"TagYerit... Rabbit Guitar and All!"

by Geoff Wilbur
Sponsored In Part By
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Imagine that music is your calling, your love, your desire, your joy. Now imagine having complete control over your music, without an intervening record company. Sure, the upside potential may not be as great financially, but if your music comes from the heart, that's fine. And that's TagYerit.

The band is Rich and FloraLee Newman, and last year TagYerit released Tubeman, the follow-up to debut CD Heavy Construction.

Says Rich, "First of all, just to clarify, TagYerit, the band,  is a studio only project. I know that immediately closes certain doors to bands. And I donít necessarily recommend it for other bands, but then again, I see no reason not to try it. It just means that we work harder in other areas of promotion. Flo and I see ourselves primarily as songwriters. Performing the songs in the studio is as far as weíd like to take it. Then itís time to move on to new ideas."

So, what is the story behind TagYerit? Rich explains, "Flo and I met in college (UMass) in 1971. At the time, Flo was running a monthly coffeehouse, and she knew most of the college performers. It was kind of inevitable that we meet. Her dorm room became a mecca for guitarists who wanted to jam. So I started hanging around her dorm room and never left. The irony is that Flo has always been a 'practice hound,' and she never jammed. So for a long time after Flo and I married, we never played music together. But by 1990, after having worked out unique and creative solutions to many ventures, we were ready to collaborate on music. To motivate Flo to record, I bribed her by promising a trip to Disney Worldís Haunted House -- she was born on Halloween!"

OK, so that's what brought TagYerit out to the public. Rich explains the history behind the musical tastes that create the music: "By the '50s and '60s, when I was growing up, popular music had become inseparable with the American culture. With the prevalence of transistor radios, music had become a soundtrack for every experience. And I just loved that! If youíre down, something on the radio speaks to you... if youíre confused... if youíre trying to find someone to share your life with... whateverís going on, thereís a troubadour nearby, filling you up until youíre overflowing. And then just when you think youíve come to understand and come to terms with something, 'wham,' you hear something different on the radio, and itís like waking up from a dream. I could give you a long list of influences and youíd be shaking your head in agreement. Youíll find the same artists on so many lists. But out of them all, I still always go back to listen to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix."

When searching for an appreciate audience, a band's musical influences are probably less important than an idea of which fans might also dig a band's sound. Rich suggests, "There are certain artists that refuse to let their audiences take life too seriously. That would include the B-52s and They Might Be Giants. Maybe we donít sound like them, but I like to think that we drink from the same tainted well."

As a studio band, naturally TagYerit doesn't have a list of big name acts with whom they've shared a stage, but the band still has received its share of accolades. Of particular note, says Rich, "One of the early affirmations for us was learning that our debut CD Heavy Construction made the Editors' Picks list at Guitar Player magazine for 1996. Since Flo is our guitarist, this was a double honor for her, not only because it was a dream of hers to be mentioned in Guitar Player, but also because so few women guitarists are getting any recognition."

Another thing that makes success for a band like TagYerit much more possible is the Internet -- no record execs, just complete musical control and access to millions of pairs of ears worldwide. Of the Internet, Rich notes, "For me, itís the absolute best way to communicate. Iím not one of those people that likes the interruption of a telephone or an instant message. Iím not that clever. Give me time to think before I respond. Owning a cell phone would be my worst nightmare. The Internet lets me discover and learn at my own pace. And this works well in reverse. I can create a web space that will be there when someone actually wants to discover it. And not just about the band, but about a song or an experience. Very few bands are doing what we do online. Iím not really sure why that is. But an entertainer owes it to their audience to make their website entertaining. Music videos would have failed if MTV played band bios all day.  The TagYerit web space mirrors many areas of our life. Chaotic and random, even as itís fun and insightful (hopefully).

"One of our web pages highlights an unusual hobby of ours -- we had started collecting toilet paper samples in 1978, as a fun spin on the 'collector mania' thatís so prevalent. When we went online with our music, we also put our toilet paper collection online, as the Whole World Toilet Paper Museum to help generate traffic for the band. While there are thousands of band sites, there are relatively few toilet paper sites. This has proven to be a good strategy for generating web traffic. It has also led to a significant amount of downloads for our song "Embarrassed" which, appropriately enough, is featured there. Because of this, we were recently invited by the Guinness Book of World Records to submit information about one of our collections. I wonít know for a while whether theyíll actually mention the toilet paper collection in their 2001 edition, but it was nice to be asked!" The site, by the way, is http://www.tagyerit.com/tp.htm.

To date, TagYerit's promotion has been a little helter skelter for Tubeman, Rich explains. "For a number of reasons, Iíve been a bit more scattered about promoting Tubeman, than I was about TagYeritís first release Heavy Construction. We had an unusual CD release party last fall. It was a "TagYerit Tag Sale" to benefit two animal fostering organizations. We collected stuff from everyone we knew, and sold it all the at our town common, while music from both TagYerit CDs played over the PA. Besides raising $1800 for the two animal rights groups, we were also able to increase local visibility for TagYerit."

What's next on Rich and Flo's plate? "One of our next big projects," says Rich, "will be to develop one or two new music videos. I now have a digital video camera, and weíre in the planning stages."

And... "I have this philosophy," says Rich, "which is at odds with the way the music industry typically works. Conventional wisdom says that a song (or an album) has to fly out of the nest, or else it must be abandoned. But me, Iíll be promoting my music for the rest of my life, and I believe that each song will take off when the time is right. If a song is well crafted, it will be just as relevant in 20 years as it is today.  And if I position that song just right -- on the web, that day will arrive sooner rather than later."

Before the interview is over, Rich adds, "Maybe youíd like to know why Flo plays a rabbit-shaped guitar, which she carved herself (with the help of luthier William Cumpiano)." Of course, I'd forgotten -- explains the label name Wabbit Wecordings, but still I forgot to ask. Says Rich, "Could it be because we have 2 litter trained rabbits who rule our house?"

Yeah, always answer the last question with another question, and always leave 'em wanting more. TagYerit. And since you won't find 'em at record stores around the country, check the band out at http://www.tagyerit.com


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