Nick Carroll throws out several expressions in a desperate attempt to describe the sound of Nic Cosmos "nihilistic pop'' and "neo-Western folk rock'' are but two. The band's publicity flier suggests "folkafunkarockadelia.''
Nothing seems to fit.
"We know what we're trying to do,'' said Carroll, who plays the acoustic guitar and sings for Nic Cosmos. "We just can't seem to explain it.''
The band, made up of five Lawrence musicians, will be performing Saturday night at the Bottleneck, 737 N.H. In addition to Carroll, Nic Cosmos features Gordon Gilges on percussion, Joe Green on bass, Tom Sawyer on drums and Craig Schiffman on lead guitar.
They came together about a year and a half ago. One of the more unusual aspects of the band is Carroll's acoustic guitar; Gilges' bongos aren't exactly run of the mill in rock either. They formed the nucleus of Nic Cosmos and then added the rest of the group later.
SINCE THEN they've made a name for themselves on the Midwest circuit, with frequent stops in Kansas City, Omaha and St. Louis.
"What happens is when you become pretty big in a college town, people at KU are from all over and they show up when you play in their home town,'' Carroll said in a recent telephone interview from Salina. "We went to play in St. Louis, and the place was full because there were so many KU students there.''
Carroll boldly suggests that the Nic Cosmos sound breaks a lot of alternative-music rules. That's why he suggests the term "nihilistic pop'' not because they're particularly pessimistic, but because their music is a square peg in the round hole of new music.
THEIR MIX of funk, folk and rock grew out of their general disgust with contemporary music, much as the late '70s reaction against punk and disco led to the New Wave. Other bands, such as the Texas group Brave Combo, and artists like Jimmie Dale Gilmore, have been reaching out to more folk-oriented sounds. But Nic Cosmos is in a league of its own.
"We didn't want to do what everyone else was doing,'' he said. "With so much in pop music that's annoying, we decided to do it differently.''
The material in general represents the collaborative efforts of the band, he said.
"I propose a song line and I write the lyrics,'' he said. "Then we begin to play around with it (the tune) until we get something. Everyone adds something, so we're all writing the music together.''
SO FAR, Nic Cosmos has played with bands such as Trip Shakespeare, Spanic Boys and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Carroll said the band members hope to arrange concert dates in Chicago and Denver in order to expand their regional reach. They also want to work on a CD using a local recording facility. And Carroll has plans to do something really radical.
"I've been learning to play the accordion,'' he said. "I've been playing acoustic guitar, which is unusual to begin with, and now I'm interested in the accordion.''