After my pre-show tacos with Local H, would you even believe I interviewed two more grateful rock stars later that evening?
Although they have been playing on and off together for years, what we have here is: Two best friends, since 1995, officially start playing shows in 2006. And in 2015, they open for one of their favorite bands of all time. It almost sounds like the beginning of tag line for a summer film.
“I blame Nirvana in 1991," says lead vocalist/guitarist Jim Rawlinson. "I started playing in a band in 7th grade. You know, it was 7th grade and it was terrible, but that's when it started. When I first began there was such a great underground punk scene. And although we may step away from music from time to time as adults, it's never for very long, because there was never any doubt we'd still be doing this even now. There was a phase where we played everywhere, and now we're on a bit of a break from that. But we'll come out for the right show."
And we all agree that Local H is obviously the right show.
Bassist/guitarist Jim Shaffer just seems to recall being able to pick up any instrument and loving the feel of it – one right after the other: drums, guitar, bass. “
I can't think of one defining moment where I knew I wanted to be a musician; I just remember always loving music. Always wanting to be around it. Even before I knew exactly what 'it' was. I just knew I liked it and I could play and wanted to play more and more. And one day I could find more people who liked to play and wanted to form a band. None of us in the band now ever started with cover band stuff. Once we figured out we could just form our own bands, we were off and running. And I stepped away, too, for a bit, but I got bored. And I don't see a deadline for me. I don't see a time when it's really my time to stop. And I like that,” he says.
“Jim's hit 40 and kicked cancer's ass, so I don't see a deadline for him, either,” says Rawlinson.
“Well, it affected a few organs,” Shaffer says, “but I made it out alive. I didn't want a benefit show, I just wanted to celebrate. I gave the money we made for a show we held to the Cancer Coalition Foundation – so we just got together, played music, and hung out with friends. Totally more celebration than anything else. Jim put it all together, made the 'Jim is Cool – Cancer sucks' buttons. It's nice to look back on all that now,” Shaffer says.
Shaffer was diagnosed with, and successfully recovered from, stage 3 colon cancer. Jim IS cool. Both Jims, I think. I'm still biased. There. I said it again.
“It was nice to be in a position to let him know just how many people cared about him. We still see the buttons around occasionally. And really, we're just glad he's here,” Rawlinson says. I just met him and I'm even glad he's still here.
“It feels awesome to be opening for Local H,” he continues. “I have many bands I love, like Dinosaur, Jr., Failure, Foo Fighters, and Sunny Day Real Estate, that I would love to open for. But I have to tell you, Local H was always one of my top favorites. The one I wanted to open for the most. Always one of my favorite bands, going back to 'As Good As Dead'. I know everyone likes the hits, but I have all the albums. I am a huge fan boy. Ben is, too, but he won't fess up to it as openly. We've been geeking out over Local H for a long time. And I happen to know Ben's first show was Local H.”
“Maybe Taylor Swift. We could also open for Taylor Swift,” Shaffer says, mock serious. I laugh hard and it echoes throughout the green room and I know my own voice will hurt my head later when I transcribe the recording of this interview.
“She does really pay attention to her fans on Twitter. We could try to make this happen,” I say. I realize that, even as I say it, I would go to this show.
Rawlinson and I agree that Here Comes the Zoo is the best of the previous Local H albums. And Ryan is the most favorite drummer of the three, but we do adore St. Clair. We love it all, but we all have our biases.
“We did play when we wanted to travel, but now that we don't want to travel as much, we play shows here in Indy when we can,” says Shaffer. Ben Hunt, drummer and the self-described brains of the operation, has yet to arrive at the venue. “I didn't want people to get used to us, that is, if we play all the time, it's not an event anymore, and people might just start thinking, oh, well, we can catch them next time,” he adds.
They know the scene well.
Maravich influences include early and mid-'90s grunge and post punk, Jawbreaker, Nirvana, and certainly Local H.
“Ben and I were in punk bands growing up and Jim had his own prog-type band, before our current band. I would actually have to say based on our tastes, we're all over the place musically,” says Rawlinson. “And we are and have always been pretty much 100 percent DIY and open access on everything we've done. It's more about the process than making a product. It has its advantages and disadvantages.”
