By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Three years ago, a March evening in Oakland, Calif., and the Brad Mehldau Trio is playing a set as mercurial as the weather. The club is Yoshi's, a terribly trendy sushi bar and nightclub, and Mehldau is peaking as his generation's officially respectable ivory tickler ("the Bill Evans of his generation" we critics wrote, ad infinitum). The three staid but stupendous players dabble in original compositions and standards, or covers — whichever term you use for someone else's song. But when Mehldau bridged two songs by calling them "classics," the choice of word elevated many brows in the room. Cole Porter's "Anything Goes"? Sure, classic. But the next tune was Radiohead's "Everything in Its Right Place."
Mehldau's accomplishment — and the reason he continues to garner praise — is that both performances melded together seamlessly in that set. Even on his new CD, "Day Is Done" (Nonesuch), which features only one original composition, he's still doing it. He opens with another Radiohead song ("Knives Out"), follows it with Burt Bacharach ("Alfie"), Lennon and McCartney ("Martha My Dear," "She's Leaving Home"), Nick Drake (the title cut). But regardless of who penned them and how impossibly far apart they might be stylistically and historically — he owns the tunes. They're not played for yuks, or irony. It's not Paul Anka crooning a Nirvana hit with a wink; it's a consummate pro deconstructing a melody and making it transcend every classification in radio programming and record shop bins. And that's jazz.
But what of the term "jazz standard," which (to Mehldau's generation) has come to mean Gershwin show tunes, Sinatra chestnuts? And where does a young jazz hotshot draw the line between exploding the musical canon and simply being an erudite cover band?
"For me, as a performer, personally, the question of what constitutes a 'standard' or a 'cover' is irrelevant in terms of its viability as a vehicle for my interpretation and improvisation," Mehldau said in a recent interview. "I'm aware that if someone recognizes a song, it's an 'in' for them. It will make them perk up their ears and perhaps draw them into what I'm doing more quickly. But what will hold them is what I do with the song — the way I improvise on it, the way I shape the melody and, most importantly in a trio situation, the way the band communicates together, and the overall individual texture sonically of a given song. These factors are aesthetic more than anything else. Aesthetics for me rest more on musical attributes — melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre — and in this understanding, the choice of material is extra-musical."
But it's that "in" with audiences that keeps these guys coming back to including and sometimes spotlighting other artists' songs in their repertoires. Look at all the boomer rockers (Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, etc.) banking albums full of selections from the "great American songbook." In a roundabout way, these discs are helping young jazz players challenge the contents of that mythical book.
Take, for instance, the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, a more manic trio bashing out some the wildest, most innovative young jazz on the current scene. The band's new disc, "The Sameness of Difference," is also top-heavy with covers. Its previous 12 CDs have been nearly all original creations, but new producer (and jazz business legend) Joel Dorn encouraged the guys to get outside themselves. After all, that's what hooked him.
"I caught 'em at Tonic downtown [in New York], and they played all their own material. It was cool. The musicianship with these guys is astounding," Dorn said last week from New York. "But I think they encored with 'Alone Together,' and it was a very unique version, and I thought, 'If they can do that unique a version of that song, I'll bet they can do things equally as exciting with other material.' It's not like this album is 'The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey Goes Hollywood' or 'Way Out West.' These guys just really did something that rang a bell in my head, and that's what made me want to work with them."
That decision had a little weight to it; Dorn has been in "retirement" for years, producing archive discs and box sets, and he rarely returns to the studio unless there's a "wow" factor. Dorn joined Atlantic Records in the late '60s and produced hit discs for a variety of jazz and jazz-leaning artists, including Les McCann, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Eddie Harris and Roberta Flack ("Killing Me Softly," etc.).
"It was that song ['Alone Together'] that hooked him," JFJO pianist Brian Haas said of Dorn. "I think so many people have this experience with jazz, too — even a legendary pro like Joel. He came and heard us and perfectly respected us, but it was only when we played something he understood, a template he recognized and could frame us with, that he paid full attention. He came back a second time and liked everything. It was that one tune that opened him up to the possibility of the band and, really, the music. Look at [John] Coltrane's 'My Favorite Things.' That's what put him on the map. That's how people tune in."
• • •
The Jacob Fred guys (Haas, drummer Jason Smart, bassist Reed Mathis — Fred is a made-up moniker) tour constantly, relentlessly. When we caught up with them for an interview last week, they were in the van heading through New York to New Hampshire. In the background, on the van's stereo, Mehldau's new album was playing.
