Clip: Jason Narducy: Life After Verbow
December 2, 2005
Life After Verbow
In his second musical career, Jason Narducy stands behind the rock stars.
When Verbow lost its deal with Epic five years ago, front man and
guitarist Jason Narducy wasn't sure what he'd end up doing -- music
had been the center of his life since he was ten and fronting the
grade school punk band Verboten. But the 34-year-old has landed on his
feet, and he's not only running a painting company but enjoying some
unexpected success playing bass as a hired gun -- he's toured with Liz
Phair and Bob Mould and just landed a gig with former Guided by Voices
leader Robert Pollard. "What has me scratching my head is that I'm not
really a bassist," says Narducy. "But I do understand that once you do
something and people see you do it, that's the category you're in.
It's kinda been a second career for me, so I'm not complaining."
Narducy, who lives in Evanston with his wife and their young son, got
his first sideman job in 2003 after a mutual friend recommended him to
Phair. He and Phair had met when he opened for her at the Vic in 1995,
playing in a duet with future Verbow cellist Alison Chesley, but they
hadn't kept in touch. "The call came out of the blue," he says. "It's
a lot different from being a singer-songwriter in your own project,
but I liked it right away."
After the Phair tour Narducy launched a new band of his own, Rockets
Over Sweden, with late-period Verbow drummer Dave Suycott and
keyboardist Eddie Carlson. They made their live debut in May 2003 and
released an EP, Penny Coliseum (Aware), a year later, but it wasn't
long before Narducy was called away again. This spring Bob Mould,
who'd produced Verbow's 1997 debut, Chronicles, made him an offer. "I
have a long history with Bob," says Narducy. "He got in touch in May
saying he was going to put together a rock band to support his new
record, Body of Song, and play a lot of his old stuff."
Late this summer Narducy traveled to D.C. to rehearse with his fellow
recruits -- Fugazi's Brendan Canty on drums and Richard Morel, aka
Pink Noise, on keyboards -- and in early September the band kicked off
a six-week international tour. "It was just so much fun to play for
people that were losing their minds," says Narducy. "They were so
happy to hear all those Husker Du and Sugar songs."
While on the road with Mould, Narducy ran into Superchunk drummer Jon
Wurster in North Carolina and power-pop cult hero Tommy Keene in LA.
The two men had already been chosen to form the nucleus of Robert
Pollard's first post-Guided by Voices backing band -- former Frank
Black guitarist Dave Phillips would come aboard later -- and both
recommended him to Pollard as a bassist. Though Narducy had seen
Guided by Voices several times, he didn't actually meet Pollard until
the infamously prolific songwriter came to Chicago a couple weeks ago
to sign copies of Guided by Voices: A Brief History at a Barnes &
Noble. "We talked for ten minutes. And he was like, 'Do you want to do
this thing?' I said yes, and now I have 50 songs to learn," says
Narducy, laughing. "And I think that's just side one of the new
Pollard's album From a Compound Eye is due out on Merge on January 24,
and the tour to support it -- actually a string of long weekends with
stints at home in between -- will reach Chicago at the end of March,
after South by Southwest. The set lists will consist mostly of
material from Eye and a follow-up disc scheduled for the fall, along
with a smattering of Guided by Voices favorites.
Rockets Over Sweden hasn't played at all this year, but Narducy says
the time on the road has actually helped inspire him. "On the Mould
tour we had XM radio in the car, and there's so much great music out
there that I hadn't been privy to," he says. "So I went on a CD-buying
binge. I bought more CDs in the three weeks after that tour than the
three years previous to it."
Narducy and Suycott plan to begin work on a new Rockets album as early
as this month. "We've been e-mailing each other with ideas," says
Narducy. (Carlson is still in the band but living in Rhode Island for
the time being.) In the meantime they plan to post a few new songs at
rocketsoversweden.com for their neglected fans. "I feel bad, because
we started up and then just kinda stopped," Narducy says. "But that
was another great thing about touring: seeing all the Verbow T-shirts
and meeting the people who bought the Rockets record."
Despite his busy schedule as a musician, Narducy still runs Inside
Outside Painting Company ("a reference for all the Beach Boys and Who
fans out there"), which he founded in 2001 with actor and director Ben
Byer. (Byer left in 2003 after being diagnosed with ALS.) "It's
successful for a small business," says Narducy. "But again, just like
being a bassist, it's something I never thought I'd be doing."
Narducy already has plans to return to Europe with Mould after the
Pollard tour, and hopes to get more opportunities to play as a
sideman. "The main thing is that I don't want to be in a project that
I'm not excited about," he says. "So far, I've been incredibly lucky."
Bump JBack in the early part of 2004, after Kanye West and Twista
propelled Chicago hip-hop onto the national stage, major labels
developed a keen interest in the city's scene -- and Bump J was one of
the first local MCs to sign a contract. Atlantic's Free 4 All imprint
was scheduled to put out his debut album, Nothing to Lose, this
spring, but now the year's nearly over and several subsequent release
dates have come and gone. Bump (real name Terrance Boykins) won "Best
Midwest Mixtape Artist" in March at Justo's Mixtape Awards in New
York, and in August he played a handful of shows sponsored by Vibe
magazine and Doritos. His music has turned up in McDonald's
commercials and in video games like NBA Live 2005 and Madden NFL 06,
and there's been talk of a Bump J clothing line from Ecko -- but still
no CD. All the label has released so far is a teaser track, "Strip
Club," that's been getting played on WGCI, B96, and Power 92 for the
past few weeks.
Bump's management and label reps say the biggest reason for the delays
has been Atlantic's packed schedule for 2005. The label decided to
wait till it could devote its full attention to the album, and
according to the current plan Nothing to Lose -- which features
contributions from Kanye West, Twista, and Young Jeezy, among others
-- should be out in March. An "official" first single will drop in
mid-January -- either "That's My Song" or a still-untitled track
produced by West. Bump plans to make a promotional tour in February,
with concert dates to follow in the spring. For now you can hear him
on a new Rhymefest track that's just been released to radio, "Chicago
Rillas." Rhymefest, another local MC with connections to Kanye (he
cowrote "Jesus Walks"), has a full-length called Blue Collar due on J
Records in early '06.