly.worldcafelive.com. The all-ages show is on track to sell out.

Download the EP that started it all, "Pretty American," for free on the band's website, www.coldfronts.us.

Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.