"Brad's got a new drummer, and he's really amazing," Mathis gushed about the Mehldau Trio's new Jeff Ballard. "He can swing and open up, but most of the time he's playing backbeats. They're stretching out and improvising like they always have, but it has this dance-oriented drive to it. It does some cool, weird things to these standards."
Standards, eh? So in the 21st century, when "oldies" radio has caught up to Hall & Oates and Earth, Wind & Fire, does that mean "standards" have moved forward on the timeline as well?
"It's a funny word," Mathis said. "It can mean a lot, just like 'jazz' can."
"Dorn told us, 'You guys are completely not jazz — and that's what makes you more jazz than anything else I've ever heard.' Then he paused and said, 'It's like the sameness of the difference," Haas said. Thus, the new album title.
"But, you know, Cole Porter was the equivalent to Radiohead in his day," Mathis said. "He was writing catchy hooks that you can't forget, but with weird chords that sounded wrong if anyone else tried them. Listen to Brad, he really pulls that stuff off. His playing is so beautiful. He could be playing 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' and you could listen to it for hours. He extracts the guitars and the lyrics and says, 'Hey, check out this composition.'"
Precisely, said Mehldau. "I do not get any more or less excited about playing a song because of what era it comes from," he said. "Each song — and that includes originals of my own, which make up a fair portion of my performances — exists in its own locus and is fairly malleable in terms of the possibilities of interpretation. This is where the jazz aspect comes in. There are more-inspired performances and less-inspired ones, and the level of inspiration is not tied to what song we're playing.
"What constitutes an inspired performance is to what extent the players surprise themselves and the audience. That element of surprise runs contrary to a notion of doing justice to a particular song. It has to do more, in fact, with forgetting about the song at a certain point and surrendering to the improvisation. The song becomes a pragmatic vehicle."
Even Mehldau comes back to the Coltrane example. "Coltrane's performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'My Favorite Things' or 'Chim-Chim-Cheree' from 'Mary Poppins' are a constant for me," he said in a statement upon release of "Day Is Done" in September. "The way Coltrane's band blows up those songs into something great and dangerous, on this huge scale, that's a real guiding light for me in terms of what I'm trying to achieve in a band performance. The original tune is referred to, but it's raised up and becomes transfigured, giving the listener a transcendent experience."
• • •
Indeed, what these players danced around was the simple fact that the choice of song is largely irrelevant. Just give the jazz cat a melody, any ol' melody, and let them knead it into their particular hot, nourishing stuff.
Richard Niles, the host of "New Jazz Standards" on BBC's Radio 2 in England, summed it up in a recent e-mail exchange: "[Standards] have always been drawn from 'pop.' In the hands of a great jazz musician, playing a song by Gershwin is no different from playing a song by Fleetwood Mac."
The Jacob Fred guys knew this, but they were resistant to it — at least, they were hesitant to record an album dominated by other people's songwriting credits. In fact, they weren't sure about most of Dorn's ideas at first.
Most of the trio's discs have been live recordings, but its last studio effort, "Walking With Giants" (2004) is indicative of how these three work. They spent months recording, re-recording, overdubbing, tweaking, tinkering and overthinking. The results were still invigorating, but they lacked the crackle of the band's live energy. When they headed to New York to work with Dorn, they assumed another lengthy road was ahead.
"We finished our first day and expected to keep recording, but Joel walks out and says, 'Nah, it's done, babies,'" Haas said, still clearly flabbergasted.
Nor did the band want to record so many covers. But Dorn insisted, and the band is now pleased with the results. "It did let us do our thing, and show that our thing is beyond our own writing," Haas said. "I mean, this is the way the universe and the world continue to shrink and shrink. Every new melody is in some way derivative of a hundred old melodies, and the way we use tunes is as bare skeletons for different types of explorations."
"It's kind of the 'in' thing for modern jazz groups to play pop music," added Mathis, who opens "The Sameness of Difference" with a fluid reading of Jimi Hendrix's "Have You Ever Been to Electric Ladyland?" "Mehldau and such are staking their reputations on it, which is fine. It sounds a little gimmicky sometimes at first, and we wanted to avoid that as much as we could. I wanted to play our selections as seriously as we would play Beethoven.
