By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
"WE'RE ALL NAMED Brian and we all deliver pizza," offers drummer Brian "Be" Parizek by way of introducing his band Push On Junior. "Bryan [Knisley] plays guitar and sings, Brian [Sather] plays bass and I'm the drummer." Midwestern to the core, POJ's grinning modesty belies their ability to deliver a festering pot of rock & roll Sturm und Drang. Listen to their take on basic post-punk tension and release, and it's clear they've studied the formula's finer points, the way dynamics are sustained, and their effects on the squirrelly masses. The conclusion: It's more important to consider the movement of the flame down the fuse than to bet everything on the explosion at the end.
Off stage, the three Brians are calm and polite, and would rather talk about the others' contributions than their own. Sather explains that everybody in POJ operates autonomously to create a part for his instrument. The result is a sound where every instrument is interdependent and fully exposed, something Sather's had to get used to as a convert from guitar to bass. "On a guitar you can find ways to cover up mistakes, but if you're playing in a three-piece and you miss a note on bass, there's just no hiding it."
For his part, Parizek developed an affinity for rhythm listening to his dad's Fats Domino records and has been playing around in jazz, blues, heavy metal, and country rock bands since his late teens. "Be has a really good sense of timing--he can always feel when the song is about to change," says Knisley, who connected with Parizek's playing style instantly. "The first time we played together, we set up all the drums and it felt so obviously right we only jammed for about 15 minutes."
It worked so well, in fact, that in April of '94, just two months after Parizek moved here from Des Moines, POJ were already recording their self-titled EP debut. Although the set slides in and out of focus, the eye-bugging guitar on "Best of Three" and the poignant "Magic Show" exposed POJ as a group of some depth.
While putting together a small-budget video in support of it, the trio met video producer and Venison frontman Rick Fuller. He was inspired enough by POJ's style and sound to put out Want, the recent EP, on his newly formed Earmark Records label. Want is six songs and one hidden track all carefully designed to hit a nerve. "Pencil" and "Vis Queen" construct a maelstrom one measure at a time and then drop-kick everything into the whirl. "Get Inside" is a haunting track done in charged minor chords which describes a lonely little girl being lured into a stranger's car. He tells her she's pretty; he tells her what she needs to hear. On the surface, it plays like a fragmented childhood memory, but it could be a directive for POJ's music overall: Get inside the listener's brain and pull the strings.
Want testifies as much to the power of POJ's interplay as it does to Knisley's development as a songwriter. "You can't write a song in a day," Knisley laments. "Maybe you'll put down some words on the first day and then play around with it on the second day. Then by the third day you hate it and you have to start all over again." Parizek continues, "We write all the music first, so basically a song is finished when Bryan puts words to it. He has a knack for structuring the words so that they fit the music perfectly. It's amazing. I've offered to rearrange the music to fit the words but he's never taken me up on it."
Between pizza delivery and weekend touring, time devoted exclusively to music is hard to find. Nevertheless, there's a new POJ record in the works, label prospects are promising, and with a little luck, the three Brians will get to turn in their tomato sauce-stained uniforms. But until then, could I get one large Fats Domino cover to go? Heavy on the back beat and extra wattage if you please. CP
Push On Junior open for Ass Ponies Friday at 7th Street Entry (see A-List. p.33).