Brian Karscig loves to tell stories. In fact, he's a little too good at it. A simple question about his new band, The Nervous Wreckords, can turn into a 10-minute tale of life on the road, playing to thousands of people in London's O2 Arena or the like. His tales come with all the fixings: backstage debauchery, name-dropping galore and imitations of all the major characters right down to their accents and tone.
One could easily peg Karscig's affability and well-spokeness to the fact that he's been in the rock business for going on 15 years now, most notably with nouveau-glam-rockers Louis XIV. His responses to even confrontational questions-Isn't the music of The Nervous Wreckords strikingly similar to Louis XIV? Aren't you worried that people are starting to think that you're indecisive? Is there any bad blood between you and the rest of your old bandmates?-come with such ease that you can't help but think they're rehearsed.
Or, maybe, just maybe, Karscig is just a nice guy who loves music. He's had to field some of these types of questions before and is more than aware of all the criticisms and comparisons. He just can't let it bother him.
"The band had reached a point where everyone was getting tired," Karscig says of the rest of the guys in Louis XIV, but quickly adds, "I feel like I'm learning something new about music now. You gotta work for it again, and I love working."
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've heard that line and about a thousand others similar to it from rock stars over the years. Our new album is the best we've ever done. My new band is the greatest thing I've ever been a part of. Whatevs.
But hanging out with Karscig, you really do get the sense that this is the most excited he's ever been about a project. Maybe it's because he has more creative control or because he's no longer being monitored by a major label. Maybe it's simply because it's shiny and new and he wants to play with it.
Whatever it is, don't dare call it a side-project, because it wasn't started as such. In fact, most of the early Nervous Wreckords recordings were meant to be Louis material. But on a tour stop in Cambridge, Mass., a chance encounter with Anthony Saffery (formerly of British popsters Cornershop) led to Karscig sending him original songs and then Saffery laying down Brit-poppy beats and sitar on tracks like "I Don't Feel Tardy." Once they had completed a six-song EP (it's Louis-esque, except the fake British accents are gone and it's much more psychedelic. Think Marc Bolan goes to India and drops acid with Ravi Shankar and a Bollywood director), Karscig kept it close, playing it for close friends, one of them being The Killers' Mark Stoermer. The bass player was so impressed that he told Karscig to get his band together because he wanted them to open for The Killers in three weeks on the remaining dates of their U.S. tour. Problem was, Karscig didn't have a band. So he lied.
He then scrambled for the next three weeks to put together a group that could play the songs. But he also had to be comfortable with the members. Up to that point, he'd only been in bands with the mainstays of Louis XIV-Mark Maigaard and Jason Hill-dating back to the mid-'90s. What he ended up with was a core foursome of himself, guitarist Lindsay Matheson, drummer Andy Ridley and bass player Shaun Cornell, along with a revolving cast of supporting musicians. The band toured in a small van for the next few weeks following The Killers convoy of tour buses.
"I hate to use the analogy of the carriage turning back into the pumpkin," Karscig says, "but there was something about leaving world tours, buses, flights, hotels, major labels and starting from square one."
OK, so, granted, most bands don't start out playing their second show in front of thousands of people at Red Rocks Arena. But, to be fair, what band wouldn't want to do that? You can't blame the guy if he's someone who knows people.
"This guy was freaking out, man," Ridley says, pointing at Karscig. "At Red Rocks, there's this area where you come out of the dressing rooms and you head up some stairs and you're basically looking at the whole crowd. As soon as he turned the corner, he's all"-Ridley makes vomiting noises-"and starts spitting, and I was telling him to chill out."
And that small barf story, told mockingly by a bandmate, is when you realize that this is real for Karscig. The song "Doin' it to Do It" sums it up succinctly: "I'm doin' it to do it / I'm not doin't it to make it."
"You learn something new every time," Karscig says. "And one thing I've definitely learned is that young and hungry artists are just so fun and energetic to be around. Once you get old, jaded and grumpy, and you've been around the world a few times, then it's, like-it just seemed like it was losing its luster. Music's something I'm passionate about, but it's gotta be fun, you know?"
He smiles. "This feels good, man. We're having fun."
The Nervous Wreckords play with Apes of Wrath, Maystar and Mata Leon at The Casbah on Wednesday, Dec. 9. www.myspace.com/thenervouswreckords.