Local rockers’ CD re-release @ Happy Dog
Mere seconds into Herzog’s debut effort, Search, which is currently being re-released on local label Exit Stencil, the Cleveland band – Brian Hill (bass), Dave McHenry (guitar, vocals), Dan Price (drums) and Nick Tolar (guitar, vocals) – attempts to take ownership of a demon that has haunted Northeast Ohio for decades.
Instantly recognizable is the annoying voice of former Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach Sam Wyche and his famous tirade: “Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto this field, point them out and get them out of here. You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati.”
Fittingly, the track is called “Silence,” and just like that this relatively new Rock Hall City band exorcised the demon and took ownership of what for years has been viewed as a pejorative statement towards Cleveland.
“Exactly — it’s almost like a punk thing where people are going to look down,” said Nick Tolar, a 2000 St. Ignatius High School graduate. “It sounds like a negative but we kind of use it as a positive.”
He added Herzog is Cleveland-centric without being homers or overly optimistic jackasses. There’s for instance a new track “West Boulevard” and other moments found in the quartet’s music that keenly captures life in the 440 or 216. Perhaps it’s not the lyrics but the overall mood that Tolar and company strive to create.
“I think there’s always going to be that feel for the songs,” Tolar said. “Especially now that my friend Tony (Vorell, a bandmate in local band Expecting Rain) is writing a lot of the lyrics. We always call him the indie rock Bernie Taupin. So it’s a big part of who we are, and it’ll obviously bleed into the writing. My point is we’re very much a band from Cleveland, and in a way we’re writing songs for people from Cleveland more than anything else.”
Recently Herzog jumped from Transparent Records to Exit Stencil Records. The new home necessitated a re-release of Search, which found the band swapping its Bob Dylan cover “Abandoned Love” for unreleased track “Head for the Hills.” The group celebrates the achievement with a CD release show Thu 5/19 at The Happy Dog.
Tolar said the celebration is short-lived considering Herzog is currently mixing its next studio effort, which should be finished in July, but so far is without a street date.
“The album is hard to explain,” Tolar said. “It’s kind of like we’re going to release it as a LP but it’s really two separate things. The A side and the B side of the record are both kind of like their own EPs. They’re pretty stylistically different. The B side was stuff I had lying around for two to three years that I never had a chance to release.”
Among the new tracks that Tolar said epitomize the album are the Sonic Youth-esque “So What Sword” and the straight rocker “Rock ‘n Roll Monster.” Already the latter track has garnered comparisons to Cheap Trick.
“Yeah, I’m fine with that,” Tolar laughed.
Presumably falling somewhere between Sonic Youth and, well, Cheap Trick, Herzog has carved itself a nice little niche in the Cleveland rock scene. As far as anything bigger, it’s not that the band members don’t care, it just sounds like they’re not preoccupied with getting out too far as much as bringing people in.
“We’re going to do some out of town shows, but personally – especially as we’ve gotten older – my aspirations have kind of lessened in terms of success,” Tolar said. “We still have very high aspirations, artistically. I think this LP is going to be really good. So I have no limits for what we’re going to do, but as far as being successful outside of Cleveland, we’ll see. It’s up to the Internet and buzz and whatever. I don’t really have any control over that.”
Herzog is scheduled to play at 9PM on Thu 5/19 at The Happy Dog, 5801 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. Call 216-651-9474 or visit http://HappyDogCleveland.com. Hear more Herzog at http://MySpace.com/herzogsounds.
Freelance writer John Benson spends most of his time writing for various papers throughout Northeast Ohio.
When he’s not writing about music or entertainment, he can be found coaching his two boys in basketball, football and baseball or watching movies with his lovely wife, Maria. John also occasionally writes for CoolCleveland.com