Know Yourself

, America's best accordion- and kazoo-based band begins its Travels

Like the members of any decent self-made band, these four guys need to go out flyering soon. They do that a lot, flyering, spreading the good word about their live shows through the mass distribution of handbills. For a little while on this recent weeknight, though, they find time to talk about it. What? I Don't Know.

Actually the four members of Miami's latest Next Big Thing (watch and see, ye skeptics) don't talk much about themselves or their band. Offered the chance to hype their new self-produced twenty-song CD, Gullible's Travels, the four collectively say this: "It's out." It's also outstanding, not simply because it's eclectic ethnic dance folk cranked by a punk ethos. And we'll get to that, but the first thing that comes up when you walk into the Shack -- I Don't Know's Hialeah warehouse recording studio, rehearsal space, and general hangout -- is the lizard.

It's a new lizard, named Creedence, to replace the old lizard, which died. Creedence is an iguana spending its first day in the Shack. The lizard has crawled up an American flag that hangs in the soundbooth. I've brought along a legal pad in case I feel a need to actually take notes. The pad is the same one my friend Zap was doodling on a few nights before. When I open it, I notice Zap's written in green ink the phrase "El Legarto." That roughly, very roughly, translates as, yes, "the lizard." (Actually, "el legarto," Zap says, is a Cubanism for "alligator," but nobody's in the mood to debate semantics.)

Drummer Izo Besares, accordionist Mark Ruiz, multi-instrumentalist Ferny Coipel, and new bassist Tony Landa seem to enjoy talking about the lizard and the etymology of el legarto. They also discuss the eating of Japanese tourists by some lions at one of those wildlife parks. The tourists, Besares reports, stepped outside their car to take photos, at which point the big cats stepped up to the proverbial dinner table. And Miami thinks it has p.r. problems.

The boys in the band also mention that they watched the episode of Channel 7's 7:30 that featured Natural Causes. At the end of the program, 7:30 showed a clip of a captive bear that turned on some woman sitting next to it and beat the crap out of her. The Know boys think this is very funny, and they do have a point: Take any animal out of its natural habitat, and you assume the risk of that animal's natural behavior.

I Don't Know is in its element at the Shack, but the weirdness continues. One time, the guys claim, they were booked to open a big show at the Edge in Fort Lauderdale. Of course they created and distributed flyers to promote it. On the flyer was a small circle emblazoned with the words "suck me" and a bogus coupon that said "free genital massage." They hauled two carloads of equipment from Hialeah on show night. And they were told to haul themselves right back out of there. The club wanted no part of I Don't Know. "Apparently some kid took one of the flyers home," says Ferny Coipel. "And the kid's father saw it. He was a city councilman. I don't know his name. Just call him the Unknown Councilman. He threatened the club with a fine and to take their license away. C'mon!"

Scary, but hardly as haunting as the tales of the Shack. One night the musicians were inside the soundbooth portion of the big room trying to decide whether to go outside into the main section of the space. Should we go or should we stay -- when, right at that moment, the door, for the first time ever, opened by itself. "Then I knew I wasn't going out of that soundbooth," Coipel recalls. "I wasn't going anywhere."

They decided that a doll hanging (in a noose) next to the door was responsible for the eerie occurrence. So they took the doll outside, doused it with paint thinner, and set it ablaze. "It was an evil looking doll," Tony Landa recalls. "After we burned it, it still had one good eye left, and it kept staring at us." So Landa disposed of it in a hole. "And he drives his truck over that hole," Coipel adds. "So the evil entered the truck."

Then again, maybe the evil emanates from a large painting in the room, of some Renaissance dude strumming a stringed instrument. It is unsigned and untitled. Until now. We decide to dub it "The Unknown Councilman."

Whatever the case, the Shack has its good side, too. Furnished "piece by piece from the trash and whatever," Coipel says, the Shack has evolved into a fully equipped recording studio, which, along with a Budweiser sponsorship, made it possible for the band to record and release Gullible's Travels, a remarkable collection of the songs you might expect if you've seen as many I Don't Know live shows as I have -- "Mr. Malcolm's Chronicles," "Story Song," "Tipper Gore" -- plus ten more songs that make up the "Gullible's Travels" sideshow.

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