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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flojo's Bathrobe Rock

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Kurt Spielmann and Mike Tietjen are former members of The Maze, and it was at a practice for that band in 2009 that a seed formed for what would eventually be their new band, Flojo. The two were trying to bang out a rendition of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" while the other band members were taking a smoke break.

"Suddenly something else happened," Spielmann says. "Mike did something different and we had a new song." They stumbled upon a rhythm that became the basis for a tune they titled "Her Song."


As the collaboration continued, the musicians decided to form their own band, with Spielmann on vocals and acoustic guitar and Tietjen on electric guitar. They decided to name the new group Flojo (pronounced FLOW-ho). One translation of the Spanish word is a "lazy person," which is how one of Spielmann's former kitchen co-workers described him when he couldn't stay on top of the mountains of dirty dishes.


"I was not making the correct, concise movements that were needed to be the great dishwasher I wanted to be," Spielmann recalls.


Spielmann and Tietjen often hung around together at the Brewed Café on Brady Street, where Spielmann was employed at the time. His future wife and band mate, Sarah (also of Meadow Parish), began frequenting the café. A friendship developed following the night she taught Spielmann and Tietjen how to play the card game euchre, and they bonded over their shared appreciation of The Flaming Lips, among other things.


Tietjen thought the band wasn't complete as a simple duo, so Sarah Spielmann was soon enlisted to harmonize vocals and play piano. Later, members of The Vega Star enjoyed the sounds so much that drummer John Juchemich and bassist Justin Rolbiecki decided to sign on as members of the band.


"We're influenced by The Vega Star, because we have them as our rhythm section," Spielmann says. "I think they are awesome songwriters, but I don't want to copy or play their songs with this band."


Over the past year the band has been working on their first album, the nine-song Entrance to the Resonator, at a recording and band practice spot named Darling Hall. After an album release at Linneman's, they will hit the road for a 10-day East Coast tour with The Vega Star.


The Flojo sound has sometimes been described as "psychedelic indie folk rock." After some thought, Spielmann comes up with his own term: "bathrobe rock."


"Like you're listening to music on a holiday or a Sunday, or your day off and wearing your bathrobe like you're the lord of the manor," he says.


As for the songwriting, Spielmann says, "We're trying to do something like The Who—like right away get into it, here it is, and take it as far as it will go."


Tietjen agrees. "We're always going somewhere with it," he says. "We have a destination with our plotting. Most of the time we're trying to hit an apex or strike a chord that is moving someone or ourselves—not even necessarily emotionally, but to get people energized."


Flojo's CD release party is Thursday, June 16, at Linneman's Riverwest Inn with The Vega Star and Meadow Parish.