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Kyle Fischer glamore shot

Kyle Fischer: Crossing Open Ground

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: Feb. 19, 2002

Feb. 27
Kyle Fischer w/Owen
The Junction,
15th & Farnam
8 p.m.

Mardi Gras in Baton Rouge isn't really much different from Mardi Gras in New Orleans. So imagine a relatively somber performer like Kyle Fischer stuck in the home of LSU on Fat Tuesday.

"I think we can make it work," Fischer said via cell phone from the parking lot of The Spanish Moon, the night's venue. "We could prepare some hellacious covers -- Oasis, Aerosmith, Danzig, U2. The last time we played in Portland we did one set of our material and another of just covers. It'll be fine."

The situation wouldn't be so potentially volatile if Fischer was playing with his other, more well-known and harder rocking band, Rainer Maria. Labeled as emo-core, Rainer Maria rocks like Spinanes meets Built to Spill. Fischer's solo project, on the other hand, is ethereal, personal, somber and slightly detached. Hardly the style of music you want to hear while trying to coax Mardi Gras beads from a sweat-covered, half-naked co-ed.




Fischer says his solo CD, Open Ground, was so different from his Rainer Maria work that he wanted to put it out under an assumed name. "I wanted to underscore the idea that you inhabit multiple personalities," he said. "I was writing from a different part of my musical background."

It's a background that was forged growing up in Oklahoma and Texas before going off to college in Madison, Wis., where Fischer met Caithlin De Marrais in a poetry workshop and with her formed Rainer Maria six years ago. Fischer said he never set out to be a musician. "I never said, 'I'm going to become a rock guitarist,'" he said. "I hadn't played seriously until I was 20. I was a percussionist in my high school band and started singing and playing guitar by default."

Though he grew up with pop music and MTV, Fischer had other musical influences that come as part of growing up the son of a Protestant minister. "I went to church every week and listened to piano and organ music. That part of my musical background was probably ingrained in me and was something that I hadn't mined until this solo project."

Open Ground was recorded in the spring of 2001 with De Marrais and drummer Mike Kinsella (American Football, Cap'n Jazz, Joan of Arc, Owls), along with percussionist and engineer Mark Haines (who worked on Braid's Movie Music Vols. 1 and 2) and cellist Matt Turner (who played on Mercy Rule's last album). Other than one De Marrais song and an Otis Redding cover, everything was written by Fischer back in '97, though the stories he tells herald back even further.



Open Ground CD Art

"I never said, 'I'm going to become a rock guitarist.' hadn't played seriously until I was 20."


Kyle Swings for the bleachers

"Temple used to rare up and swallow people. It's really odd. People never leave there; they just die. It was almost surreal. "


Take the acoustic-guitar-driven fable "Temple, Texas" with its lyrics "Temple, your mother's your sister. You kill your young -- you're young -- yr young -- firstborn sons. Redhead boys selling nosebleeds and sleepless nights. And your daughters hang themselves with sheets and die of AIDS."

Fischer went to high school in Temple, Texas, population 40,000, 60 miles or so south of Waco on I-35 between Dallas and Austin. "Temple used to rare up and swallow people," he said, adding that he means it literally. "It's really odd. People never leave there; they just die. It was almost surreal. That song takes a stab at that bleak town. I lived there from eighth grade through high school. Every character sketched in that song is someone I knew."

"Headphones" is Fischer's love poem to the audiophillic few who stumble across the vinyl version of Open Ground, with the lyrics: "An evening's record listening's like divine communiqué / What I glean from those times, I can't find another way."

"There's a special kind of person who buys a record on 180-gram vinyl," he said. "We put a lot of time and care in recording this thing immaculately on 2-inch 24-track analog tape. The people that care, those that have the sense to appreciate it, are getting a really gorgeous sounding recording."

But the rest of Open Ground follows a less obvious lyrical path, dominated by simple, forlorn songs with confusing observations that paint lonely portraits of whatever world Fischer wants to show us. The words, divorced of their music, read more like free-form poetry than lyrics, challenging you to figure out what they really mean and ultimately leaving you feeling slightly off-balance.

Musically, the songs walk a thinly drawn tightrope, leaning between Fischer's soft-toned acoustic guitar, slightly off-key prepubescent vocals and Turner's throaty cello (adding broad, deep shadows on four of the 11 tracks). Most of the arrangements are simple acoustic jaunts, but on a few numbers, like the up-tempo kickers "The Slow Drag" and "Christopher Isherwood," the music is softly but forcefully driven by Kinsella's simple drumming.

For the tour that brings him to The Junction Feb. 27, Fischer will be backed by a band that includes bassist Josh Bandy and pedal steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar, who just finished touring with Mojave 3 and The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash. Kinsella will round out the band on drums. But that same evening, Kinsella and Fischer will switch supporting roles as Kinsella plays a set as Owen -- his one-man project that recently released its debut on Polyvinyl Records featuring Kinsella on vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and loops. It's not as confusing as it sounds.

"That's generally how we tour," Fischer said. "We play one set as Kyle Fischer and another set as Owen. When it's my turn up there, it's a lot different than the role I play in Rainer Maria. I play the band leader and bark commands. It's kind of fun."

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Published in The Omaha Weekly Feb. 20, 2002. Copyright 2002 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.