"We had a hard run with the label.
Wed been together for a while. I had another band. No one wanted to do Paw. It was
becoming an endless string of disappointments."
"Theres not a lot of careerism in
Paw anymore, its just about playing music and that makes it a lot easier."
||The Lawrence, Kan., band was riding a flannel
rocket to Planet Grunge, but ran out of fuel somewhere along the way. Now they're back,
and this time it's for the music...
By Tim McMahan
to Paw, the supposed next superband to emerge post-1992 from Lawrence, Kan., riding a
flannel wave to grunge stardom? Well, theyre back -- a little older, a little wiser
and a little less determined to make it big.
Go back to 1992. Lawrence and Omaha for that matter
was entering a golden age of indie-rockdom. Both towns were sporting a number of quality
bands supposedly destined for fame. It was a good time to be in a punk band: Nirvana had
just exploded on the punk/grunge scene with Nevermind. The major labels were busy counting
their dead after an insane bidding war for New York sludge-rockers Helmet. And Paw was
being courted like schoolgirl supermodels after a strong buzz developed following
recording a 7-song demo.
The band decided on a 3-record deal with A&M and the next year
released Dragline, their first collection of heavy-metal grunge-rock. The recording
highlighted Paws thick, fast, heavy-handed Seattle-by-way-of-Kansas-Turnpike sound.
Vocalist Mark Hennessy sported a grunt/howl that had more in common with Gregg Allman than
The critics were skeptical, but before long, you couldnt
escape mentions of Paw just about anywhere you went in the Midwest. It seemed as if the
band was going to ride the same wave of angst as their Seattle counterparts. They hit the
road, watched one of their singles chart in Australia and New Zealand, and joined the
crowd of hot prospects on the stage of Englands prestigious Reading Festival. Life
was good, but then
Cut to 1995. A&M released Paws sophomore effort,
"Death to Traitors." Critics were kinder to this one, calling it a natural step
forward in the bands musical development. Unfortunately, no one else seemed to
notice, and thanks to non-existent label support, sales were poor. The band hit the road
again, but this time, things were very different. Paw suddenly found itself struggling to
enjoy what used to be the time of their lives. The following year, the band called it
"We had a hard run with the label. Wed been together for
a while. I had another band. No one wanted to do Paw. It was becoming an endless string of
disappointments," says Paw guitarist Grant Fitch, adding that the break-up had
nothing to do with money. "If I did this for money, I would have quit a long time
ago. I think we were disappointed with each other; the relationships had gone sour."
Three quarters of Paw were in Fitchs new band, Palomar -- his
brother, drummer Peter Fitch, and bassist Dan Hines. And while that band brought back
their enjoyment for playing music, it wasnt enough to keep them satisfied.
"It seemed as if there was some very unfinished business,"
Fitch says. "I hadnt spoken to Hennessy in a long time. It was time to see what
was occurring in his life and see if he was a little more together. We decided that at the
very least, we wanted to finish what we started."
As a result, Paw began playing again in
September 1997. They practiced five months before walking on stage for their first gig.
And this Friday, Sept. 18, they roll into Knickerbockers in Lincoln to do it again.
Fitch says the pressure felt during the first time around is off.
"Theres not a lot of careerism in Paw anymore, its just about playing
music and that makes it a lot easier," he says. "Its fun. Im 30 and
when I go to practice, I feel like Im 18. I dont have expectations of what
this band could do anymore."
He says the band has written a number of new songs and is waiting
for A&M to make some decisions before they go back into the studio. "A&M is
having a real hard time in this decade getting things done. Im hoping we get
dropped," Fitch says. He explained that since Seagrams bought Polygram which
has principal ownership of A&M the label has a completely different parent
company thats busy dropping bands and doing things to suit their business needs.
"We know theyre going to put out Sheryl Crow records, but everyone else (on the
label) is in limbo."
Despite the headaches from A&M, Paw and Palomar have managed to
continue releasing CDs on their own Outlaw Records. Keep the Last Bullet for Yourself is a
collection of Paw rarities, covers and live performances that include a cover of Cheap
Tricks "Surrender" recorded for the soundtrack to the motion picture SWF,
a 1993 BBC Studio Maide Verde session of "Slowburn," and a July 1998 recording
of Twisted Sisters "Sweet Justice." Dont look for it at your local
record store; the CD is only sold at Paw shows.
also released a full-length this year, World Without Horses.
With Grant Fitch at lead vocals, the band sports a gentler and
more melodic sound than Paw, owing a lot to Bob Mould and Sugar.
Will Paw strike gold
this time round? Fitch wont say.
"Over the last
couple years, Ive had to reevaluate why I play music at
all," he says. "I have a family, a day job and Im
trying to make a band run. Its really hard. Were
not a bunch of 20-year-old kids with beer money on our minds.
Still, its worth it to keep going."
Printed in The Reader September 10, 1998.
Copyright © 1998 Tim McMahan. All rights