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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Column 171: Here come The Cops; Indian Jewelry is tonight...

Ever have one of those days when your internal clock was set one day ahead? That was me yesterday. For some reason I kept thinking it was Thursday instead of Wednesday. As a result, I got a couple shows wrong on da ol' blog. Indian Jewelry is tonight at The Slowdown Jr., not last night. So if you're bummed because you thought you missed it, well, here's your second chance (and if you went down there thinking it was last night, well, all's I can do is apologize). More details after the column.

During my interview with Mike Jaworski, he off-handedly mentioned that Criteria is the "special guest" playing at The Cops show Saturday at Slowdown Jr. with Little Brazil and Race for Titles. But, Jaws added, the info was to be kept on the down low as Criteria frontman Stephen Pederesen wanted it to stay a secret for reasons even Jaws didn't know. So I contacted Pedersen and asked if I could mention Criteria in the column, and he said he'd been strong-armed by the fine folks at Slowdown to make the information public on Thursday, and that, yes indeed, it would be fine to mention it in the column. Well, by Wednesday, everyone I talked to already knew that Criteria was playing, and the data had been posted on a couple local webboards. It'll be the first time Criteria has played in Omaha in a couple years, so I suspect this show will quickly sell out Slowdown Jr. Get your tickets today... Maybe we'll get lucky and the Slowdown folks will move the show to the "big room."

Column 171: Convo with a Cop
Jaws talks Cops and Mt. Fuji.

This week we're catching up with Mike Jaworski -- a.k.a. "Jaws" -- former Omahan, frontman of Seattle rock band The Cops and major domo of Mt. Fuji Records, a label whose roster includes Little Brazil, Slender Means, and his own band.

Jaworski chatted via cell from the Fort Green Laundromat in Brooklyn the day after The Cops played at Union Pool in Williamsburg. Just down the street at The Vanderbilt Auto Service, the band's '96 Econovan was getting a much-needed tune-up -- its first after well over 200,000 miles of road duty. Jaworski hoped that new plugs not only would fix that rough, chugging sound coming from beneath the hood, but would boost the van's 12-miles-per-gallon fuel performance. They've got a long way to drive before rolling into The Slowdown this Saturday night for a show with Race For Titles, Little Brazil and special guests Criteria (That's right, Stephen Pedersen and Co. will make their return after a long absence from stage).

For touring bands, life on the road is getting tougher these days, Jaworski said. "We're not pulling in guarantees like Cursive. We're a break-even band who gets by on merch sales. How else can you do this when gas is so expensive?"

Expensive as in $3.80 a gallon in New York City. That ol' Econoline has a 30-gallon tank. You do the math. Jaworski said the answer to holding down tour costs could involve finding bands in different areas of the country, flying in, and hooking up for a tour.

"You share equipment and rent a mini-van," he said. "We could fly into Omaha and do 10 days with Little Brazil, for example. Bands do this already, but it may become common practice. It makes a lot more sense, especially if you're from Seattle, which is many miles from every place else." Unlike Omaha, which Jaworski pointed out, is in close proximity to a lot of large cities.

The Cops are on the road supporting their latest release, Free Electricity, a further refinement of the band's abrasive, slightly inebriated angry punk-rock sound that's equal parts Bad Religion, Hot Snakes, The Clash and Jaworski's own Midwestern songwriting flair. It's a high-water mark for an act that's been kicking around since '04.

But despite such a strong album, Jaworski said the band's trajectory seems to have "flattened over the past year and half." His band mates are having babies, getting mortgages and finding fulltime jobs with no vacation time for touring. As a result, he's lost his guitarist and is playing with a touring drummer. "We're guys in our mid-30s and we're not paying bills with this band," he said. "Our schedule and the amount of work we can do are dictated by things people can do in their lives."

And that includes Jaworski, who says he's probably the Cop who likes being on the road the most. His job booking a 250-capacity club in Seattle called The Sunset affords him the opportunity to tour since he can keep track of business from the road via laptop, Blackberry and cell phone. That's not the case with the rest of the band.

As a result, Jaworski will probably do what just about every musician in Omaha does these days -- play in multiple bands and schedule tours between them. "Unless you're in a band that's busy all the time, I don't see any reason not to," he said. "You don't have to be married to the same project; it's okay not to be monogamous."

Jaworski said The Cops isn't his only venture that isn't making money these days. Though it's been a struggle, Mt. Fuji Records continues to survive despite a future that's in flux. Roster acts Wintergreen and Lillydale no longer are associated with the label. Slender Means, one of the label's best sellers, is finishing a record but is shopping it around to different labels. "If they find a bigger, better label with more resources, I would be happy for them," Jaworski said.

The same is true for Little Brazil, "although they are permanently indentured to me," he joked. "They have a life-long contract with Mt. Fuji. They just don't know it."

Fact is, Jaworski said Little Brazil has never had a formal contract with Mt. Fuji. "They don't owe me any records, but if they look deep down in their souls, they'll want to put their next one out on Fuji."

Even The Cops' last album was released jointly with another label -- Seattle's The Control Group. Jaworski explained that at the time of the release, Mt. Fuji was ending its distribution deal with Redeye. A relationship with someone at Control Group forged the way for the joint release that provides distribution of Free Electricity via powerhouse indie distributor ADA.

In the meantime, Mt. Fuji has taken on a business partner and just signed a distribution deal with Lumberjack Mordam Music Group, whose label roster includes Thick, Lookout, and Asian Man Records. Jaworski said he's looking closer to his Seattle home for future Mt. Fuji acts, and currently is working out a deal with garage punk band The Whore Moans to release their new CD this August.

Overall, things are looking up for Jaworski, but "I wish I wasn't so goddamn poor," he said. "I'm rich with friends and experiences and wouldn't trade that for anything."

So, like I said yesterday, tonight at Slowdown Jr., it's Houston drone-masters Indian Jewelry. According to Wikipedia, the band "is known for its droning vision music and seizure-inducing stage show." The few tracks I've heard were indeed dark, throbbing and psychedelic, yet… strangely catchy. Opening is Lymbyc Systym and Dim Light. $7, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, bluesy folk master William Elliott Whitmore plays with Triggertown and Lincoln Dickison (The Monroes, Bombardment Society, Techlepathy). $8, 9 p.m. Really. I mean it this time.

--Got comments? Post 'em here.--

posted by Tim at 5:03 AM

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