"So we had to pick songs we really connect with. The Hendrix song is so deep in our psyche, and the Bjork song ['Isobel'] takes me right back to high school, to some fundamental feelings. When the Flaming Lips album came out ['The Soft Bulletin,' from which they pulled 'The Spark That Bled'], we listened to that twice a day in the van. It was thrilling to see some of this come out of our own instruments, and these became more intense when we started playing them in performances. The audience picks up on it. You can feel them go 'a-ha!' and connect more deeply to what you're doing."
Haas agrees: "Mehldau, all this stuff — it's part of a canon to reinterpret melodies. It doesn't matter where they come from anymore. The wisdom is in taking one and putting it into a new context. That's what we do every night."
GREAT MOMENTS IN JAZZ COVERS OF POP SONGS
Louis Armstong, "Stardust"
Armstrong in 1929 was a pop star himself, but this chestnut was a winner just before his reading of "Ain't Misbehavin'" became a jukebox hit.
Benny Goodman, "Sometimes I'm Happy"
A pop song that, in 1935, Goodman made swing, swing, swing.
Charlie Parker, "Just Friends"
In the '50s, Parker sought to record his sax with a string section. Fans worried, but his reading of this tune on "Charlie Parker with Strings" is considered by fans — and Bird himself — as one of his best performances.
John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"
Coltrane's 1960 reading of Maria's ditty from "The Sound of Music" sounds like a quaint idea — until you hear what he does with it.
Miles Davis, "My Funny Valentine" and "All of You"
Miles' live concert album in 1964 was stuffed with standards — and set a few.
Ramsey Lewis, "The 'In' Crowd" and "Hang on Sloopy"
Is it pop? Is it jazz? Chicago's Ramsey Lewis did a little of both in 1965, and audiences ate it up.
By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Taylor Hanson is the last person we expected to discuss the bean-counting intricacies of the music industry. Or smoke a pipe.
But the ever-androgynous author of "MMMBop" does both in his band Hanson's new film, "Strong Enough to Break," a documentary about the hit trio's major-label nightmare. After signing with Mercury in 1997 and scoring a huge hit with its debut disc, "Middle of Nowhere," Hanson (including brothers Zac and Isaac) wound up a victim of the music industry massacre of years later, when Mercury was folded into the Island Def Jam conglomerate. Its supporters were fired or bailed, and Hanson was battling just to get a record made.
"Strong Enough to Break," which shares the title of one of brothers' recent singles, chronicles the now grown-up Hansons' decision to form their own indie label, 3CG Records, and manage their own affairs. It follows the tale right up to the release of this season's new disc "The Best of Hanson: Live and Electric" and the current tour, which comes here for a two-night stand at 7 tonight and Thursday night at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn. Tickets are $28; call (312) 559-1212.
Q. You're taking the documentary around to college campuses. Any particular reason why you're targeting that audience?
A. Students can play a role in what is happening out there. We're activating them, getting them involved in music. It's a crucial time in the business, and this documentary illustrates some of the issues. ... Media has been a one-way street. TV, radio, newspapers, publications — you couldn't interact. And now so many media companies have consolidated to a level where they've removed choice from the roster. There aren't as many songs on radio and TV anymore. The pipeline has narrowed, and the fans have been disenfranchised. We're saying there are new ways around that; ... [students] can change the way music will be heard tomorrow.
Q. What can students do, and to effect what changes?
A. They can actively express what they want to hear on radio and TV. Get involved in saying, "I want my request to be heard." And they have to actively pursue the places filling the gaps — the indie labels, seeing more local gigs, indie Web sites, streaming radio stations, etc. Look for the models that allow you to interact.
Q. You were home-schooled. Where did you learn how to run your own business?
A. Before we started our label, we were already running a business. We already had employees creating videos and Web sites and merchandising and touring. That's part of why we're such believers in actively communicating directly with the fans — we always have. But nothing can educate you for the realities of running a business other than just running a business.
Q. Will you ever be able to write another "MMMBop"?
A. We have the freedom now to write whatever we want. That's the point.
By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Woody Guthrie: ART WORKS
Edited by Steven Brower and Nora guthrie
Rizzoli. 300 pages. $45.
In her management of the Woody Guthrie Archives, Nora Guthrie has seemed determined to make a Renaissance man out of her famous folksinger father. On paper, the projects that have come out of the archives during the last decade are often head-scratchers (Woody Guthrie's klezmer music?). But each one has proven not merely illuminating but also wholly inspiring in subtle, powerful ways. By lighting the shadowy corners of her dad's life, she not only broadens his legacy — she widens the scope of human possibility. Woody, it seems, could and did do anything, not because he had inherent skills but because he was possessed with an unshakable "Why not?" kind of confidence. Such examples fill us ordinary folks with hope and that, more than anything he ever specifically sang about, was Woody's persistent goal.
