It's been two years since Paw played in Lawrence, but they're coming home for a reunion concert.
The band formed eight years ago and spent all of its savings on recording a demo. They were eventually signed to A&M; Records, which helped fuel an era when Lawrence was scrutinized by big-league labels searching for the next big thing.
Following two rock albums, "Dragline" and "Death To Traitors," both supported by a touring schedule that exacted its toll on the band, they finally called a time-out.
Eventually, guitarist Grant Fitch, a former music director for Kansas University's KJHK radio station, called vocalist Mark Hennessey. The two, who had not spoken for more than a year, got together and started talking about album No. 3.
They met recently with The Mag to discuss Paw's show Saturday night at Liberty Hall.
Did Paw break up?
Hennessey: We took an extended hiatus.
How did you decide to start playing again?
Fitch: I called Mark.
Did you have any hesitation? (asked of Mark Hennessey)
Hennessey: I did a little bit only because I'm in the best mental health I've been in in my life. There was a time with the band, two summers ago, that I was not. I was hard on everyone around me. And I know Grant was affected by that the same way I was. I didn't know exactly ...
Fitch: ... why I was calling.
Hennessey: They came up to see me in Brooklyn and we had such a nice time, and Grant and I talked and he told me about Palomar and the things he'd been going through and I told him about why I was so skewered for so long and we somehow arrived at the same place at the same time, in terms of what we were capable of doing and what we wanted to do. I was excited -- there was no real hesitation after I knew what was going on.
Was it a hard decision to say ``Lets have a show in Lawrence'' after all this time, or were you really ready?
Fitch: It was just hard to figure out when to do it. We've been playing since last fall. This is where we wanted to start the music again.
Hennessey: We've gotten a lot more thoughtful. ... We're all a little older, a little smarter about what we want to accomplish and the fact that we're taking it seriously.
Fitch: Mark had a band in New York, and we had a band, Palomar. When it came time to do this, it helped me figure out what my role was in Paw better. I feel really good about being in a band with Mark again. That sure wasn't the case with us for a long time. It was convoluted by everything around us, not necessarily what we were doing.
One time Paw did a two-month tour of the States, came home, left two days later, went to Europe for six weeks, left there for Australia and New Zealand and finally came home. You're really out of your mind at that point. ...
If you plan on touring after this new record comes out, would you approach it differently?
Hennessey: Yes. The pressures can really take it out of you if you're not working together. We're so much smarter about those things now. Communication is the key to any sort of successful relationship. Having a shared goal really helps. The difference would be the way we handle ourselves and the way we approach what we're doing more thoughtfully than we ever have before, which in these few shows we've done recently has made such a huge difference.
Fitch: Also there's not rampant alcohol and drug abuse. We're not lighting each other on fire onstage and drinking two bottles of whiskey inside of an hour-and-a-half set.
Would you say you have, or have had, a bad reputation in Lawrence?
Fitch (laughing): Individually or as a whole?
Hennessey: Individually, yes. ... We've been a band for a long time and we've done a lot of stuff. We've kept it together. Everything that's happened, it's part of who we are, but it's behind us. Newsweek, the Nirvana stuff, ``Is Lawrence the next Seattle,'' the band rivalry ... we're different people now. We're a lot smarter, and a lot quicker and a lot happier with what we're doing. Bad reputation, good reputation -- it's part of our past ...
Fitch: The reality is that we're together again because of the music, so here we are eight years later in the public eye. Maybe it's time we were judged on the music. No one is going to hurt my feelings if they don't like the band, but the music, I'm passionate enough about it. It brought me back to want to play with Mark again -- not for a big party or for fame or fortune, but to make another record with this band. I think it's time other people see it that way. too.
What can people expect at the show?
Hennessey: They can expect to be thoroughly entertained. They can expect to see ...
Fitch: .. a loud band.
Hennessey: Seriously, they can expect to see the best Paw show to date.
Fitch: I think the coolest thing about playing in this band is that ... anything was fun back when we started, but now ... it's really fulfilling. It'll be a pivotal night for us ... to reckon a lot of demons and to get up there and play well together as friends, for the first time really, all in the same place.
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