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Check the Stats

Prolific newcomers The Staggering Statistics release first of many CDs

Interview By Ericka McIntyre

Cincinnati Citybeat

“When you’re picking (band) names, you don’t want your name to be better than your band,” John Curley quips when I ask him where the clever moniker for his latest project came from.

Curley (former bassist of the Afghan Whigs and owner of Ultrasuede Studios), along with Austin Brown (guitar, vocals) and Joe Klug (drums) make up the alliteratively-named Rock trio The Staggering Statistics. And they do not have to worry: They are every bit as good and better than their name.

I hate to admit it, but the first time I heard this band (they’ve been playing shows together since the fall of 2003), I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t necessarily love them, either. But there was one weekend in August when something finally just clicked. They played back-to-back shows on a Friday and Saturday night. I was lucky enough to witness the first one and was completely riveted. I was not alone. By Sunday, my inbox was full of e-mail saying, “Wow, did you catch the Staggering Statistics this weekend?!?”

Maybe this reaction makes sense. Curley says, “All the music that I really like the most and the stuff that I’ve listened to the longest is stuff that it took me a while to like, that I didn’t like at first.”

At any rate, the band is gaining momentum. They played 2004’s MidPoint Music Festival and have scored gigs with The Twilight Singers and The Von Bondies.

They’ve also released an eponymous (and very good) debut CD. It’s bound to be the first of many. When I sit down with the band to get their story, Curley tells me, “Austin showed up to practice tonight saying he’s writing songs for the third record.”

“The third record? Where’s the second record?” I ask.

Curley laughs. “Exactly!”

Brown is a prolific songwriter and writes all the band’s lyrics. The music, he tells me, is more collaborative. “I bring in some mild structures and everything (the music) ends up being — everything that’s good about it, the dynamics — all that is dictated by how we end up playing it together,” he says. “To me that’s what a song is all about.”

Brown is truly fun to watch live. He beams from the first song in the set to the last and Klug and Curley back him up with intense energy (not to mention incredible musicianship). For Brown, it isn’t about being Mr. Indie Cool Hipster Rock Guy; he’s truly laying it on the line up there. His lyrics are very personal and clever, and he performs them with his heart and guts, whether to a packed house or a sparsely populated room.

“I would much rather play to 20 people (who are into it),” Brown says, “than be in New York and play to 60 people who are supposed to be cool — like A&R reps or angels or cool people or whatever — and have them fucking ignore me.”

When I ask the band their thoughts on the state of music in Cincinnati, Curley says, “Cincinnati is the kind of place where there’s just a finite amount of people that are going to come to see stuff, to support, to really be the foundation of any kind of scene.”

“And thank God for that!” Brown adds. “Everywhere else I’ve lived, bigger cities with bigger music scenes, you just end up with a bunch of people that are there to be seen, and they’re not interested in the music.”

“I think Cincinnati is a great place to do art,” Curley continues, “(but) it’s a bad place to be an artist. Because you can live here cheaply and stay under the radar, do your own thing, but once you try to go out and get some support for it … you almost have to take it out of town and have it be cool somewhere else before people here really accept it.”

While that might be true, I have the feeling the Statistics will be playing to more packed houses here soon. As good as they are they don’t need to take their act anywhere else to make it “cool.” It already is.

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