Chardon Polka Band aims for a St. Pat’s throwdown
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Chardon Polka Band is on the warpath.
The polka-punk-partiers flirted ever-so-briefly with fame last year as the subject of Reelz reality-TV show “Polka Kings.”
The show quickly flopped, but it taught the band a hard lesson: Don’t ever change to fit someone else’s vision of your art.
Now the CPB has retrenched and is back with a vengeance.
The quartet has recorded a defiantly fun album that reflects its mindset. Titled “World War Polka,” it hits all the band’s trademark styles, whether it’s an original tune, a polka-tized pop song, or a traditional tune with a rap segment.
The album will be released later this month. But the CPB offensive begins tonight when the band headlines the St. Patrick’s Day party at the Magic Tree, on South Avenue in Boardman.
The Vindicator talked about all things CPB with band leader Jake Kouwe:
Q. The title of the new album, and some of the songs you wrote for it – “You Can’t Take My Polka Away from Me” and “Death by Polka” – have a call-to-arms attitude. A little humorous, of course, but not backing down. Are you getting more aggressive when it comes to the CPB?
A. This album is a little more aggressive than some of our previous escapades. That’s definitely by intention. One angle of that is certainly the fight to keep polka music alive and going.
At one point, a lady in the industry told me that we needed to do an album of traditional Cleveland-style polkas to show the old-timers that we could play their style of music. This album is an attempt to do the exact opposite of that. We love the old polka generation, but we’re not trying to appease anyone. We do things our own way. This new album is our style.
Are there undertones of what happened to us during our failed TV show on the album? There just might be. “You Can’t Take My Polka From Me” talks pretty blatantly about getting pushed around and beaten down, yet prevailing with our message of polka and our overall mission. “Polka Kings” didn’t work out for us. I think a lot of people would view that as, “Well, ya had your shot; too bad.” But we’ve got a ton of fight left in us. Then there’s the people saying you can’t make a living doing music, or polka music is dead, or you guys aren’t playing polka the right way. But the tune speaks for us.
The TV show was definitely an experience. I wouldn’t trade that experience, but that doesn’t mean I’d repeat it. We were definitely working for someone else. We were doing things on camera that were someone else’s ideas of what our band was and should be. “World War Polka” sees us return to how we think our music should be played.
Q. There are song segments that stretch the boundaries of polka. Would you like to evolve into an even more unique sound?
A. I think that albums that stick strictly to one genre can get boring. We’ve done the polka thing. What we wanted to do was build an album that keeps you guessing. You might get a traditional polka or a yodeling tune, but then we hit you with a grungy polka-punk anthem like “Death By Polka.” Or maybe you’re jamming to an old Frankie Yankovic favorite before you’re hit with a rap. I want people to have the sensation of “what are we listening to?” in a way that perhaps they did not expect from polka music.
We can emulate the different styles of polka, but, essentially, we’ve got one all our own.
Q. CPB will be at the Magic Tree in Boardman tonight for St. Patrick’s Day. Has St. Pat’s become a big day for the band?
A. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Magic Tree as our St. Paddy’s Day hangout for years to come. What a cool place. We all dig it. Last year was our first St. Paddy’s Day at the place, and it blew us out of the water. It’s surely an alternative to the traditional Irish-ish stuff you usually experience on that day. Yeah, we’re all in green or whatever, but we’re blasting polkas. It’s just a real good time. And when you think about it, why wouldn’t it work? All of our music is about beer and having fun with your friends. It’s a big party. We’ll be doing a little bit of everything that night, which is just about 10 days before the official release of “World War Polka.” So we’ll be doing songs off the record, cover stuff, beer-drinking tunes and the occasional Irish sing-along.