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Ready For Liftoff 

Poprocket looks to explode

The name's a bit of a misnomer. One instinctively thinks two things when a band has "pop" in their name. Either said band is a prefab construction made by some fatcat svengali like Lou Pearlman, or else a collection of import-only vinyl fetishists with hooks-a-plenty and a skewed-older fanbase.Neither of which really explains Poprocket's sound. Think of Poprocket, then, as the similarly named popping candy that folks warned you about mixing with soft drinks: Pop Rocks. "Cause they do.

Jay Garrigan is the head songwriter for the trio, as well as its lead singer and guitarist. Having played in a number of local bands (Violet Strange, Laburnum) over the years, he -- through trial and error -- says he's finally hit upon the balance he was looking for.

"I wanted to be a songwriter who was part of a band, and not be a songwriter that dictated -- or bought -- a band," Garrigan says. "I'm a leader, but I'm more of a guide; I wanted a team, but I wanted my role to be the primary songwriter. First and foremost, I wanted to get a band together that was based on my songwriting, comprised of people who believed in my songs and didn't have other music career agendas."

Now, finding a musician without a career agenda is about as rare as finding a hotel bellhop in LA with no interest in penning a screenplay. However, most musicians, in trying to bring their work to the public, are forced to hold onto other career agendas -- like having a day job -- in order to pay the bills. More on this in a bit. Back to Jay.

"After I left Laburnum, I spent a summer playing solo gigs and writing new material," reveals Garrigan. "Jeffrey Larish found my website through a link at Lou Ford's website. He liked a lot of the things I said about playing live music in my tour journals, and offered to play bass after he listened to a few of my songs. One night, Jeff and I were going to a bar on Thomas Street for a "band meeting,' and I saw fuzzy-headed Shawn Lynch and his wife Betsie walk past us. I thought I should have stopped him right then and there because I heard he just left Lou Ford as their drummer, but for whatever reason I didn't stop him ... I knew Shawn would be a great drummer because he had bitchin' sideburns -- so did Jeff, but Shawn's took on a life of their own."

Larish soon left the band to join -- coincidentally enough -- Lou Ford, and Jenny Plyler was nabbed to replace him. Explains Garrigan, "Eric Cavanaugh (formerly of Frocky Jack) gave me a tip on a bass player ... so I e-mailed her, and then I found out she was in a band from DC called Popgun -- a band I had contacted before and wanted to trade a few shows with. I think it's been a whirlwind trip for Jenny, as within a month of joining us we were playing NYC during CMJ."

Why play with a Popgun when you can play with a Poprocket, right? According to Garrigan, the "rock" part of Poprocket started showing up when the band began taking on as many regional shows as they could. Of course, the punk-inspired bass playing of Plyler, a fan of high-energy bands like Shonen Knife, couldn't have hurt.

"Our sound never really seemed to fit any certain genre, but when we started we were more pop-oriented," confesses Garrigan. "After three years of touring, (it became) obvious that we were pretty good at putting on a fun rock show. We're more visceral and emotive than before, I hope. I've also changed the way I sing -- I do less "Freddie Mercury' falsetto and more "Bon Scott' screaming. To be honest, I liked the songs on the first record (Some Songs), but I don't think that really captured the spirit of the band. (I think) Poprocket's new recording, Indie Rot, gives a very accurate picture of the band."

Even with a new record, look for the band to continue to look to the stage for its meal money -- literally.

"Our ultimate goal is and always will be to make a living playing music," Garrigan says. "(Over) the past three years, we've aimed to become known as a regional band, and I think we've achieved this goal. I think a mistake a lot of bands -- especially indie bands -- make is that they try to be really big in their home towns. Take a look at the list of bands in Athens or Chapel Hill who may be the toast of their town, but are unheard of elsewhere. Charlotte isn't a cool place to be from, especially in the music business.

"But I will say the scene here is very strong, talented -- and getting smarter. We just lack resources, like more "zines and college format radio. I'm pretty sure some of the local bands here could probably pay their rent if they had a way to get their music heard in this city during the day."

Poprocket will perform Friday, January 31, at Tremont Music Hall. First Night On Earth and Annaray are also on the bill.

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