is easily the best thing the band has ever done, and they know it.
They also know the clock is ticking on their careers. Two years
ago, they thought they were on the verge of breaking out of the
local gig scene and going national with a brand new EP and lots
of plans for touring. Nothing was holding them back.
But two years later,
here they are, right back where they started, in a situation that's
oh so familiar. For many, the Carsinogents are the most frustrating
band in Omaha. Anyone who's heard them and seen their stage show
knows they could be huge if they could only get on the road. Unfortunately,
that never seems to happen.
"The band was being
pulled apart before that first CD was even released. After we got
it done, none of us were completely satisfied with it," Vampola
said. "Still, it sold surprisingly well. We never went on tour,
had no distribution, and still sold between 600 and 700 copies.
That's a lot to sell in your home town."
It's not as if the band
can't catch a break, it's more like they can't seem to get the ball
rolling. Every time they open for a national act, they win over
both the act and the crowd. Last September the Carsinogents got
the opening slot for rising indie-punk stars ...And You Will Know
Us by the Trail of Dead when they played at Sokol Underground. Theirs
was a particularly hot set, flames and all. As the band cleared
their gear off the stage, Trail of Dead's Conrad Keely took the
mic and said, "Trail of Dead won't be playing tonight because
we don't think we could follow that last band."
"They were like
'Give us a CD and we'll give a copy to our booking agent.' That's
what we were most excited about," Vampola said.
But of course, nothing
ever came of it, which was no surprise to the band. "It seemed
flattering at the time, but it didn't seem real," Marc said.
"They had just been signed to a major label. I didn't think
they were in a position to really do anything."
"We had a European
promoter express interest in us when we opened for Nashville Pussy,"
Electro said. "Their road manager had worked with The Gories
and the Oblivions and Guitar Wolf. He appeared to be very excited
But again, nothing. In
fact, the band never got a response after sending demos of Ole!
to a number of labels, including In the Red (Bassholes, The Dirtbombs,
Boss Hogg), Sympathy for the Record Industry (The White Stripes,
Les Sexareenos, The Muffs) and Estrus (Fireballs of Freedom, Man
or Astroman?, The Mooney Suzuki) -- all labels the put out music
with a punk-a-billy flair.
Enter local label Speed!
Nebraska, home of The Monroes and the Carsinogents' old incarnation,
Full Blown, who agreed to release Ole! under its moniker.
"They have a catalog and have something of a reputation,"
Vampola said. "We're going to send this CD out everywhere.
Most magazines won't review it if it isn't on a label."
In addition to the CD,
Vampola said Speed! Nebraska also will issue a 7-inch single later
this summer. He said he knows that touring is the key to making
it to the next level. "Getting on the road is all a matter
of getting it done," he said.
"We have to go out
and play these key Midwestern cities -- St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas
City -- and then play them again and again," Brooks said.
All say they could either
arrange something with their employers or would just up and quit
if given the chance to open a tour for an established act.
As if on cue, Electro's
cell phone rang. It was one of they guys from Saddle Creek Records
band Cursive, calling to see if The Carsinogents were interested
in hitting the road with them for some dates in early May. The gigs
were confirmed a couple days later, and the band said it will augment
the Cursive dates by booking a few of their own.
It could be the break
they've been waiting for, or at least a good start. Only time will
tell. One thing's for certain. Regardless of what happens this time,
The Carsinogents aren't giving up.
"If this CD fails
to take off, it's not gonna keep me from playing," Marc said.
"I've been getting
my hopes up since I was 16. I'm 28 now," Vampola added. "I
want it to happen and it would be great if it did."
Electro flipped a copy
of the new CD over on the table and looked at the cover, which bares
a picture of a bull fighter staring down a bleeding bull with three
spears in its back. If it's a metaphor, which one represents the
band -- the matador or the unstoppable bull? Electro just shook
his head: "Failure isn't going to end our existence."
Published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader March 5, 2003. Copyright ©
2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Top photograph copyright
© 2003 by Bill Sitzmann,
used by permission.