Maria : Get On the Bus
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: February 12, 2003
w/ Mates of State, Tilly and the Wall
Friday, Feb. 14
9 p.m., $8
13th and Martha
is the first time this has happened to me: For two hours today,
I thought I was in a different state," said a confused Kyle
Fischer, guitarist/backing vocalist for New York-by-way-of Madison,
Wisconsin, indie rock trio Rainer Maria.
His confusion results
from a weird time/space delirium caused by the band's first use
of a real rock-and-roll-style tour bus, just like the ones the big
stars use. "You get confused when you're on the road to begin
with. Every day is like Saturday because you're always playing a
show that night," he said. "But traveling on a tour bus
is almost like teleportation. We fall asleep, the driver drives,
and we wake up in another city."
So for two hour hours,
Fischer thought he was in Grinnell, Iowa, when in fact, he was in
Galesburg, Ill., home of Knox College, where the band was slated
to play that night. The 12-bunk bus is shared with tour mates, Mates
of State. For a veteran band like Rainer Maria, the extra expense
-- about $50 a day -- is a no-brainer.
"This is also the
first time we've had a sound tech traveling with us," Fischer
said. "With great sound and plenty of sleep, I feel like we
can perform at 110 percent. It's possible for us to play music like
we're supposed to without the usual distractions."
only drawback is having to explain why they're not traveling in
the usual beat-up Econoline. "People are like 'Whoa! What's
going on here?'" Fischer said. "Moving up to a tour bus
is like stepping up from sleeping on people's floors to getting
a hotel room. It sounds extravagant, but it's not. I'm still looking
in my wallet to see if I have enough money to do my laundry."
The bus is a well-deserved
luxury for a band that has climbed to the upper reaches of the indie
music world on the strength of their unique brand of personal, poetic
rock. Their last full-length, A Better Version of Me, found
its way on a number of indie music critics' "best of 2000"
lists and made it to the top of the College Music Journal charts.
Their newest LP, Long Knives Drawn (Polyvinyl), carries on
the tradition with more firepower and panache.
Recorded last fall at
Smart Studios in Madison with veteran producer Mark Haines, Long
Knives Drawn is punchier, poppier and downright brasher than
anything the trio has ever tried. The CD busts open with the glittery
anthem "Mystery and Memory" blustering forward on William
Kuehn's throbbing, almost tribal drums, Fischer's chiming guitars
and Caithlin De Marrais' trumpeting vocals, heralding as if atop
a mountain "I can read your eyes / So say that I'm the one
you like." Half the songs are over-the-top rockers, like
the pulse-quickening single "Ears Ring;" the other half
is laid-back, melodic pop -- think Rilo Kiley or The Delgados.
On previous releases,
such as 1999's critically acclaimed Look Now Look Again,
De Marrias and Fischer shared vocals, dueling back and forth from
melody to melody. This time it's all De Marrias, and Fischer wouldn't
have it any other way. "We already made Look Now Look Again,"
he said. "We're not into making the same record over and over.
Moreover, the new CD marks a shift from 'us" songs to 'me'
songs with a single narrator. It's a lot less work for me. I enjoy
being able to concentrate on making the guitar speak, so to speak."
enjoy being able to concentrate on making the guitar speak,
so to speak."
never said, 'Hey, let's try to make great songs and make a
living at this.'"
said work began on Long Knives
right after he returned
from a 6-week tour supporting his solo acoustic release, Open
Ground (which brought him to Omaha's Junction last February).
"I was really hungry to play my electric guitar again,"
he said. "There was a real effort to have the guitar carry
this CD. Caitlin has a way of hijacking songs with her bass."
The 45-date tour that
brings Rainer Maria to Sokol Underground Feb. 14 is the longest
since the band first began touring in '95 (another good reason to
have a tour bus). As soon as it's over, Fischer said he'll be headed
back to the studio with Mark Haines to record the follow-up to the
quiet, somber Open Ground. "This one will be a lot more
upbeat," he said of his solo project. "It's going to be
an Astral Weeks-style recording session with a lot of good friends
He said Rainer Maria's
success has grown beyond any of the members' expectations. "We
never said, 'Hey, let's try to make great songs and make a living
at this.' The shows have just gotten bigger and bigger, and it continues
to be fun in a different way then when we began. I know that it
will stop some day, probably unexpectedly so. Until then, I want
to see how long we can make it go."
Portions published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader Feb. 12, 2003. Copyright
© 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.