The Urge Is Back: A Reunion Interview With Steve Ewing



So, you might have heard that the Urge, that ska goliath of local lore, is back together. You might not have heard, however, that it is with a vengeance. The decision to reunite for the first time since 2005 comes with a changed music scene, a more grown-up group of guys and a laundry list of things that must be accomplished in their near future: significant practicing, their Pointfest debut, a full album at some point. "We've had all kinds of offers to reform and play the old tunes, and we've always said no to that," says guitarist Jerry Jost. "We don't want to be a cover band of our own songs."

The pressure that comes with starting fresh is considerable, but frontman Steve Ewing has every intention of ignoring it. The band has always worked best, he says, when it's rooted in the present -- even if its dominant genre is not.

Kelsey Whipple: How did you know that reuniting was a real possibility this time? Steve Ewing: We see each other a lot. We all kind of live in the same neighborhoods, and we've crossed paths a lot over the years. We've talked about getting together over the years to play shows, but the one thing we all agreed on is that we don't really just want to play a show without a new CD or at least some new music for the fans to listen to. And that is time-consuming. It takes a long time to sit down and shift everybody's schedules. We finally got that time, and we had been talking about it for a very, very long time. We felt like the best way to get this thing done the right way was to do Pointfest because almost all of our previous singles have been broken by The Point. We figured the best way to reintroduce ourselves to the Midwest was to go with the radio station that we love. When was the last time the band was officially together?

I cannot exactly remember. We did a Pointfest maybe six or seven years ago, and we did some shows at The Pageant right after that. We made a decision to disband, so we knew that was going to be it. With that in mind, those shows were great. I think there were five sold-out shows at The Pageant, and we had people fly in from all over the world. The shows were fantastic, and it was a great way to go out.

What has the fan reaction been like since your announcement?

The core fans have been going crazy. They're absolutely out of their minds, which is great. We haven't been able to really do that much with the music yet, and they're already very happy about us doing some new music and being back together. Everybody just says, "Play that motherfucking Urge shit."

What had to change over the past few years in order to make reuniting possible? What issues did the band face?

I think there needed to be some space and time from when we played last until now. For me, I needed to have some space from that and have enough of a gap where it would be significant and there would be a reason for us to come back and play. I've always felt that our music was important, and I felt there had to be some time. Naturally, I knew it was going to take time for everybody to wrap their brains around getting back into it, because it will become its entity. It will become engulfing. It will become our lives again. Everybody had to prepare for their lives to turn upside down again. When it comes time to hit the road, we'll be spending all of our time together as a band. I haven't done anything for the Steve Ewing Project recently, and I'm putting all of my energy into writing for the Urge.

Is there an ideal album release date yet?

We have no plans at this point. We're just writing and recording right now. We obviously do have a plan to release music, but right now we have a song we felt we were ready to release to radio, so we did that for The Point exclusively. As far as the rest goes, we're in the process of finishing it. We're not with a record label right now, so we don't have hard release dates to abide by. We have the choice to put these songs out any kind of way we want to.

What qualities do you think have helped the band maintain its huge local following during the time it was defunct?

Nothing sounds like it. Nothing did sound like it. Nothing will sound like it. It's kind of a one-two punch: We had an original sound, and our live show was second to none. Even if you didn't like the songs on the radio, if you saw our live show, you couldn't resist that. All of our fans can recall going to a show or getting a CD, and it puts them back into that time and place. And we want to have a memorable impact on these people. That's important to us. I mean, my favorite band is The Police. It's kind of the same thing. Nobody sounds like them or ever will, and for them to get back together, I was like, "Oh my god."

To what extent is the Urge still indebted to the local music scene?

Big time. It goes two ways: We hussled this scene since the '80s, and there was a time when it was all cover bands playing at the bars. We hussled it hard, and we got our fans, but the whole thing was that we always had to give them something that was better than that. Our relationship with our fans is that we're always going to raise that bar for them. We have to put on a crazy show. We have to make things bigger. We have to. You have worked on solo material and other projects during the in-between time. How have you noticed that scene change since the band was last together?

To be honest with you, I haven't been really tuned into local original bands because I've been kind of in my own world and doing my own things. It's still a good, bubbly scene out there. There are still great bands and great musicians playing, but there might be less of an outlet for them here than there used to be. When our big singles were coming out, we were in a good spot. Modern rock was a new thing, and it was still cool. Bands you wouldn't normally hear about were getting played on the radio, like Primus and the Urge, even. I think now there's maybe a little less of that, but I don't see why that can't change. There's a band out there called the Gorge, which I love, and I want bands like that to do the same thing.

What is the next step of the Urge's legacy, at this point?

I'm really just taking it how it goes. I'm not making any plans other than day by day. We'll make this music and then see how things work out. That's kind of the way I've always felt about it. At one point or another, I got wrapped up in the whole industry part of it, which is inevitable, but when we're doing things day to day and really just concentrating on the music, things seem to work out better that way.

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