LOS ANGELES-- Though L.A.'s Geraldine Fibbers began life as a group of moonlighting punk rockers playing country music, the band moves into increasingly eclectic turf on its sophomore Virgin album, "Butch," set for release July 1. Virgin senior VP of marketing Barbara Bolan notes, "[The album] moves around in waves ... OK, now you're in this hard aggressive rock place, and then you move into the more country-flavored kind of offerings that have always made that band so interesting. Then you start to move out again, and then it goes in another direction." While "Butch" cuts a broad swath through a variety of musical styles--from Gothic pop on "California Tuffy" to country-fried rock on "Folks Like Me," from squalling punk on "Toybox" to instrumental atmospherics on "Heliotrope" and "Claudine"--it wasn't long ago that the Fibbers were anticipating the moves of many currently trendy bands with their own eccentric readings of classic country songs. In 1994, Carla Bozulich, then frontwoman for the confrontational punk-industrial unit Ethyl Meatplow, hooked up with the members of local punk unit Glue for what all concerned believed would be an entertaining side project. "We really didn't intend to do anything much," says singer/guitarist Bozulich. "We really just wanted to play some country songs. We all liked country, and we were all in bands that were doing other stuff. Ethyl Meatplow was still together ... We were like, 'Well, lets play some country songs, it'll be fun.' "Then when Ethyl Meatplow broke up and a couple other things happened, I said, 'Well, you know, I think that everybody in this band is really great, and we have something together, so let's expand what we're doing. Let's not just fuck around with country songs.'" A debut 10-inch EP--recently reissued on CD with additional live tracks as "What Part Of 'Get Thee Gone' Don't You Understand?" by Long Beach, Calif., indie Sympathy for the Record Industry-- is the Fibbers' lone country-punk testament; by its 1995 Virgin debut, "Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home," the band had evolved beyond its genre roots into tough, highly personal terrain. The well of influence being plumbed by the band has grown deeper, and even Bozulich acknowledges that this may be daunting to some fans. "I think people were wondering if maybe on our second album we would kind of figure it out, maybe, and go in one direction," she says with a laugh. "But it's definitely gotten more severe--the diversity we're exploring is even more severe now." Some of the diversification may have been sparked by a key personnel change within the band, and more may be coming thanks to a recent defection. During a marathon 1995-96 tour, founding guitarist Daniel Keenan was diagnosed with tendinitis and ultimately sidelined. Fortunately, the Fibbers found a ready replacement in Nels Cline, a multitalented L.A. rock and jazz guitarist working at the time with tourmate Mike Watt's band. "Nels really liked us a lot," Bozulich says. "Nels completed the rest of the tours that we did, because Watt wasn't touring anymore [in 1996]. Then when Daniel left the band, Nels became more or less permanent." While Bozulich says that Cline made important contributions, such as the co-written title song (published, like all the group's material by EMI Virgin Songs Inc./Milk Pal Music [BMI]), she adds, "I think that a lot of the change in direction was something that was happening already anyway." Although Cline is now a completely integrated member of the band, the Fibbers--who also include bassist William Tutton and drummer Kevin Fitzgerald--must now contend with the departure of violinist Jessy Greene, who abruptly quit the group this spring. Bozulich says bemusedly, "We really don't understand or know why she left, except that she went to play in the Jayhawks, and I guess her boyfriend's in that band.. It could be that, or maybe she just likes their music better." While the band, which is managed by Ted Gardner of Lannikan, (NOTE: Billboard's spelling, not mine!-Anthony) is still seeking another fiddler to fill Greene's spot, Virgin's Bolan says that touring will be "intrinsic" to promoting "Butch." "We are expecting that they will be ready to go, and we'll have dates beginning to showcase them right at street date, or certainly very close to street date," Bolan says. "While we're not planning on doing what you would call special showcases, we are going to focus on the shows they'll be doing in the high-profile markets that they developed with the first record, which would include Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland [Ore.], San Francisco, Chicago, New York. We will have special emphasis for those shows and bring people in to see them." A first single has not been finalized, but Bolan says it will probably be "California Tuffy" or the Fibbers' spark-striking cover of Can's krautrock classic "Yoo Doo Right." A video will be shot for the track. Bolan says, "Certainly we're going to focus on college radio. Because it's [being released in] the middle of summertime, I suspect we'll start the record there and then do a reservicing of it as we go into late August, just before school starts. The focus track will most likely drop very close to street date, and we'll be starting at commercial alternative to start." She adds that Virgin is planning a promotional 7-inch single of the focus track, with a contrasting number, such as "Folks Like Me," on the flip side. (Sympathy for the Record Industry will issue a vinyl LP version of the album for commercial release.) After the domestic launch of "Butch," Virgin will release the album internationally. "We will have a nice profile developing for them overseas, because we'll have a fair amount of territories releasing the record," Bolan says. "The time frame that's being discussed is September for European and U.K. release."
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