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NUVO at 25: Paul Mahern and Dale Lawrence reflect on bands that should have been big


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Hear that rumbling somewhere in the distance? It's the sound of a printer gnashing its metaphorical teeth in delicious anticipation of NUVO's 25th Anniversary issue. The massive tome comes out Wednesday on stands that we've had to reinforce to withstand the girth of the absolutely gigantic issue we're dropping.

But you don't have to wait until Wednesday. We're prepping a little sampler platter of content for you today to give you a taste of what's to come, courtesy of chats with Paul Mahern and Dale Lawrence. 

We checked in with Paul Mahern during our 20th, and it felt only right to swing back around to recording extraordinaire and longtime musician for our 25th anniversary, too. Here's a few of his thoughts on great Indiana bands from the last 25 years he thought should have received more attention.

"Bloomington had that big write-up during the '90s in Billboard about being the next Seattle. A friend of mine came to the Broad Ripple Music Festival, I think that's what it was called. That would have ben '94, something like that. This friend of mine came from New York; he was working at RCA Records. He came to that thing specifically to see The Mysteries of Life. We had finished that first Mysteries of Life Record, and he came to see [them] at the Broad Ripple Music Festival, and they were playing at the Patio. Before they started, I was like, 'Hey, let's go around the corner here to this other club [to see Sardina]' — I forget what it was, Rock Lobster, or some other club that was right in that area at the time. I don't even know if Sardina had recorded yet; we watched Sardina and he was like, 'I wanna sign these guys!' So he immediately signed The Mysteries of Life and tried his hardest to sign Sardina."

"The music industry in general was way more open at that point. That was the echo effects of Nirvana and stuff. A lot of more interesting stuff was getting signed and people didn't know what was or what wasn't going to work. But just the indication that there was that much attention and excitement in one night from a major label record company for two different bands that were playing ... " 

"I would also say that The Vulgar Boatmen were one of the best bands I've ever seen. They're not really just from Indy because there's that whole Florida connection, but the Indianapolis band was absolutely incredible. They made some great records in the '90s. They had some kind of near-misses. They were in the UK and played on the Jules Holland show. They were kind of poised to be a pretty big band, but then something happened with the record company, a new president came in or something. They went from promoting them to not being interested." 

"There's a thread that runs through a lot of the records, a whole school of songwriting and record making that comes out of the Gizmos and Vulgar Boatmen. I think they have a huge effect on The Mysteries of Life; I think they had a pretty big effect on Kenny Childers and Gentlemen Caller and to a lesser extent even on the stuff that Vess did, the stuff that Sardina was doing. I think there's some real clear influences that Dale Lawrence [had]. He feels like the center point to me of the late '80s to mid-'90s Indiana sound. That rhythm guitar, almost like a variation on the Buddy Holly vibe. It's like Buddy Holly meets the Velvet Underground with really simple, beautiful songs and great rhythm guitar. That's the Indiana thing!" 
The Mysteries of LIfe - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted Photo
  • The Mysteries of LIfe


After talking to Paul about the Dale Lawrence sound, I reached out to talk to the Lawrence about his bands The Gizmos.  Lawrence was the subject of a 2002 cover story by David Hoppe, excerpted below: 

"For some people, the space that separates life and art is so thin it doesn't really matter. Dale Lawrence is a good example. One Friday night during the winter of 1993, Lawrence, who writes sings and plays guitar for the band The Vulgar Boatmen, decided to go to a high school basketball game at Warren Central here in Indianapolis... As it happened, Lawrence had a good time that night - so good that he began traveling to games throughout the state. Not because he cared that much about who might win or lose, but to soak up the atmosphere he found in the gyms, the crowds and the hangouts where locals went to eat when the games were done. Lawrence has just published Hoosier Hysteria Road Book, about what he learned through the course of all those Indiana winter nights... .The music Lawrence has written with his collaborator, Robert Ray, over the course of almost two decades, is spacious, contemplative, evoking late night encounters in quiet kitchens and backseat trysts. There is a lot of driving in these songs - not with any destination in mind so much as a means of thinking things through. As Lawrence sits and gently yet emphatically sings, it seems like we can see Indiana through the glass over his shoulder, stretching all the way to the horizon."

Here's some of Lawrence's thoughts on bands that should have received more attention over the last 25 years. 

"The scene kind of ebbs and flows, and support ebbs and flows. I think it's as good in the last year or two as it's ever been. Clubs that are sustaining themselves, and seem like they're going to keep doing that. I've been doing this for over 25 years, and when you really think back on all of that time, there's been an extraordinary number of really good bands and musicians that have come out of Indianapolis, or Indiana, or whatever. ... There was a band out of Bloomington called Lola. They were really good, and people tend to forget that they existed, I think. Anymore, I don't know if the Lovemeknots are an overlooked group or not. They were a really good band, and at least tend to be taken for granted, I think. They had really good songs."


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