No Room to Pogo bounces out first CD

"We want this CD to answer the question: 'Who are we?'" Jason Wussow jokes. The CD, "Speed," is the first for No Room to Pogo -- a five-member band named for an incident when Wussow, the only founding member still in the band, was jumping on a po...

"We want this CD to answer the question: 'Who are we?'" Jason Wussow jokes.

The CD, "Speed," is the first for No Room to Pogo -- a five-member band named for an incident when Wussow, the only founding member still in the band, was jumping on a pogo stick in his small yard and bashed into a tree.

And he's maybe only partially kidding -- while it's catchy and infectious, Pogo's eclectic mix of ska, blues, jazz, rock and country is one of the cooler experiments in the Northland music scene, with a distinct vibe.

One of the band members, Sara Softich, says it took her a year and a half with the band to really get it.

"It's all these weird rhythms," she said.


But there are other goals for the CD. One is obvious: to reach new audiences around the region.

Another is to share the new sound that has evolved. The Pogo lineup has changed over the years, and some stability and a regular weekly gig at Twin Ports Brewery in Superior has helped the group to gel.

The crew is now comprised of Wussow on guitar, vocals and harmonica; Softich on vocals and fiddle; Steve Isakson on electric, acoustic and slide guitars and dobro; Chuck Watson on drums; and George Lee Ellsworth on bass.

"We just want everybody to hear us one more time, because it seems like a totally new band," Wussow said.

The band has particularly grown in that weekly gig. They play well enough together that they hardly practice, often trying out totally new songs early on in gigs at Twin Ports.

"We did an hour of new songs one night," Wussow said. "... That's why Twin Ports is fun -- if there's not a lot of people, we just take it over."

Both Softich and Wussow said the audience there is a music audience, keen to listen and not a typical bar crowd.

Wussow ought to know, running Beaner's Central much the same way in West Duluth.


{IMG2}"That's what's so cool about Twin Ports," he said. "It's definitely a treasure in Superior."

It can also explain why Pogo can play three hours and not repeat anything -- the crowd is so open to experiments that anything from old-time fiddle to Willie Nelson will work.

As is typical, all of the members of Pogo have or are playing in other groups. Some of them show up on "Speed." James Moors, whom Wussow has worked with extensively, worked with him on the production. Max Dakota, who plays with Isakson and Ellsworth, is mentioned in the liner notes, as are some former members of Pogo, such as Teague Alexy.

When the group tours, it will often go out in duos and trios if some members have conflicts.

But one of the reasons all that cross-collaboration goes on is to try unique sounds, and Pogo's sound, at least on "Speed," has much to do with Wussow. While several of the band members are songwriters, Wussow did all the songs on the disc.

"Pretty much we only utilize Jason, because he's the only one that thinks 'No Room to Pogo,'" Softich said.

The songs are mostly upbeat, and Wussow's ska influence comes through, particularly on tracks like "Ruin My Day," one of two tracks where Jason Minke and Tim Stratioti provide sax and trombone.

Softich's fiddle lends a country or folk feel, and many of the harmonies are clearly jazz- and blues-inspired.


If Wussow's songwriting dominated, all the members weighed in on the CD, and all of them are picky musicians. That's why the recording process for the 13 tracks took more than 160 hours. Some of it was recorded in Wussow's basement studio, and other portions were recorded at Sacred Heart Music Center. In fact, just getting the drum tracks right took 20 to 30 hours.

Still, due to the band playing together so much, Softich said it was smooth despite all the work and numerous takes.

"That was pretty much the easiest recording project I've worked on," she said.

Wussow agreed, noting that he's really pleased with the outcome.

Pogo hosted three CD release parties, including a Thursday gig on KUMD and a Friday night party at Twin Ports Brewery. On Saturday, July 19, the CD release at Beaner's takes place, starting at 8 p.m. Accident Clearinghouse opens, and while the cover charge is $5, you can buy a CD and get in free.

No Room to Pogo plays Monday nights at Twin Ports Brewery.

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