Bockman’s Euphio doesn’t rest easy…
What else can be said of a group that describes itself as follows…
_’Bockman’s Euphio is a four piece band inspired to recreate the effects
of Dr. Bockman’s invention in the short story ‘The Euphio Question’
by Kurt Vonnegut. In the story, Dr. Bockman’s invention utilized what
is known as Bockman’s Euphoria, a mysterious void in space that gave
off powerful radio signals. When amplified and retransmitted , those
signals gave off incomparable, continuous happiness.’_
Indeed, along with its recently-released concept album about finding its own musical direction, a stint as the Hedwig and the Angry Inch band and the group’s alter ego as Joe Stickley’s Blue Print, the Missouri-based group also recently decided to re-orient itself a bit towards what guitarist Sean Canan describes as ‘progressive pop. ‘ *Let’s start off by talking about your latest disc. _ gorjus: fighting bockman’s euphio_ is a concept album, it relates a narrative. *
SC- As with everything we do, the overall name of the record is a bit confusing and requires a long description. fighting Bockman’s Euphio basically is us struggling with our old self, our old sound. In the story Dr. Bockman produces the hypnotic sound that puts people into a trance and no matter what they give into it. Well, we’re fighting against our old sound but at the same time it overwhelms us in the end. *In terms of that struggle to what extent is that second disc representative of what you’re doing now? *
SC- We’ve written almost an album’s worth since gorjus came out and we’re looking to enter the studio again in the early part of January. We looked at gorjus as the attention-getting album. That was a very transitional album which has hints of the old sound and hints of the new direction we’re going in. There are songs on gorjus we’re not playing in our live set anymore either. We have 10-12 new songs and we’re trying to incorporate them into our show.
The vision that we’ve come to accept is we’ve become more melodic and song-oriented. In the past a lot of the songs we were writing were based around the solo. The keyboard solo or guitar solo became the centerpiece of the song. But in the past two years we’ve gotten away from that where we’re lucky to have a piano or guitar solo in a set. We’ve come to feel that when you focus on solos all you prove is you can play and it’s nothing that somebody’s going to leave with, they’re not going to wake up with a melody that they’re going to sing the next day. *So how have you struck that balance between your older material and the newer songs? *
SC- We still do play a couple of the older songs because we’ve had people who supported us for a long time and some of those songs were staples of our live show and we like to include them so as not to alienate those people. It’s been a natural thing for us in that with each additional song we write another is dropped off the setlist.
We’re still at a stage where we’re turning on new listeners which is more important than satisfying those people who have seen us fifteen times. We’re really just trying to play our A material and win over new ears. I guess to sum it up, the approach we’re going for to describe our music in as short a way as possible is progressive pop. Not that we want to break any of our ties with the jamband scene and the live audience which is very important to us. That audience is open and they’re good listeners. *How would you characterize the advantages and challenges of being based in the Midwest? *
SC- There are pros and cons. It has a pretty laid-back mentality and people for the most part aren’t motivated to seek out new things whether it be any kind of art or music so it’s a little hard to motivate them to get out to see shows or buy records. The avenues for people to discover new things outside the internet are limited in the Midwest. People in Chicago or St. Louis are a bit more motivated but I think in the East you have all those big cities right there crammed in together and I think people are more aware of what’s going on, there’s more to choose from, more thrown in your face all the time.
Geographically we’re right in the middle of the country on I-70. So we’re in a good spot as far as traveling the county goes. Also as far as financially, it’s pretty inexpensive to live in the Midwest. Plus we love going out for a week or two and then coming back to our small town environment. It’s nice coming back on a Sunday or Monday and going into a copy shop and your guy knows just what you want. *Earlier this year Bockman’s Euphio was the featured band in a local production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. How did that come about? *
SC- It was basically a community theater project and the music director was an old friend of ours. He came to us six months before they were planning to do this and he said they were auditioning bands and we would fit the bill perfectly. It turns out we had just watched Hedwig a few weeks before and we were big fans.
We did it in February and we rehearsed about 4 months, it was pretty hard core. We were on stage in full costume. They did it in an old theater in town, the Missouri Theater. *Did that experience impact on your own music at all? *
SC- The director made us bring out our stage presence a lot and I think its had a positive impact on our stage show. I think now we’re more aware of the audience. It was a highlight of what the band has accomplished over the past few years for sure.
We still play Hedwig material during out set because it can’t let go of it, we spent so much time with these songs they became part of who we are as a band. We’re still play them, every other show we’re playing something from Hedwig. *What sort of reaction do you get? *
SC- It depends. When we play in an urban setting when people are more aware of what Hedwig is and we get a positive response. Sometimes we get odd feedback- we’ll play in a small town in Missouri singing this song about a transvestite and we’ll say to ourselves that probably nobody in that bar has ever played a song about a transvestite. *Switching topics, the four of you in Bockman’s Euphio also have a second project in Joe Stickley’s Blue Print, can you talk a bit about that? *
SC- That’s something we’re a passionate about. Joe Stickley is a songwriter from St. Louis, a childhood friend of our bass player, Will. I lived across the street from him and he cut this demo and handed to me and I said, "Who’s that singing?" because he’s pretty shy. The music is very Midwestern. It’s kind of progressive folk but he grew up playing in punk bands so there’s an edge to it. It’s a chance to step back and out of the spotlight but at the same time play music we’re passionate about. It’s been a positive thing for us. We think of it as an alter ego rather than our side project. *In closing, you mention you’ve been at this a few years, talk a bit about your development as a band. With an eye towards helping other groups, can you relate some of the significant decisions you’ve made and the lessons you’ve taken from them. *
SC- Probably the most significant decision we made was to move in together and I encourage up-and-coming bands to do the same thing. You can stay on top of each other and have a collective vision rather than one of two guys running the show and getting everyone together. It really has made an enormous impact on our lives and our band.
We’ve been an independent project from the get go and we’ve been doing it on our own for many years. It’s been a blessing and a curse. The blessing is we’ve had complete control of our direction and every decision we’ve made good or bad is right back to us, we’re directly responsible for our mistakes which I think is important for bands to go through, the more you learn on your own I think the better off you are since you understand everything that goes into making a band work.
It’s kind of hurt us though because if I’m calling venue to book a show, it’s like, "Who is this guy booking his own band?" I try not to let them know that since they kind of write you off as an amateur band and that has hurt us. I also can’t get us the guarantees or the hospitality that a booking agent with longstanding relationship with a venue can.
We’re definitely still in the beginning phases of this band and we talk about that all the time. Sometimes we have a string of bad shows and we get down and somebody has to remind us that we’re just getting started with this thing. We just signed with a booking agent and things are just starting to get professional.