Clip: Karl Hendricks
Come to Daddy
Writer: MANNY THEINER
Karl Hendricks will be the first to tell you that he isn't the same
alienated, maladjusted young man who stumbled upon the indie-rock
scene in 1989 with brilliant, angst-ridden laments about how girls
didn't appreciate him. He's 35 now, owner of a house in Friendship
with his wife, Megan, and their two daughters, Maeve and Nell, and he
recently completed his first semester as an English professor at
Duquesne University, all while continuing his longtime position as
store manager at local music landmark Paul's CDs.
Life is good for Hendricks, so it's not surprising to see him on a
songwriters' bill organized by another scene stalwart -- Evan Knauer
of A.T.S. -- at Club Café, the area's stable for mature, adult rock.
Hendricks' musical tastes have evolved, taking his band from Hüsker Dü
and Dinosaur Jr.-influenced walls of distortion to a spacious, layered
rock sound, where the melodies and lyrics are more distinct amidst the
din. Yet there's room for his extended guitar solos, as well as
psychedelic improvisation by guitarist Alexei Plotnicov (of Midnite
Snake). "Alexei just flows," Hendricks says, "and he hears a lot of
things in the songs that I hadn't heard."
Rounding out the new Karl Hendricks Rock Band are bassist Corey Layman
(Developer) and drummer Jake Leger (Landing Strip). "Corey's adding
melodies in there too," he says. "I'm really enjoying this band."
The quartet is working on the followup to Hendricks' seventh album,
The Jerks Win Again (2003) on Superchunk's label, Merge Records (now
dripping with cash thanks to The Arcade Fire and Spoon). Jerks sold
the least of all of Hendricks' releases, despite separate tours with
Kind of Like Spitting and Silkworm. The new one is an as-yet-untitled
recording that Hendricks & Co. laid down on Layman's computer at their
practice space. Hendricks says his relationship with Merge has been
positive. "I don't know whether they'll do another record or not," he
says. "I'd like to think that there's still hope."
While Plotnicov road-manages a band in Australia, where it's currently
sunny and summery, Hendricks will appear on a bitterly cold Pittsburgh
evening in a fairly mellow, stripped-down duo with Layman -- a rare
opportunity for fans to experience his lyrics so intimately that they
can identify with the changes in his outlook. "When you're young, you
feel like people don't understand you or know who you are," he says.
"Now, I'm more frustrated by the world we live in and the decisions
people with power make. I'm not really directly writing about that,
but I still feel I'm looking at things from the position of an
outsider. It's just a different kind of outside."