Still Smokin'

The band has been touring behind that disc since, but has just about wrapped a followup, to be titled El Baile de la Cobra (The Dance of the Cobra), on Deep South Records, a Raleigh, North Carolina, indie label responsible in part for debuting Southern acts Marcy Playground and Sister Hazel. Friedman says the change of label was an unfortunate but necessary circumstance.

"In a perfect world Michael Rothschild, who I love, would be the president of a major label. But right now he works part-time at this record stuff and he's at an advertising agency during the day. I just felt like if we were going to try to make a go at this stuff, I wanted some other people around us that were doing it full-time. This is all we've got. This is my life and our livelihood, and I just couldn't put our future with some guy who was doing it part-time. I wish that it wasn't that way. I begged him to leave that advertising agency and just go full-time with his label. But it's hard when you get to be a certain age. It's hard to just quit and start a record label and not have a paycheck coming in."

So the band moved to Deep South. Friedman says the new record, scheduled for an August release, represents the Indians' rockabilly passion but also reflects the band's personal and professional growth. "I think it still sounds like us, but like we've grown three years," he says. "It's a little bit rougher around the edges. It's a little bit more raw. Some of the songs have a lounge feel to them. It still has that fun element. You know, if you were having a party and you wanted to slide something in there to put everybody in a good mood -- to get silly and stand on some tables and chairs -- it still has that element. That part hasn't changed. But it sounds better to me because it's a little bit more spooky. A little bit more mean. That stuff appeals to me. I'm a big fan of Halloween. That's my favorite holiday, so it's got that element in there."

Even if the new tunes have moved beyond the countrified charm of "Hot Rod Concerto," the harmony-heavy put-down of white-collar men competing for a girlfriend's attentions in "Pinstripe Suit," or the honky-tonkin' "Arms Around Me," Cigar Store Indians still provide a riotous retro hoedown not often found outside Friedman's rural Georgia. And the way he sees it, musical growth ain't all that bad.

"I've always felt that if it feels good, if it's a part of us, and we can pull it off and it's coming from the heart, then there's a place for real music," Friedman says. "If it's real, then it's gonna make sense and it'll come off."

Cigar Store Indians perform Saturday, June 27, at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE 2nd Ave; 757-1807. Kramer Goes Berzerk and 18 Wheelers open the show. Doors open at 10:00 p.m. Tickets cost $6.

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