Syracuse, NY
Thursday, April 19, 2001
Cropduster rock like Ween, roll like the Stones.


By Andrew Parks

Whatever you do, don't listen to anything that your cat is trying to tell you.

Marc Maurizi, guitarist and crooner for Cropduster (picture the Rolling Stones running over avant-garde group Ween with a truck while drinking moonshine) knows this
.

In the early stages of Cropduster's evolution, Maurizi's feline friend decided to show his discontent with the singer's lyrics by relieving himself all over the notebooks containing them.

Luckily for Maurizi, he did not let the soiled work get in the way of his rock star dreams and the critical acclaim yet to come. Cropduster plans to "blow yer ass away for just 4 bucks" at the OPL, 443 Burnet Ave., today at 10pm. The Flashing Astonishers will open.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Maurizi described the long, drawn out road he has traveled to reach the point where he is today (trying to rock towns across the nation daily and nightly). The insanity started at the age of 15, when Maurizi began playing bass after years of inspiration from the Beatles and classic rock.

Nine years and countless bands later, Maurizi said his girlfriend bought him a guitar and pushed him to start songwriting. Childhood friend and Cropduster guitarist/vocalist Tom Gerke was there at the beginning to shoot Maurizi's futile attempts down.

"A lot of the early stuff was really bad," Maurizi said. "I brought stuff to Tom and he said, 'In six years or so, they will be good.'"

"Trevor Trailer Trash," a tale of a troubled teen being chased by police who raided his parents' drug-ridden trailer, made it past the chopping block, however, and set Cropduster into motion.

"(Tom and I) were like, 'We have to record this somehow.'" Maurizi said. "That was the spur."

"Afterwards, I wrote four out of the eight songs on our first album in a row."

Humble Beginnings

Sensing they were on to something, Gerke and Maurizi recruited drummer Scott Kopitskie and bassist Lee Estes in 1998 to round out the Cropduster lineup. Soon after, they independently released their self-titled debut. Maurizi was quick to point out that the band has matured greatly since their first crack at the music game.

"The quality of our sound has increased exponentially." Maurizi said. "I am more relaxed now."

"I don't write as much now but when I do, it's much better. Some writers feel like they have to write every day or they have a problem, but I don't force things out."

Maurizi added that Cropduster especially took their time developing their latest album, "Drunk Uncle". The polished work of punk and rock with a fried country feel was released earlier this year on We Put Out Records.

Cropduster's devotion to improving as artists was rewarded in 2000 with The Musician's Atlas Independent Music Award for Best Rock Act. Cropduster picked up the plaque for "Nothin's Gonna Change." Judges on the panel included Ben Folds and lady "Magnolia," Amiee Mann.

"I was pretty surprised at first," Maurizi said. "I was like 'Holy shit dude, this is pretty cool.'"

"You never think about winning awards when you are writing songs, unless you are writing them for Barbara Streisand. But now we have a nice little plaque hanging in our bathroom." Future shock.

Maurizi said the recognition the Atlas award brought has helped jumpstart their career and receive attention beyond their native New Jersey, from Billboard to College Music Journal. Nut as Cropduster slowly infects the nation with their unique sound, Maurizi remains humble

"Right now, I am concerned with making enough money to pay the rent," Maurizi said.  "We are very serious about what we do, but we don't take ourselves too seriously."

As a band that thrives on creativity and experimentation, Cropduster does not quite fit into the sugary landscape of pop music today. But Maurizi said he's optimistic about the future of music and confident that people will be over Britney Spears and friends in no time.

"Things go in cycles and the times in music now aren't all that different from the late 80's with Paula Abdul and The New Kids on the Block," Maurizi said. "Because of that, god things will happen.

Right now, Cropduster is part of The Music Syndicate, Inc., which starter in 1997 as a college and loud rock radio promotions company and later expanded to include a management department, street team, and We Put Out Records. Jon Landman was part of the original five that founded the grassroots, family-oriented establishment. When asked about the company's mission and reason for existing, Landman quickly responded with an explanation of the We Put Out Records moniker.

"The whole idea behind the name, besides that it sort of gets a chuckle every time you mention it," Landman said. "is that there are so many good bands out there without record deals and with what we do it was like, 'You know we should start putting records out.'"

Landman added that when he first heard Cropduster, he was skeptical.

"I was like, 'So what?' And then I was driving home from work one night, put them on and it was like the stars aligned. I don't know what happened."

If any of the major labels come knocking now that Cropduster is starting to receive some attention, Maurizi said that he would be careful about making the move to the big, commercialized leagues.

"We wouldn't just sign to a major label deal," he said. "Anyway, it would be really cause they were telling us 'we don't like this song' or 'we need more hits.'"

"We would be like 'fuck you' because this is what you're getting. If you don't want to put it out, don't put it out."

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