By Sean Moeller
Do you have any idea what we're drawn to, more than anything, in this crazy scam called living? It's people that we can't figure out. Really. It is. We're enraptured by those daredevil types, the never do wells and the rapscallions who proudly let us believe that we will never know what they'll do/think of/say/expose/tackle/champion next. The human crapshoot is a source of astonishment and jealousy when seen in another. We want to know how they can just go about their things so haphazardly, so wantonly and yet we secretly pronounce them the lucky ones. It's the reason John Belushi was our guy. It's the reason Anna Nicole Smith and Courtney Love are two of our national treasures, like it or not. It's the reason why we hate Jessica Simpson so much. We've gone over the threshold - not just with the breathy abomination, but with Barry Bonds, Dr. Phil, Elvis, Oprah and Marilyn Monroe - to where we know so much about them that they're useless to us anymore. The pilot light has blown out and we have no intention of slipping a match under there to get it firing again. We stop caring when we are all full up. It's why the most enticing person in the room is the one who looks like they're hiding something, the shadowy stranger or the vixen standing confidently in the corner. And in a way we never want to figure them out, only to have the make-believe ruined.
Lawrence, Kansas two-some Drakkar Sauna is so enigmatic that I still know nothing about them even after spending an afternoon with them and last week conducting an e-mail interview with them both for inclusion here. It was to be the lowdown and what it amounts to is a couple of pages from an Abbott & Costello act or some twisted dialogue-heavy scene from a Neil Simon production.
They're friendly, soft-spoken guys who look like they've been unwontedly pulled out of a saloon - circa 1910 - and thrown into today, two Encino men with snaky mustaches that belong on sheriffs and bank robbers, grave robbers and auto mechanics. They feel like they'd belong better working the original gold rush than playing songs with elastic pertinence - sometimes feeling like the larks that Paul McCartney would pen for that sweet girl made of sugar he's always seemed to write for (as on "There Is No Boon For Which We Do Not Rend Service") and most other times making songs that have such dark, but appealing underbellies as to suggest that they have criminal pasts. You wonder about what these two men - Jeff A. Stolz (apparently born on the day of our nation's independence in 1776) and Wallace J. Cochran (apparently a doppelganger, maybe of Jesse James or Wild Bill Hickok, who became one of the deceased March 20 of this year - years ago on "Unsolved Mysteries" there was an old guy who claimed he was Billy The Kid and had the identifiable markings to prove it; maybe he's still hanging on and playing the guitar in Kansas; what a cover it would be) have done. You start to create fictitious back stories to their lives that involve hard, hard alcohol, gun fights, lawlessness, rough words and an unassumingly diverse record collection that focuses on the stories of a highwayman drifting from dame to dame and leaving rubble in every city they pass through.
The songs that Stolz and Cochran write tell sordid tales of wayfaring miscreants, cold-blooded homicides, pre-meditated homicides and other things that never happen in my neighborhood. They probably don't happen in your neighborhood either. Their two records are incredible works of gleefully dark transgressions, olden-time harmonies and musical arrangements that never feel laborious or contrived. They share absolutely nothing with any of their contemporaries, going the way of the trailblazer and the buffalo, where they feel brave and endangered. Good things, I shouldn't have to say.
*I find it kind of funny that on the bio page of your website that Wallace actually died nine days before you stopped in to record. How did you meet your end and how do you maintain your vitality and mobility so well as a deceased guy?*
Wallace: To the first part: It was just my time. To the second part: Vitamins C & B12.
*Speaking of people meeting their ends, your songs have a lot of that. Are you thinking about death more than the average Joe?*
Wallace: It's a myth. None of them are dead, they're just hiding.
Jeff: Did somebody die? That's sad.
Wallace: Didn't you hear me, they're just pretending. It's pretend.
*Does death in a song mean something different than death not in real life/not in a song? And why so much death? What intrigues you about it?*
Wallace: I really don't know who you mean. Who died?
Jeff: Nixon. Reagan, too.
Wallace: Plus I think yes: death in real life is probably different for
real people than fictional death is for fictional people. Except for John
Wilkes Booth, who was pretty much the same.
