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Paris Texas Biography

Last updated: 11/04/2004 09:58:12 PM

"Time present and time past", Eliot wrote in Burnt Norton, "are both perhaps present in time future". Fit neatly into that poetic paradox is Paris, Texas. Or perhaps not.

Formed at 112 S. Hancock, Madison, Wisconsin in December 1997, Paris, Texas is the musical progeny of three roommates and two not roommates. Nursing a convergent interest in America's Funny Man, Neil Hamburger, and a rather peripheral interest in music too, they spent countless hours in their basement soundproofing their walls with styrofoam, tuning their instruments and occasionally playing them. Tuning instruments and infrequent practicing, however, simply wasn't enough. As Macolm MacLaren would remind us, the next step was coming up with a catchy name. Eschewing punk rock tradition, they decided for a totally original name, taking profound pains to avoid facile cultural references to either, say, contemporary French cinema or dusty southwestern cities. Wim Wenders, Dean Stockwell, not even the Lonestar state even crossed their collective minds.

Playing instruments did, however, turn out to be their strong suit; so strong, in fact, in early 1998, they recorded a five-song demo in the Madison basement of Rainer Maria's Kyle Fischer. They ultimately landed their first gig at Whole Music Club in Minneapolis in February 1998. It was Valentine's Day and they opened with the Psychedelic Furs "Pretty in Pink", thereby prompting immediate comparisons. With their demo and subsequent 7" circulating around the indie rock samizdat, they attracted the attention the region's more perspicacious music critics and fans, and were picked up by Danville, Illinois largest label, Polyvinyl Records. In rapid succession, Polyvinyl released a four-song single and the very magenta debut full length "So You Think It's Hot Here?" in 1999. Featuring songs about Madison characters beloved ("Cadillac of High Hair", "Das Wolf", "Silver") and disdained ("Rotten Apples"), the album marked the start of a series of ambitious tours in their 1976 Ford Econoline (Consumer Report's #1 car for that year). In the fall of that year, Milwaukee's own (some would say Milwaukee's Best -- but not me) uber-talented Nolen Treolo joined Paris, Texas. With the ebullient Nolen supplanting Matt Mangan, Paris Texas rounded out their already unique sound and recorded a 5-song EP released on Polyvinyl -- the infectious "Brazilliant". Lauded by critics, and beloved by shirtless fans of both genders, the EP prompted the Village Voice's Chuck Eddy to implore eager listeners to "think Smiths as Buzzcocks" as "the guitars jangle pretty in pink, and the taut Wire/Only Ones/Magazine rhythms come to grinding halts."

Paris, Texas since have been recording demos and sedulously touring, playing to capacity crowds in this nation's finer musical venues with over 100 shows in 2000 and at least a dozen in 2001 and 2002. Featured annually at CMJ, and touring with Sensefield, Sunday's Best, The Dismemberment Plans and any number of bands of equal or greater distinction, the emergence of a Paris, Texas Diaspora (with members leaving their ancestral home of Madison for such far flung places as Tucson, Arizona and Milwaukee) hasn't impeded them yet. In 2003, Polyvinyl released their latest endeavor, a sonic zip of an EP, entitled Action Fans Help Us, in anticipation of a long awaited second full length. What does the future hold for Paris, Texas? When asked the same question about Public Enemy, Chuck D memorably replied, "The future of Public Enemy got a ..." While not as obtuse or profound, Paris, Texas is content to continue to record, tinker with their sound, and play shows with an authenticity that is impossible to miss or even forget.