Don't call the Curious Hair classic rock. Don't call them a jam band. In fact if you're a major record label, don't call them at all. As far as frontman Jeff Rollason is concerned, the industry can kiss his white ass. "It's not the music business," he contends. "It's the business business." Instead of chasing record sales, Rollason leads a ragtag parade of rockers, folkies, and other survivors of the hip-hop/electronica era to the eight-track recording studio known as the Ranch in his partner Mitch Gurdjian's garage. Inside this Romper Room for grownups it looks as if a toy chest has exploded. Dolls and action figures are strewn on the ground around an old dingy sofa, and a dresser supports a beat-up reel-to-reel tape recorder. A Britney Spears poster hangs on one wall, a sarcastic homage to the slick commercial pop that has no place here.
"Evol Egg Nart is not even a record label," Rollason clarifies. "It's a complete nonbusiness to the point of being completely ridiculous." "Pied Piper" the 57-second track on the Curious Hair's latest release, Say Hello to Happiness, could serve as a sonic manifesto for the anti-commercial label. On the rollicking circus track, the yawp of a Sixties Whitehall organ is sporadically accompanied by organ-grinder percussion and a small wooden flute. Although atypical of EEN's output, "Pied Piper" captures perfectly the serendipity of the enterprise.
"There's so many things involved," explains Rollason. "It's more this collective of artists who come together. Most of [what we record] isn't even sold; it's just given away. We put out a limited release of 100 or 500 copies. Sometimes I make them myself and just mail them all over the world to like-minded people. I recently went up to Seattle with a suitcase full of recordings and started handing them out. We released 28 recordings, and I'd say we've distributed maybe 10,000 or 15,000 copies. More recently we've been putting out some albums that we would like to sell, but more generally we're just making music."
Tobacco Road, 626 S Miami Ave.
Performs solo at midnight on Thursday, January 4. Admission is $5. Call 305-573-5887.
Rollason began writing songs with his current partner and bandmate in 1989. "The first tape I put out was in 1991: Strangelove," he recalls, a little embarrassed by the name. "We didn't record it [ourselves], but we managed to make all the tapes ourselves. We went to some cheesy local guy who knew how to record, paid him, probably too much. And everybody had to pitch in. It was rough. That was the last time I recorded anything with anyone like that."
Rollason and Gurdjian remained friends through the years while playing separately in a variety of bands, among them the South Florida favorite Mr. Tasty and the Breadhealers. In 1996 Gurdjian joined Rollason on what the singer originally had devised as a solo effort, The Curious Hair Is Not A Band. In 1997 the duo snipped the name down to the Curious Hair and bought an eight-track reel-to-reel. They recorded the full-length cassette Phaser, which featured many special guests, but Rollason notes, "It was mainly just me and Mitch."
The Curious Hair evolved, establishing a lineup of local talent. "The core group right now are those eight people listed on our most recent CD: Mitchel Gurdjian, Maria Marocka, Mario Padron, Amanda Green, Matthew Sabatella, Ben Peeler, Ferny Coipel, and, of course, myself." Many of the members have recorded their own projects separately, either with EEN or on other labels.
The looseness of the enterprise has made it hard to pin down the lineup. "For the longest time, I was always trying to convince everyone that they were in the band," Rollason admits. "For example I'm still trying to convince Ferny that he's in the band. There's probably a list of 50-something people who have either played with the Curious Hair or recorded with Evol Egg Nart. There are many people who've played with us. Nartworld [www.nartworld.com] is pretty much the home of everyone who has played with us or recorded with us."
Having complete control of the creative process is critical to Rollason. And control is what he believes some big-name record labels strip artists of after they sign a deal. "With major labels what you usually get is someone who says --" Rollason drops his voice a few octaves lower for effect. "Wow, you got a good idea there, but this is what it really should be like.'
"There's probably somebody way up at the top of Sony that hears something that they might think is good music," he continues, "but if they don't hear anything that will sell to a particular demographic, they won't even bother. It's all evil, man! This is the reality: What we do is irrelevant, because it's not a product that the music industry can categorize and put into their systems. In Miami especially there's this entertainment industry that's really frustrating for rock music. I know a lot of people who quit playing music because they're not making money and that makes them think they're worthless. I'm broke; most of the artists I know are broke. Why? Because they're doing something that isn't mainstream enough. It's almost that I feel I'm handicapped in my life because this is what I want to do."
It is that sense of irrelevance that motivates Evol Egg Nart. "I am not going to go outta my way to let the record labels know we exist," Rollason declares. "I kinda don't give a shit whether they know we exist or not because it's not even about that. I'm just trying to do [the music] and spread it, and hopefully, yes, at one point ignite enough of a spark that I can live off of it. Extremely modestly would be great."
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If not? "Well, then, I'm going to go down to Taco Bell and become a manager," he says with a gesture of resignation.
"I'm 27, and I'm still at home, and at some point, even though it means you have to bend over, I'm going to have to get a job because you can't live rent-free with the parents forever. But that kind of life sucks the soul right out of you anyways," he says of the nine-to-five work routine. "People get up, they go to work, come home, and veg out in front of the television. It's part of the whole evil structure that exists. But I'm fighting it, man; I'm fighting it."
Evol Egg Nart allows Rollason and friends to put up a resistance. "When I work with somebody it's because I want to do that," he says. "If I could play in the garage with the people that I love to play with and record records and put them out, I would be happy. All I'm saying is that what I like to do is write songs. And I like making records. The process of making a record is an art in itself."
Rollason is on the lookout for playmates in his alternative Nartworld. "Anybody that is willing to do, or continue what we're trying to do, but on a larger scale, is welcome," he offers.