"If Ms. Cleo had told me when I was 7 years old that one day I'd have my own Shrinky Dink, I would've never believed her," says Schatzi guitarist Monte Williams.
Indeed, Mammoth Records has produced a set of promotional-only Shrinky Dinks in conjunction with the Austin band's major label debut, 50 Reasons to Explode. While the album, produced by emocore guru Ed Rose (Get Up Kids, the Anniversary), makes the band's quirky pop seem effortless, their path to shriveling plastic was hardly a cakewalk. In fact, the band's dual frontmen, Williams and Chris Kyle, have been playing together since 1991 and performing locally as Schatzi since 1996.
"Our approach was just plow ahead and do the music no matter what," says Kyle of the group, which also includes bassist Marc Fort and drummer Mark Ford. "I've always had the idea that it could take 10-20 years, and that we'd be like Guided by Voices -- somebody would recognize what we'd accomplished and step in to help us."
After building a small but consistent local following at Emo's and releasing 1998's Joanie Loves Schatzi, that somebody was Dynamite Hack frontman Mark Morris. After his signing to Universal, Morris fronted Schatzi the cash they needed to record with Rose in Lawrence, Kan. What Mammoth then bought wasn't so much an emocore album as it was a collection of muscular, radio-ready pop songs. Whether alternative radio is ready for what the band calls "bloodthirsty chamber music" remains to be seen, but Kyle says they're in it to stay on the road regardless -- playing for crowds that may or may not care or even like them.
"We're kind of dorky," admits Kyle. "There are certain ultra-hip audiences that don't get us. They'll stand still and clap so politely it's hard to tell if they love us or hate us. They kind of sneer, but it's tough to tell if it's just because they sneer all the time. I'm not sure what we are, but I guess we're not really an art-rock band."