By Team Backbeat
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By Jesse Livingston
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Romero, a previous Westword profile subject ("Supreme Beings, January 22), is a fast-talking, opinionated sort; for instance, he's told practically everyone I've ever met that I'm a hideous carbuncle on the face of the local music scene. (Glad to know you're reading, dude.) It's no surprise, then, that he has plenty of reasons for leaving the state we're in--and although he asks that some of his most contentious comments on the topic remain off the record, the ones he offers for public consumption are more than capable of raising the hackles of the you-can-make-it-from-Denver crowd.
"Denver is a wonderful place to get your chops together, because Denver folks are very forgiving--and I don't mean that facetiously," he says. "But having played in some major music markets, I've come to realize that people who live in Denver will come out and see you, and so will people who have an in--but without a record contract or the advertising that comes with it, industry people won't bother. They're not going to come see you because, number one, they don't give a shit; number two, it's the wrong night of the week for them; and number three, there's no buzz about you in their town that's sizable enough. So that takes you back to point one--they don't give a shit. And the only way to change that is to be in their town creating a buzz all the time. Plus, Colorado is geographically so far away from places you have to go to tour that you end up spending a fortune just to play a couple of gigs, versus a place like Manhattan, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from other markets. It may be more expensive to live in New York, but I think you spend the same amount of money going broke touring as you would just being there."
A brief tour last October, approximately nine months after the release of his CD debut, Radio Free Cola, helped cement these opinions in Romero's mind. The disc had done well in Colorado since its appearance, and Romero says that live bootlegs of Love Supreme were being circulated by fans as far away as Australia. Nonetheless, he was frustrated that the band had not yet risen to the next level of popularity, and he was in search of greater musical challenges. He found them during a week's worth of NYC solo gigs. "I was immediately aware of the differences between here and there," he notes. "You don't get a whole night out there; you get a tiny little slot surrounded by a bunch of other people. And basically, you have to walk on to the stage with the intention of being better than anyone else who's going to play that night--and I don't think that's a bad thing." He adds, "I had people who came to my first gig of the week coming back again at the end of the week, bringing other people along and requesting songs by title. It was a little entourage of folks who wanted to talk about the lyrics of the songs and that sort of thing."
Such boosters will have new material to debate shortly: This fall, Romero is putting out Shabang Shabang, a CD featuring new songs and old. (For more details on the recording, as well as the doings of all 64 Westword Music Awards Showcase nominees, check out the Showcase guide in next week's issue.) He plans to introduce these tunes to New Yorkers with a series of solo shows, to be followed up by dates featuring his new band, which he hopes to have in place by the end of the year. He says he'll miss Love Supreme, which also includes drummer Darrin Johnson and cellist Hannah Alkire (a frequent collaborator with singer-songwriter Wendy Woo), but he doesn't have an elaborate final show in the works. As a result, Romero's appearance at the Showcase on September 20 is likely the last opportunity Denverites will get a chance to see him live in the foreseeable future. According to him, "It'll be a chance to say 'Thank you, beautiful people of Denver.' And I say that without any bitterness."
In contrast to Romero, the Czars have managed to achieve a substantial break without packing up and leaving Colorado behind. The group's bassist, Chris Pearson, says the band has accepted an invitation to spend the month of September in London recording at September Sound studio with Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins. Also scheduled to participate in the sessions is Paula Fraser, vocalist for the 4AD signee Tarnation; she's flying from San Francisco to London to duet with Czars singer John Grant.
September Sound is among the busier recording facilities in England; artists who have cut tracks there include the Pixies, Future Sound of London, Mazzy Star and more, more, more. Pearson describes the ditties the Czars will put down on tape there as demos that will be shopped to major labels upon completion. But if no bigshots are interested, Raymonde has committed to issuing the material on Bella Union, an indie imprint he established last year with fellow Twin Robin Guthrie.
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