End of the Road, End of the Rods

They got hassled by the FBI. Todd Rundgren drank all their Foster's. And now they're breaking up. After teetering on the edge of big-time success for over a decade, 12 Rods remember what it's like to be a popular Twin Cities band--and what it's like to pa

Ryan Olcott: But it was a great vacation.

Shaw: Playing Frisbee with a dog on an orchid farm.

Ryan Olcott: Next to a beach with lava rocks everywhere. There wasn't any semblance of nightlife: no college, no kids our age. Just retired Hollywood people.

Are we famous yet? The beleaguered gentlemen of 12 Rods (L to R): George Marich, Jake Hansen, Ryan Olcott, Ev Olcott, and Bill Shaw
David Fick
Are we famous yet? The beleaguered gentlemen of 12 Rods (L to R): George Marich, Jake Hansen, Ryan Olcott, Ev Olcott, and Bill Shaw

Shaw: The whole island of Kauai is the size of the 694-494 loop.

Ryan Olcott: But we saw this poster for a show.

Shaw: A ska-punk show at the grocery store. We stuck out like a sore thumb: all pale skin and wearing black. The first night we went to the show and played a few tunes with [the band's] instruments.

Ryan Olcott: Then they asked us to come back and play a private party in their rehearsal space. It was a barn. So we befriended these high school musicians.

Shaw: The local savages. And then Todd came to the show. I think he was mad that we were out rocking out.

Ryan Olcott: The next day we didn't have the greatest recording session and he was like, "Well, if it wasn't for you and your rock show last night..."

Ryan Olcott: When we got back to Minneapolis, we realized we had no more money left. So I moved in with Mark Mallman and lived in a closet for a while. I was pretty depressed because we'd heard rough mixes of the record and none of us liked the sound. There was no power behind it.

Shaw: Todd didn't know what we were like because the only time he'd seen us live was during a makeshift show in a barn.

Ryan Olcott: We thought he'd do some production and it'd blow my mind because he's Todd Rundgren. He'd sprinkle the magic and we'd live happily ever after. But when it was done, we were the poster boys of major label failure. Everything that Steve Albini said in [his essay] "The Problem with Music"... Honestly, I heard from some reliable sources that he modeled that after us.

So the record came out and Christopher left after the Mill City Music Festival.

Shaw: Dave [King] came on after that.

Ryan Olcott: People liked him and people hated him. Our audience was divided. But he was the spiritual centerpiece.

Shaw: He represented a voice that everybody was hesitant to bring forward to management and the people at the label. He said, "Look, Ryan and Ev, you guys are the artists. They work for you."

Ryan Olcott: He put things back in perspective, and it helped, but shortly thereafter we got dropped. We were dead in the water as far as anybody outside of Minneapolis was concerned. Our records weren't being distributed and Dave couldn't tour because he was in so many other bands. So our schedule revolved around him, which was uncomfortable.

Ryan Olcott: Since then, we've been struggling. Dave left. George [Marich] joined. Ev quit after our best show in New York. We were out drinking.

Shaw: We stumbled upon this musically enlightening experience. Ryan, Jake [Hansen], and I were at some basement club in New York watching this great dub band. We'd come halfway across the United States to play a rock show. Ev gave us his blessing, like, "I'm going to take a nap in the van, you go and have fun."

Jake Hansen: It was his van and he'd been up driving for 24 hours.

Ryan Olcott: It was post-show, post-party, and Ev was asleep in the van, and we woke him up. He turned around and just said, "Shut the fuck up." Dead serious.

Hansen: Ev has never said anything like that to anybody.

Shaw: He's the most peaceful, passive person. He just knows better than to make an idiot of himself.

Ryan Olcott: So he flipped, and I called him on it. "Ev, you're the one that's out of line. Stop acting like an asshole." The next morning he was all quiet and pissed off. He said he was quitting. I said "Why?" And he said, "Well, you called me an asshole."

Ev Olcott: I just realized how much I didn't enjoy going on the road anymore. And I knew these guys wanted to do it and should. I'm getting too old for that kind of thing. I didn't know 12 years ago that this would still be going on.

Ryan Olcott: You said at one point that if we didn't make it by the time you were 27...

Ev Olcott: 30.

Ryan Olcott: You said 27.

Ev Olcott: If I wasn't a rock star by the time I was 30, then I'd be done with the whole thing. 30 was my cutoff and I'm totally cool with what I did by the time I was 30.

Ryan Olcott: You also said it was because I called you an asshole.

Ev Olcott: You did. And it pissed me off. But so what? You were drunk. I was being stupid.

Ryan Olcott: It was kind of wishy-washy about whether Ev was still in the group. Jake had been in the band, but he had a completely different role.

Hansen: I joined in summer of 2002 and this was early 2003.

Shaw: Jake looks like the long-lost Olcott. And we'd been kicking around the idea of another guitarist for two years.

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