“We love playing the Melody Inn. There are other great places here, too, of course, and some places that come and go, but the Melody has supported and encouraged local music consistently for decades, specifically punk music, where some of those bands couldn't find another place to play. That place has always felt like home to us,” Rawlinson finishes.
I have to agree with him. I've only caught one show there thus far and the place immediately felt like home to me. Like Lucas, who is grateful for Chicago, I can't help but get the impression that both Rawlinson and Shaffer are as grateful for their very own Indianapolis, as I also am of the city, even being a recent transplant.
“The Patio, in Broadripple, used to be my favorite place to play,” says Shaffer. “It's gone now. And I remember it tried to re-open at some point, but it was just never the same.”
I nod. It never is.
“And by the time I was old enough, the place was gone. It really was the one place I always dreamed of playing,” Rawlinson laments. “What a lot of people don't recall is that the Guided by Voices' Jellyfish Reflector album was recorded there.”
He's genuinely sad and I do realize that outsiders need to come to Indy to experience the scene before attempting to write about it or understand it. There is a culture here just waiting to be honored and remembered, discussed and explored, by those who are actually familiar with it.
“There's not a central site for people to get together really, to talk and trade show information. Facebook certainly has changed all that and while you might think that's central, it's actually very segmented,” says Shaffer. “It's really difficult to discover something new, but if you know people, you can get the information.”
So, what Ryan Harding said at dinner was correct – it's really about getting out and meeting people. Or as Scott Lucas would say during his show, after he told the crowd about his recent, and also epic, Chicago meeting with Eddie Vedder, maybe just “stay in the moment, stay present, put your phones down, for like, half an hour.”
“In the past, we had 'zines and specific websites to gather this information and I miss it a little bit. All of the scenes, the punk and hardcore scenes, for instance, were very close. I mean, the Emerson Theater, and even the Dojo, if it's still around (Editor's note: It's not, but check out the Hoosier Dome) still would have a good turnout of kids for their shows. There's less crossover shows, too, which I think also hinders the flow of information. When I first started to tour, like back in 2002, we had to call people and email them, let them know we were coming. And even before that, you had to find people in 'zines and call them up. And hey, now you can just text people. That's great, but I also think it waters down what's out there," Rawlinson says.
Real life factors into touring these days, too. Rawlinson has adorable children, Shaffer has an adorable puppy, and Ben has several adorable dogs. Messes will be made and cleaned. Repeatedly.
“Another one of the reasons we don't play out as much,” Shaffer says, “is that we do have plans to put out another album and we've been trying to focus on that. We have at least three albums worth of material, but we keep writing and practicing, and that keeps kicking a song out of the set list, and I want to get everything recorded before I forget. Before I forget that I forgot, even. Some of the songs die away, sure, but I think all of us want to capture them, and in more than just demo form. And you know, it's awkward when two of us remember and one forgets,” he laughs.
“Really awkward when it's me and I wrote it. But we've been writing a lot lately, and I think we have a lot of really good stuff,” Rawlinson adds. “But there's no point to doing an album if you're into it just to make money. We want to do it and we want to do it right. We want to do it for ourselves and we want to do it for posterity. I mean, I know some of my biggest regrets were that I've been in bands where we didn't record, you know, before we broke up, and we wish we still had something to remember it all by.”
“We're really looking forward to this show tonight and we're ready to record,” says Rawlinson. “We want to record with our peers, with Desert Planet and Calico. We do have some special upcoming shows to plan.”
“We might even plan ahead, have a set list and everything. I do like off the cuff, but we'll plan these out,” says Shaffer. “I love that feeling of you never quite know what will happen on stage. I love that about Maravich. The band is looser. Just having three guys made it easier for everything to work out like that, and we know where we're supposed to be and it frees us up to do a lot of that.”
“It's no two members, of course,” says Rawlinson, “Local H will always own that.”
I have to agree.
Then it's time for the doors to open and for the show to begin.