The best thing to emerge from the archives is the handsome Woody Guthrie: Art Works (Rizzoli, $45). It's an exploration of Guthrie's visual art, most of which has been unpublished and unseen for decades. In light of his status as a musical icon ("This Land Is Your Land," etc.) and the fountainhead of Bob Dylan, this thorough visual examination is worthwhile because of the startling fact on which it's founded: Woody almost didn't become a songwriter at all.
"Contrary to popular mythology, it was with paintbrushes in hand, not a guitar, that Woody Guthrie hit the road for California," Nora Guthrie writes in her introduction. She then recounts an episode from that first westward journey from Oklahoma that, she argues, decided exactly which legacy he would leave.
Woody was hitchhiking with several other young men when the car ran out of gas. Woody headed into town to drum up food and gas money by painting signs, as he'd done for years in Pampa, Texas. He was successful, but when he went back to the car to retrieve his supplies — the guys, the car and his brushes were gone. That week, he discovered he could feed himself much better by playing old folk tunes for misty-eyed migrants.
"Had fortune and destiny worked a slight shift of the hand," Nora writes, "it's very possible that Woody Guthrie might have become a visual artist. And this book might just as easily have been an episode uncovering the unknown songs of Woody Guthrie, rather than his unknown art."
As such, this dignified romp through Woody's sketches, cartoons, paintings and illustrations (alas, the signs throughout the Southwest are long gone) is interesting to Guthrie acolytes and tone-deaf art lovers alike. Steven Brower's insightful — and, thankfully, concise — analysis of the works provides both historical and biographical context for each phase of Woody's expression, from the early line drawings (most of which are infinitely more inventive than, say, John Lennon's) to later abstract swaths and dabs (often smeared right over typed lyrics).
Brower even notes the slight importance of Woody's visit to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1944 as contributing to his knowledge of art history. The day after that visit, Woody wrote home to his wife of the whirlwind experience and how it reminded him of his first passion (in a letter from my own research at the archives, not from the book): "We saw the original of the Guitar Player [by Picasso] you liked so well. ... It was in the same room as Van Gogh, Cezanne, and some others. I always feel like a painter when I come out of a gallery. When I'm inside one, I feel like a sniffing dog."
Aside from the esthetic of its subject, the book itself is beautiful. The reproductions are excellent — worthy of note, given that most of these "works" are doodles from daily calendar books and personal journals (one of Woody's pocket notebooks is cleverly re-created, actual size, in the back pages) — and the design is clever.
By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Where you been?
I haven't seen you for weeks
You've been hanging out with
all those Jesus freaks
Oh, yeah, and I feel like giving in ...
— Felt, "Ballad of the Band"
Josh Caterer sits in a leather armchair at Uncommon Ground, trying to figure out how to drink his hot chocolate. He sat down not knowing what he wanted, ordered this drink on a whim, and now it's a bit more than he bargained for — a wide soup bowl of cinnamon-dusted, frothy hedonism (in any other context, I'd remark on how sinful it looks) and it's got no handle. Whipped cream is piled high and is deflating over the brim. To get what he wants, he's going to have to abandon a few expectations.
But this is the prodigal son of Chicago rock, a wide-eyed searcher who broke up his band, the Smoking Popes, on the cusp of national stardom and chucked his rock records to find what he wanted in a newfound Christian faith. Now, seven years later — having searched and researched his soul, started a separate Christian band called Duvall and become a father of two — here he is slurping cocoa and matter-of-factly discussing how he's managed to compartmentalize his religious and rockin' ambitions well enough to return to the devil's music.
He's revived the Popes, they're having a blast in practice, and they might write a new album. The reunion show this week at Metro — originally scheduled as a one-off, a test, a lark — sold out in 36 minutes, so now there's talk of a tour. He's blessed. He hefts the bowl with both hands and sinks his nose into the foam.
"At the time," Josh says, wiping away the mustache, "the best way to respond to my decision to follow Christ was to quit the band. I did it with a sense of permanence. But my understanding of the faith has grown to the point where I can see how to encompass the Popes. On the one hand, I can do it without compromising my faith; on the other, I can do it without using the Popes as a platform for expressing my faith."
So relax, kids. No altar calls at the rock show.
