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Truly playing changes

BY RACHAEL LANDER | MARCH 6, 2009 7:22 AM

mp3 samples: Kaspar Hauser

"Mark of Cain"

"MacBeth II"

"Prodigal Son"

Many musicians toil in garages with dreams of “making it big.” For Kaspar Hauser, success came because of continual member rotation and a distinctly Midwestern sound — at least, that’s what band members Thomas Comerford and Stephen Kiraly say.

The Chicago-based group will open for Dave Zollo & the Body Electric at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington, at 9 p.m. Saturday.

This is only the band’s third show in Iowa City, but lead singer Comerford is more than familiar with the town. He attended the UI in the late-90s to study film, sound, and video production. During 1999, his final year at the university, he formed a band by the name of Kaspar Hauser before moving to Chicago after graduation.

“I wasn’t really there to pursue music because I was mainly studying film,” Comerford said. But during his time at the UI, he wrote songs that eventually led him to form Kaspar Hauser. He noted that he had been in a few bands prior to his current one, but they were never priorities for him.

After Comerford’s move to Chicago, things began to take off. Along with teaching film studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he was able to devote time to developing Kaspar Hauser.

“Being in Chicago made me ready to perform on a regular basis,” he said. He also attributes some of his success with the band to the availability of music venues in Chicago.

One of the things that sets Kaspar Hauser apart is that its lineup is constantly changing. Comerford sees both the positive and negative aspects of not having the same group of people playing together all of the time.

“It’s nice to be able to reinvent the songs based on the players you’re working with at a particular time,” he said. One of the characteristics of the band’s member rotation was that “[the music] could be anything at any time,” he said, because new instrumentalists have inspiring interpretations of Kasper Hauser’s material.

While the band’s lineup has revolved frequently, drummer Stephen Kiraly has been almost completely immune to the changes.

“I have been off and on for about eight years,” he said. “People come and go, and [Comerford is] always changing things. I guess I’ve been one of the lucky ones who stays with him.”

For the past three years, the Kasper Hauser’s core has been the same, he said. But with the core group come people floating in and out to be part of a record or participate in certain shows.

“There’s good to both sides,” Kiraly said. “I like the fact that there’s stability with a set group of guys, but I like the fact that Tom can bring in whoever he wants. It is exciting to have a new group of musicians come in.”

Kiraly also attributes Kaspar Hauser’s success to its Midwestern appeal. He noted that one of the band’s songs was featured at a stop during Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic Party nomination in the Midwest — which, in his opinion, shows Kaspar Hauser’s Midwestern appeal.

Kaspar Hauser released its latest album, The Sons, in February. Comerford said the show at the Mill will be the band’s Iowan CD release party.

As for Kaspar Hauser’s live side, Kiraly said the band has many layers that make it a fun and exciting time.

“Usually, it’s a very wide array of things that are covered,” he said. “There’s the music, then there’s the banter in between which can get pretty entertaining. It’s a good time. We come out every year because we like doing it.”


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