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I, Wombat: the Real Thing
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
Depending on which definition you go by, a wombat is either an Australian marsupial or an act involving narcotics taking place in any given college dorm on any given day. In this instance, we will be using the former as the word meaning. Yes, the wombat, unlike the jackalope, is real. Boy, is it ever!
I, Wombat ranks amongst the best bands in the area these days and with each show continue to win over new fans and ensure a night well spent. To try and categorize them would be time wasted that could be spent enjoying their songs and their often humorous lyrics.
“Influences? Mine are classic rock with some early punk and other stuff,” says guitarist Lou Cucinelli, “Led Zeppelin, Descendents, Cult, Jane’s Addiction, and the Pixies. We all love any of the stuff that Josh Homme has his hand in.”
We, being Cucinelli along with singer Chad Fry, Ben Larson on guitar, bassist Darren Monroe and drummer Marc Accilien.
“[As far as comparisons,] I’ve heard all kinds of nutty things,” shares Monroe, “But the nicest were Sparta and the Mars Volta.”
“My influences cover pretty much the whole spectrum from Doc Watson to the Pixies to old school Metallica,” says Larson, “My major influences are bands like Dinosaur Jr., Q and not U, Jawbox and Sunny Day Real Estate. If I think about bands that we are compared to, I’ll also think that everything I write sounds too much like one of those bands and I’ll never use anything I’ve written ever again.”
Monroe, Fry and Cucinelli were once members of Pwince (Todd Clark played drums).
“We went into that band with no expectations,” admits Cucinelli, “It started as a bunch of friends jamming and making each other laugh. We seriously didn’t care about anything but having fun. Pwince was this awesome combination of rocking music, with these insanely off-kilter lyrics and stylistic shifts. I mean, c’mon! The name of the band was Pwince. How in the world could anybody take that too seriously? Yet, we always brought the rock.”
“I think that maybe the combination of rock power and sense of humor went a long way with Pwince,” says Monroe. “When it seems like all the other bands around are trying to prove that they are just as hard, or serious, or ‘as good as’ any of the popular bands at the time, a little levity might go a long way.”
“Oh and we all wore totally hot rocker clothes!” he adds.
The band played a legendary performance at, ‘Sabbathon’, a Black Sabbath tribute show orchestrated by Eric Rutkowski, who was in Sunday School Suicide at the time and is currently playing in Graves of the Endless Fall.
Unlike many band break-ups, the demise of Pwince was drama-free, with no hard feelings. “It just faded away. Just a soft poof. Or pwoof,” Monroe says. “Pwince was a big part of my life and I am still friends with everybody. I think it's pretty cool to get some recognition for something that I cared about so much, albeit long after the last show."
With everyone from the Chronics to Chavez and Tito Discovery to Afghan Whigs reuniting, have the guys considered getting Pwince back together, if even for just one show? “The thought has not crossed my mind until just now, but that would be one hell of a ball-shattering show and I would love it,” says Larson.
Pwince eventually morphed into I, Wombat. Monroe and Cucinelli would jam together and play with drummer Marc Accilien during Pwince downtime. “Chad and I knew Ben from some other friends and I basically called everybody," says Monroe, "It was kismet and everybody already had totally hot rocker clothes."
When it comes to creating songs, everyone involved has a say in the sound, while Chad or Darren write lyrics. Once we have a basic structure, the music geek in us comes out and we try to add some weird musical pattern,” Cucinelli explains. “Even the songs that we've been playing from the beginning tend to evolve over time, so I don't think they're ever truly 'finished.'"
The guys all tend to bring their own unique style to the songs as well. "Ben is the 'learned' guitarist of the bunch," says Cucinelli, "I'm totally self-taught. He's the dude who knows all the scales and chords, while I just do the dumb loud rock stuff, cause that's what I like and do best."
Recording for an upcoming album release is going well, due to the fact that it’s all being handled by the band, specifically Monroe.
Cucinelli explains, "Darren's 'Deuce-tone Studios' is where we practice and record. He's learning on the fly, but does a great job. We all lend our ears and a hand when recording, but Darren is the man. We've got the basic tracks recorded, several tracks are in the mixing stage and we'll hopefully have a finished product around the first of the year.”
Or as Larson puts it: "Darren is our Phil Spector, albeit without the pistol."
When the album is done and ready to be released upon the public, what title will it be graced with? It seems that remains up in the air for the meantime, as everyone has their personal favorite.
"I'm rather partial to 'Vikings, Bunnies and Various Bodily Functions By I, Wombat, Age 6,'" admits Larson.
While Monroe can't help but be honest, "I am liking 'The Deuce' or ‘Darren is the Best!’”
Between now and the album release you can catch them live around town and they will more than likely be sharing the stage with a veritable who’s who of the best local bands. As far as which venue is tops in their book, it seems like the Brass Rail is the brass ring.
“The Rail rules. Sweaty and beer soaked, no lights, no stage, usually a minimal P.A., but it always sounds amazing,” says Cucinelli, “We’re overdue for a show there.”
The band recently taped a performance for Fort Wayne Reader presents Live On Stage and blew the roof off the place. Fry says he enjoyed himself, but he has a few ideas on ways to improve it. “A veggie tray or some tiny sandwiches would be nice.”
For a hard rock band, I, Wombat place a great deal of emphasis on having a sense of humor, so when asked for funny stories, Lou, or Kick Ass Lou, as Duke of Superhunk has taken to calling him, shares, “With Darren, it’s all about his bowels. At one time, he was kicking around the idea of having a solo project called ‘The Darren Monroe Bowel Experience’. Totally genius.”
Monroe shares even more, “I crapped my pants in the first grade and was totally devastated when, at around age 25, I realized that to all of the kids that I grew up with, went to school with and graduated high school with, I was the kid who crapped his pants in first grade. That’ll warm your cool.”
That or it will prove how real you are. These down to earth guys playing rock n roll with a humorous and biting edge. It doesn’t get any more real than that.
I, Wombat appears on Fort Wayne Reader Presents Live on Stage at 1 a.m. on November 12, right after Saturday Night Live, on NBC 33 or Comcast 13 on early Sunday at 1 a.m.