Not that Josh didn't try that before the breakup. For the encores in '98, the band would return to play "I Know You Love Me," and Josh would discuss his newfound faith, a moment captured on the band's posthumous 2000 live album. You can almost hear the crowd shudder — not because they're necessarily a bunch of pagans but because suddenly Josh was Debby Boone, explaining that the "you" in "You Light Up My Life" was really Jesus and, well, few things can deflate a concert at a rock club near the witching hour quite like a little heartfelt evangelism. (Plus, the mind began to reel: Did the band's other perfectly romantic songs now have religious overtones? "You Spoke to Me"? "Let Them Die"? "Paul"? Had we been tricked?)
"That went over better than you might expect, though," Josh says of his attempted homilies. "I never had anything thrown at me."
• • •
We hadn't been tricked, he assures. The songs are as secular and seductive as we thought they were. But as he became swept up in Christianity — a result of years of searching for spiritual significance, from Buddhism to the Bible — it became clear the Popes were not the platform to make that particular joyful noise. Because Josh had little to no religious upbringing, his new insights were overwhelming. He didn't know how to balance the new life with the old. All he could think to do was eliminate the old one.
It was written. The guy who led a band with albums titled "Get Fired," "Born to Quit," "Destination Failure" and "The Party's Over" finally called it a day.
"It was a process over about a year," says Eli Caterer, Josh's brother and the Popes' guitarist. (The band also includes another Caterer brother, Matt, on bass, and a new drummer, Rob Kellenberger.) "Josh had become born again, and we started talking about it in practices. We started bringing it up with him, and eventually he started saying, 'Yeah, yeah, I can't keep doing this.' Josh is the kind of guy who likes having one-on-one meetings with people, and that's how he told us he wanted out. That's also how he got the band back together."
And he didn't just quit the band. He quit the life. He threw out his Zeppelin records. And the AC/DC, the Ramones, the Buzzcocks (which he describes with a phrase often ascribed to the Popes: "great melodic pop with a touch of melancholy") — all of it went into the bin. He stopped going to clubs. He switched off the TV.
It's a typical response of brand-new Christians, he's found, but perhaps it's especially ironic in Josh's case. He had not just listened to rock records and shaken a fist or two in his time; he'd tried to emulate them — an act that carries its own particular messianic overtones.
In "You Spoke to Me," from the Smoking Popes' second disc, "Destination Failure," Josh sings from the perspective of fans who see their music idols as golden gods: "I don't know if you actually saved my life — but you changed it, that's for sure."
"That song's about being on tour with Jawbreaker and hearing the things people would say to Blake [Schwarzenbach, the singer] when they got to meet him," Josh says. "They said crazy things. With tears in their eyes, they'd be gushing about the importance of his music in their lives, how they wouldn't be here without him. I was so struck by that, by the way this music affected people.
"My faith now has allowed me to sort of shift the importance I place on music and the lens I look at it through. Before, I think I saw music in some way like that — as some means to connect to something greater. There is that larger spiritual significance to making music, and music itself tends to have a religious quality, even if you're not an ordinarily religious person. But coming to know Christ, I understand that music can be used as a tool to worship and can help you in your religious experience — but maybe it's not that experience itself."
That's the discovery that set him free, he says. He's not the messiah — and now that he believes who is, the pressure's off. The real one, in his mind, can worry about the saving of lives. Josh maybe can change a few. And he can work at music again for what it is, a means instead of an end. "The thing I want now is God," he says, finishing the hot chocolate and smacking his lips, "so music is finally something to be enjoyed."
• • •
In 1997, the Smoking Popes toured nationally as an opener for another act who regularly hears the praise of a fervent flock: Morrissey (who had gushed about "Born to Quit" that July on KROQ in Los Angeles: "I bought the album, and I just thought it was extraordinary — the most lovable thing I'd heard for years. I think he has a great voice. Are they big here?"). The Popes and Morrissey's new band were both units marrying driving, buzzsaw guitars to lyrics that are quite clever though often hastily judged by their surface melancholy.
Josh, the Moz — one ticket, two tortured romantics. And both can croon cream into butter.
When discussing his band's sound, Josh uses a surprising word: "loungey." It's surprising, given some of the breakneck tempos and the buzzsaw guitars. It also may have been a description surprising to fans until the band's last studio record, the prophetically titled "The Party's Over" — a collection of 10 pre-Beatles pop standards. That album, Josh says, despite being an intentional record contract buster for the band, was the zenith of one of the band's rollicking musical experiments.
