Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
It's okay to say that it's never been Robert Suchan's identity in crisis on his records, but that's not really true. It's his offered identity that's most notably in a state of questionable flux, with repercussions that never go too far beyond those that you can get from a downing of too much drink or a popping of too many illegal narcotics. There are more than enough life questions in the person or persons that he offers in his musical writings - more than enough bothersome whys and why nots -- to give themselves over to pastures of diversions and deviations from anything identifiably stable. There's a need for Suchan, the lead singer for Koufax, to thoughts of the aging process of a young, post-graduate man - all learned and on the cusp of all serious responsibility, but still struggling to not have to leave most of the aspects that make him a pistol and a sharp kid behind. There's that gray area between college and 30 where lives become twice the size they used to be, with commitments rearing their omnipresent and sometimes ugly heads and the real world no longer measured in years from no, but the thing that's sitting in a dirty diaper on your front stoop, bawling and waiting to be changed or wanting to be held, anything to get closer to you and scramble all that you formerly held dear.
The Koufax records of old and new explore, like Lewis & Clarke, all of the particularly vexing transitional periods that one traverses down before arriving at the station where the wife and kids, 9-to-5 occupation and mortgage payments take over - where a night of entertainment is held in that Blockbuster card and a quiet house, with the dog wrapped at the feet. It's the place in life where time stands still and keeps standing still, stiller. What Suchan contemplates on It Had To Do With Love, Social Life and last year's Hard Times Are In Fashion are the preludes to the doldrums, the internal kicking and screaming that goes on when the walls feel like they're closing in. There's reality and maturity in all of the droplets that bead up in these records. They are the sounds of a man rebelling against what's been taught to him as being the land of defeat. What's not to love in Suchan's pessimism? There's an equal forum for the hyper-sensitivity to where life's leading us and the passiveness that eventually sets in. On the opening track on Hard Times, Suchan calls this the age of no feeling and it seems that he's been feeling that way for a while now. It's within these songs that he comes across - through all of the bouncy guitars and the synthesizer lines that hit like passionate suntans and refreshing margaritas - as someone who waits for and dreads the rains weeks before there's a cloud in the sky. It's not a sedated, the sky is falling brand of pessimism that Suchan brings to the table, but more one of active acceptance.
He wrestles with his other friends and associates going down the inevitable paths of least resistance - toward the bells and the golden ring - only because he's aware that in no time flat, he's going to be there too, hearing Pachelbel's "Canon in D." There's a time clock on all of our youths. There's a need to make the most of them, without a doubt. There are reasons people jump out of planes the week before they get married - just to get all the "one last times" out of the way before they feel the shackles clink tightly around their ankles. Suchan says that when he's at home now, he's already cut out most of the nightlife - a subject, along with big city living and having enough night jobs to pay day bills that is the biggest force on his lyric writing - and concentrates on exercising. He's there with his bookshelves lined with favorable spines, sipping down good tea, succumbing to the idea that it's getting closer for him, that the great slowdown is approaching. Here's betting that he doesn't go down with clean knuckles.
*The Daytrotter interview:*
*Above all else, what is Team Koufax the biggest proponent of?*
Robert Suchan: Thinking and enjoying travel and conversations that may stem from the work of this group.
*Do you guys feel like old men out there on the road, playing the rock club circuit?*
RS: At times, it gets to be a bit much being in watering holes for 200+ nights a year when in reality all we're looking for is a top notch oolong or rooibos tea. Still though, we have young ideals (encouraging people to care/think about what is currently happening in this brave new world), so I think we're still able to satisfy ourselves in that light.
*What's the American Stonehenge like? I didn't know we had one.*
RS: Funny you should ask.....We're headed there today before our gig in Athens, Ga. "This":http://www.thegeorgiaguidestones.com/stones.htm will sum it up better than if I just paraphrase, so if you're up for it, have a look. Interpretations vary of course, so something like population reduction (by way of pollution or eugenics for the dystopian types) comes to mind when a commandment reads "Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature." Nonetheless, it's something intriguing if people are able to disconnect from the "me me me MySpace matrix" that seems to be occupying so many people's hours these days.
*Years ago, I bought a Koufax T-shirt with what I believe was a badger on it. Has that been the best-selling T-shirt you guys have ever had available at the merch table?*
RS: Recently, the book club design and a deer print one have been selling steady while we're touring.
*I see you recently recommended some Murakami. What happened to the Koufax book club?*
RS: Still operational, but more suggestive reading at this point, since participation was a bit slim. I don't ever like to play the tyrant role of "you must read or post about this book."
*What writer has had the greatest effect on your work or just your imagination? Which book have you read the most times?*
RS: I've probably read non-fiction like Howard Zinn since it is important information to keep fresh on. Also, lately I've been reading a lot of Robert Anton Wilson (Prometheus Rising and Illuminatus trilogy), as well as David Icke for the fantastic factor.
*What's the status of the new record? What can we not expect to hear?*
RS: About half of the songs are there and demoed, but definitely still a work in progress. Really at this point, we don't want to rush into releasing anything we don't like.
*When you're back at home, what's your social life consist of?*
RS: Since I've toured so heavily in the last five years, I usually just exercise, stretch, drink loads of tea and water, read, and avoid the nightlife scene save a few weekend nights here and there.
*Did the Grammy winners depress you? Red Hot Chili Peppers for best rock album?! Puh-leeze.*
RS: I've been so detached from that scene (as I imagine more and more people now are with the a la carte/on demand entertainment that iPods and internet bring people), that I really didn't even know who was up for awards or who won.
*Are you cynical?*
RS: Sadly, at times yes, but really it can be confused with brutal honesty. I still believe in the good in people and the world, but that requires a lot of patience.
*Do you live in Lawrence now Robert? Or are you kind of still wandering?*
RS: I've been uber-nomadic these last four years touring. Lately I've settled on the Ohio/Detroit area or Prague Czech Republic for the time that I'm not touring. Ideally, I'd be in Prague full time, but until the band ceases to exist, it is tricky. Lawrence has a spot in my heart though. It's always referred to as a "diamond in the rough," and rightfully so.
*On "It Had To Do With Love," those who got married were considered defeated. Have you made that leap? Are you defeated? Do you find your opinions of such things or even your interests changing quickly with time?*
RS: Great question, and one I struggle with daily. It seems silly (at least conventionally thinking) for a 28 year old man to be "coming of age," but really, I'm at the fork in the road for sticking with a unique lifestyle and the idea of marriage, family, and peace and quiet. I still know many in punk rock/DIY circles that consider marriage a self-imposed constraint, but I try to find a balance in that and there certainly is room for a marriage/family that works for this lifestyle.
*What have you never done that you simply must do?*
RS: Fully learn another language to the point where I think in something other than English.
*Your place is on fire, what do you save?*
RS: I would first save any humans/animals, and then likely my tea and books.
*Are you a lover of the big city life?*
RS: Absolutely. Berlin, New York, and San Francisco are my favorite larger cities. Now if only I could find a job that had me spending more than a few nights a year in each of those...