Payne Relief

How good fortune turned a skinny duo into the Valley's most inventive and engaging heavyweight act

Sometimes a videotape of a packed Les Payne or EMO Camaro show will reveal heckling, yet people stay for the entire show agitated, as if the uninhibited duo's mirth somehow threatens someone else's grim security. Once, when a musician friend told Pomerenke the chitter chatter between songs was taking away from the music, he turned belligerent toward the audience for a whole show, a display that everyone but he thought was amusing.

"Then we decided that neither of us was going to talk to the audience during the next show. We had bodyguards, and between each show we had taped Yolanda Bejarano doing all our witty banter on a tape recorder, and we had our friend Sy come up and press 'play,'" Pomerenke says.

"The show after that, we decided to be superhumble: 'We very humbly thank you. We're glad you're all here, we love you,' and we had flowers everywhere onstage. We're pretty reactionary. Each show will be a reaction to the last one."

Industry reaction to the band has mostly been favorable, except for an unnamed A&R man from Epic Records. "He talked to us for an hour, and he just hated us," Pomerenke says. "He said, 'Everybody in Phoenix is talking about you guys, and I don't see why. I don't get it. I listen to your tape and it's mediocre. I think the songs aren't that great, I think the vocals aren't that great, the recording and performances aren't that great. There's nothing here. And the wit is too overboard.'"

His advice to the duo?
"Don't make a good recording. You guys are totally an indie band--stay independent, stay lo-fi--but you'll never get arrested. Independent music's over, but stay there because that's what you are."

Buoyed by this vote of confidence, the band worked out its quandary of whether to stay totally minimalistic with its recordings or go full bore. It's chosen the latter, and this CD is proof that Les Payne could embellish and still capture the same energy and excitement of its live show. In April, Les Payne will take that show on the road for a western jaunt with friends in Trunk Federation. A split seven-inch between both bands has been momentarily postponed, according to Pomerenke, "because Trunk got nervous. They're such a turd band, they were afraid our track would steal their thunder."

Like a sick indie version of Wham!, Pomerenke and Karnes continue to Choose Life over loathing. Go to a Les Payne show, and you can actually hear people smiling with amusement, a rarity anywhere. That's entertainment, man.

"We could've been workers in a Third World country, we could've been born in another place where you don't have the opportunity to jump in a van, drive around and play, jump onstage and express your little feelings about piddly nothing," Pomerenke says. "When I see these guys onstage so bummed out, staring at their shoes or whatever, I feel like saying, 'What are you so bummed out about? That you were a latchkey kid?' You could've been alive in the Depression. You were born in a great place at a great time.

"Some of our newer stuff we got on piano is so joyous it's almost sappy. We're thinking of calling it sap-core!

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