"I guess people thought the whole loungey thing we did was tongue-in-cheek," he says, cocking his head quizzically. "By the time we made that covers album, I guess they knew we were sincere. It took me a few years to be confident enough to attempt that vibrato. I started in punk bands in garages, basically yelling. When we recorded [our indie debut] 'Get Fired,' the last song I did vocals for was 'Let's Hear It for Love.' And, you know, when I'm alone or in the shower or something, I sing with an exaggerated vibrato. I thought, 'Let's lay down a track of me singing like that.' I did, and we laughed — but we thought it was cool enough to leave it."
By the next album, "Born to Quit," which would become the band's debut for Capitol Records, Josh was pushing the loungey singing on every track.
Josh was tapping into something he did get growing up: an appreciation of standards. When he started writing songs at age 11, he was doing so out of a fondness for ... "The Music Man."
"Goodnight, my someone; goodnight, my love," he half-sings, half-reminisces. "You can play three chords under that. I was figuring those out on the guitar. Even at that age, I was beginning to appreciate the timeless quality of that music. I could recognize that that kind of songwriting had a substance that transcended musical trends. It's not just that Sinatra was a stylish guy that we still listen to his music. If the melody is strong enough, and the lyrical content has an emotional quality that can touch people in a meaningful way, then the songs sound good 10, 20 years later, regardless of the recording quality."
• • •
It's not been 10 years since the Popes wound down, but the band's following seems to have held steady, even grown. The Popes' strong melodies and emotional lyrics seem to be doing their job.
"Being in Duvall, Josh and I were always surprised when young people would come to those shows because they didn't find the Popes until after we broke up," Eli says. "People were still finding out about us. The music was still out there doing its thing. It didn't just end when we unplugged it. The fan base is still growing. It seems to have a life of its own."
"I could never tell how widespread it was. There's always that chance you're living in a bubble," Josh says. Then, noting the sold-out show at Metro, he says, "Well, now we know the bubble is at least big enough to contain 1,100 people."
The Popes also played their part, however big or small, in influencing Chicago's current crop of pop-punks. The Popes' new bio quotes Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, saying, "After Naked Raygun, Chicago was the Smoking Popes. They were the Alkaline Trio before Alkaline Trio; they were Fall Out Boy before Fall Out Boy."
Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio adds: "The Smoking Popes were a good band that only wrote good songs. They have always been a big influence on Alkaline Trio and are a huge reason a lot of us started bands in the first place. I can't wait to see them again — I hope they play 'Brand New Hairstyle.'"
Josh confirms that a tour is being planned, probably to support a new collection of the band's hits or some out-of-print material. And the Popes plan to try some new songs. But likely not in this week's show.
"This show is really an attempt to reignite the flame we had going when we broke up," Josh says. "It shouldn't be hard to re-establish ourselves as the band eternally about to break."
The Smoking Popes
with Bella lea
When: 11 p.m. Friday
Where: Metro, 3710 N. Clark
Tickets: Sold out
Phone: (773) 549-0203
Duvall to Remain a Faith-Fueled Band
After Josh Caterer found religion and dismantled the Smoking Popes, he wasn't done with music altogether. Instead of keeping the Popes around as a mouthpiece for his new spiritual notions, he formed a new combo for that purpose called Duvall.
Duvall released two CDs, "Volume and Density" in 2003 and a Christmas record, "Oh Holy Night," in 2004, both on the Asian Man label.
Now that the Popes are resurrected, Duvall will continue, though in what capacity or frequency Josh is not entirely sure.
"When I was ready to come back to rock, I didn't want to start with the Popes," Josh says. "I wanted to express things I couldn't in the Popes. That's why I put Duvall together. I'll keep doing that. It'll be my outlet for that kind of expression."
His brother Eli — a fellow Pope and a founding member of Duvall — thinks that's the best plan, even though in March, he left Duvall, for similar reasons (though opposite philosophies) that caused Josh to bail on the Popes.
"Duvall had been riding this fence," Eli said. "Initially, Josh was ambiguous about his faith, then he realized he wanted to be more open about it. But we were still playing these secular shows. It was a conflict. Now he wants to be open and singing about faith and Jesus and stuff, which I totally support, but since I'm not actually a Christian, I felt like I couldn't do it, to be promoting beliefs I don't really believe in."
Josh says he's waiting to see how the Popes revival shapes up before figuring out what his next move will be in Duvall.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.