"It was immediate," Kurt Neumann, one-half of the origin of the pop group the BoDeans, reminisced of their union in the early 80s. "The first time we ever played together, we fit together so naturally. I just knew at that first gig that we were going to be working together for a very long time."
The Waukesha, Wisconsin-based band has had their share of highs and lows. Their '86 debut on Slash, "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams," was easily embraced by critics and fans for it's honest roots-rock style. However, being pigeonholed by the media may not be to the benefit of one's creative aspirations, as they found out.
Their next LP, "Outside Looking In," produced by the Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, was not as well received. Their third album was "Home" (1989) and was followed by "Black and White," (1991) in which they recruited Prince associate David Z to help broaden their commercial appeal.
"We did chase our tail around for awhile," admitted Sam Llanas, "because we hadn't had a hit and when that happens, you start to question yourself.
"After 'Black and White,' we thought, well, we didn't really make any progress that way either," he continued, "so let's go back and ask ourselves, what do we really want to be doing here?" With "Go Slow Down," released in 1993, the Bodeans went back to their original formula, according to Llanas.
"We just wanted to make some music we felt good about. So we got back to what we do best," Llanas explained, "which is pretty much keeping it simple and straightforward and concentrating on a good song."
In time, the number "Closer to Free" became a hit by way of its use on Fox TV's "Party of Five" as the theme song.
"It was almost surreal watching the progress of that song because here I am, this guiy from this small town in Wisconsin, and we had this song climbing up the charts," Llanas relfected. "We had almost given up thinking that it would ever happen. That's the kind of attitude we had going into 'Go Slow Down,' just make some music that we like. And thent hat happens. It was a sweet victory."
The following LP, "Joe Dirt Car," was a live two-record set and now, with their latest, "Blend," the BoDeans continue on the path they set with "Go Slow Down."
"Our intention was to write short, good songs and have every track be solid," said Neumann. "We wanted to make everything more to the point and make a record that when it was over, you wanted to put it on again."
The 10 tracks on "Blend" cover a vast array of topics. "I like to mix it up," Llanas described. "I like to write simple love songs and then once in awhile I like to take on something a bit more meatier."
Expect more from this duo. Neumann credits their understanding of each other is due to their long relationship.
"We're really good friends," said Llanas of his partner. "I never met anybody that felt as passionately about music as I did until I met him. That's our common bond.
"Over the years we've had fights," he concluded, "but for the most part, it's been a joy working with him. I think we compliment each other really well. He can do things I can't and I can do things he can't. That makes for a good partnership."
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