MP3: “Used Kids” by Earwig
“I don’t know how much it shows, but this record is really about Ohio. It’s about where we are from and being true to what you are,” says Earwig founder, singer/guitarist Lizard McGee about his band’s new album, Center of the Earth.
The band got it’s start in 1994 when they released Mayfeeder on their own label (Lizard Family Music – also home to Preston Furman, Monster Zero, and Ugly Stick) and a year later were featured alongside the New Bomb Turks, Gaunt, and Watershed in an Entertainment Weekly article predicting that Columbus was on it’s way to becoming the next Seattle (hmm … what happened????).
“I was sending out packages to all the labels that I really respected,” McGee recalls about the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy that took place in the mid-90s. “I was taking a bath and got a phone call from Ivo (the head of 4AD). We talked about the band and he wanted me to keep in touch and send him new music. I can’t really recall how or where that all went. Maybe I was just too young and didn’t know how to capitalize on the interest at the time.”
McGee says the band played the whole courting game with a few labels but ultimately nothing ever materialized. And, over the course of time, Earwig’s lineup underwent a complete renovation with the original band members leaving for things like medical school and marriage. “It was always so gradual that it seemed silly to change the band name or start a new band,” McGee says.
The band recorded Perfect Past Tense but before it was released, bassist Rich Cefalo moved to New York City to pursue a career in the film industry and drummer Justin Crooks started putting more time into his other band, the Jive Turkeys. McGee took the opportunity to move out to California where he put the finishing touches on the CD and released it through his label in 2000. Though he enjoyed living in California and touring the west coast (McGee played solo shows from Arizona to Washington), Ohio was always the heart of it all.
“Ohio was more of what Earwig is really about. We’re not some hyped up LA or NYC band. We’re more authentic Midwestern and draw much of our influences from underground bands like Husker Du and the DIY scenes that spring up in small towns everywhere,” McGee says. “I moved back to Ohio and bought a secluded house out in the woods.”
Matt Wagner (Preston Furman, The Bygones, Chris McCoy & The Gospel) came on board as soon as McGee moved back to Ohio and when the Jive Turkeys called it a day, Crooks rejoined Earwig.
“Playing with Matt and Justin is so good because they were around back in the day and know the history of the band well,” McGee says about the current lineup. “They know what Earwig is about, what it’s supposed to sound like and how to do that.”
Producer Eric French helped Earwig realize it’s sound and McGee says, “He deserves way more notoriety and recognition for being the hot shit producer that he is.”
While it’s a tired cliché to say that Earwig sounds more mature than ever, it’s a true statement. Earwig is proudly carrying forward the torch lit by meat-and-potatoes Midwest rockers like Greenhorn, Feversmile, and Watershed back in the mid-90s.
Among the albums highlights are the first song McGee ever wrote (“Seattle”), “Old Man’s Cave,” which came to fruition on a late night trek from Columbus back to McGee’s Southern Ohio home, and “Used Kids,” prominently featuring lyrics about Ron House.
“The first show I ever played with my first band was at Used Kids. Ron House raved about how he loved the band and thought that we were great. It had an impact on me and I’ve always loved Used Kids,” McGee says. “One night I had a dream. I was at a 7/11 and Ron was working behind the counter. It was a 7/11 but it was Used Kids too. Ron had a big baseball cap with a rebel flag patch on it and kept following me around with a copy of the Weekly World News with the picture of a mushroom cloud that has Jesus’ face in it. Ron was spewing about how he wanted to save my soul and how the world was coming to an end. I got very concerned for Ron’s well-being and eventually asked him if he needed a ride home from the store. His response was ‘Hey man, don’t worry, I got a ride. I’m going home with Jesus tonight!’ I woke up in a strange daze, grabbed a guitar and wrote the song all the way through, pretty much on the first try, in about 10 minutes. It’s a direct re-telling of the dream, blow for blow and a lot of the lyrics are taken verbatim from the dream.”
With Center of the Earth, Earwig isn’t hoping to make it big, be the next Rolling Stone cover boys, or sell a million records. McGee has been around the block long enough to know that sort of career is pretty rare.
“The idea of ‘making it’ is all an obvious sham at this point. We are the polar-opposite of the latest warmed over trend-hacks from NYC and LA. We’re the Anti-Next Big Thing,” McGee says. “We’ve always been a sort of slacker band – 6 years between records! But we’re honest. And we won’t die.”
Earwig will celebrate the release of Center of the Earth with a CD release party October 14 at Café Bourbon Street along with The Proper Nouns and The Rosehips.