Jeff: His kids called him Bonzo, you know?
Jeff: Reagan's kids.
Jeff: Yes. It's true.
*How's Lawrence been for a hometown? Do you have a devoted following there?*
Wallace: I'm happy in Lawrence.
Jeff: I was just evicted.
Wallace: By the church.
Jeff: By the Catholic Church.
Wallace: But Lawrence is still nice.
Jeff: Yes, Lawrence is nice.
Wallace: It is a pleasant peninsula.
Jeff: No, it's not.
Wallace: & I wouldn't say devoted.
Jeff: To alcohol.
*You've been together for how long?*
Jeff & Wallace: Three years.
Wallace: Jinx. Now you can't talk until I say your name.
*Is it nice being able to tour with just a car?*
Wallace: He can't talk until I say his name. It's funny, cause I think that's the question he's been hankering for. It's his car.
*What made you think that a band -- with the combination of instruments and setup that you use -- would work best for you guys? Have you ever tried in any other way?*
Wallace: He would love to answer this. God, he's dying, it's hilarious.
*How'd you meet? What do you like about the other? Anything you don't like?*
Wallace: He's in like a paroxysm of impotent rage. When I just said impotent he turned blue. I'm, I still think it's funny, but also, I'm bored with it. You know? Alright, here: I like everything about - you thought I was going to say your name, but I'm not going to. But I like everything about you. Because you're a winner.
*When you were in the studio, you were pretty stoic guys. Is that the normal demeanor or just the studio faces?*
Wallace: It's true. We are free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, & submissive to natural law. Especially me. But especially Jeff.
Jeff: O my God. I couldn't have gone another second.
Wallace: I could tell.
Jeff: I was bursting to speak.
Wallace: I could tell.
*When I listen to the records -- and even just when I read the song titles -- it seems to me that each little song is just a part of one bigger song, just a piece of the story. Is that way off base or are there things that you are purposefully stringing through a couple different songs to form a lengthier story?*
Jeff: Yes, those things exist.
Wallace: There are those things.
*Jeff, do you guys play at the bar where you bartend? What's the bar again? What's the last great thing you saw there music-wise or otherwise?*
Jeff: The Replay Lounge, we do play there often. A microburst hit it about a month ago & I saw the Millennium Falcon two blocks away.
*Are you guys hard to please musically? Are you jaded by some of the music that's happening now? The only reason I ask is because what you're doing certainly isn't typical.*
Jeff: No, we're fans.
Wallace: Big fans.
Jeff: Music fans.
Wallace: We like music.
Wallace: I have a jadite coffee mug, which I like.
Jeff: Tip pig ul.
Wallace: Yes, Tip pig ul.
*Do you feel that your music is ahead of the time or nostalgic?*
Wallace: Wasn't there a Living Colour album called Songs of Future Past?
Jeff: We're futuristic in the sense that there won't be so many available power sources.
Wallace: But throwbacks in the sense that we still both possess a vermiform appendix.
*Where does your passion for music -- your music, other peoples' music -- come from?*
Jeff: It's not that I want to remind you of our stoicism, but you did ask.
Wallace: So interest.
Jeff: Instead of passion, we'll say "interest".
Wallace: & to that, I'm going to say ears.
Jeff: Yep, ears.
*What do you guys like reading? Any good books you can recommend?*
Wallace: I like the Bible.
Jeff: I prefer the Koran.
*What are the car-ride conversations like? It's just you two out there, not that you need me to remind you of that.*
Wallace: Here, we'll give you a little bit. You ready?
Jeff: Yeah, you first.
Wallace: Alright. He's the son of God.
Jeff: No, he's just an important prophet.
Wallace: Son of God.
Jeff: Important Prophet.
Wallace: Son of God.
Jeff: Important Prophet.
Wallace: Fuck you, Stolz.
Jeff: That's terribly clever. You learn that in finishing school?
Wallace: Why don't you take your prescribed pilgrimage off a short pier, you cocksucker.
Jeff: Very nice, are you going to start stamping your feet next.
Jeff: & scene.