“I believe everyone here has brand-new strings,”
announces Mike Hoenerhoff, guitarist for the Ann Arbor band The
Book Was Better. Not to be left out, drummer Bill Davidson replies,
“I have new shoelaces!” That’s the essence of the
band — down-to-earth, funny guys who will accept you, with or
without strings. Hoenerhoff, Davidson, lead vocalist and guitarist
Dan Jones and guitarist, keyboardist and percussionist Erich
Harowby all went to high school together in Lansing, while the
latest member, bassist Alain Watts, hails from Ann Arbor. With
Watts in the mix, the band has been together six months or so, but
you wouldn’t know the difference since they play together so
naturally — each with an original style.

Julie Pannuto

The guys consider themselves to be something a little like Sunny
Day Real Estate, with songs ranging from intense vocalized screams
accompanied by heavily layered verses to mellowed-out
Radiohead-like releases. In fact, Radiohead are a huge influence to
the guys, especially to Hoenerhoff, who claims,
“they’re bigger than life.” The Book Was Better
have hopes of blowing up to the status of a band like Radiohead.
It’s a slow process but they’re making progress. A tour
is in the works, and the guys have their first album, Believe Me
When I Say…, coming out next month. One of the songs,
“Eleven: Eleven,” stands out with a solid baseline, a
tambourine that adds a lighter, faster beat and synthesized vocals
that are reflective of Robert Smith.

Watts says that playing in the band is “something we have
to do to maintain a semblance of sanity.” This dedication to
music shows through in their live performance. Their show at the
Blind Pig last week was so energy-filled that Jones was doubled
over from the sheer power of belting out the music, while Harowby
slammed against the wall from the adrenaline of bouncing on the
crowded stage.

Unfortunately, the band members are paying for all the album and
concert equipment themselves. Jones explains that without a label,
everything has to be done from the grassroots. The band, however,
has had some help along the way — namely from the jukebox at
Leopold’s. Their songs have racked up more than 30 plays on
what Jones feels “is the best jukebox in town.”
Leopold’s has helped spread their music around town, which
according to the guys, is difficult in Ann Arbor. Local bands with
no labels have a difficult time of sharing their music because all
promotion is done by word of mouth. “There is a whole world
of music but you only hear what’s on the radio,”
Hoenerhoff says. Without a radio station like East Lansing’s
“The Edge,” “most people are ignorant to (the
local music scene).”

The band members say that when bands finally do get the
attention and play at some of Ann Arbor’s few lasting venues
like the Blind Pig, there’s a lack of audiences.
“People would rather watch reality TV than hear music,”
Watts explains.

Jones points out that even if he doesn’t like the type of
music being played, he would go to a concert just to help out a
fellow band: “I’ll go pay five dollars and support (the
music scene) because I want it to keep going. I don’t want to
leave (Ann Arbor) without helping the community.” So instead
of watching reality TV, Watts suggests, “If it’s a
Friday or Saturday night and you need something to do, go see a
show.” At a show, Davidson feels that “you’ll
find a band out there that can change the way you feel about
something.” And that’s what the group is trying to do
— change the way people feel by filling them with music or,
like Watts says, “dig a little deeper and look for the things
that are important.”

The Book Was Better still has hurdles to overcome like publicity
and finances. And then there are always the small things like Watts
being late to practice because he forgot his bass — all the
guys show him no mercy of course. But for a band of five good
friends who can rock out, you can expect an encore.

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