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Richmond's Mudcat Jones gets serious about its future with a new CD, "What's So Funny?"

'Funny' Business

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Members of Richmond-based rock band Mudcat Jones say that as far as their folks are concerned, they're on an extended two-month fling with their musical aspirations. But as the group's seven-cut CD "What's So Funny?" reveals with its release on April 25, these guys are taking their evolving musical futures far more seriously than mom and dad might hope.

"We're going for more emotion now as well as rocking out," explains singer Daryll Ganz. "Early on, it was just getting up there playing music; there wasn't that much direction for the band …[Now] we're trying to make more of an emotional connection with an audience."

Both Ganz and guitarist Jimmy Zednik explain that with "Funny" they and bandmates Tim Leonard, Philippe Herndon and Gregg Brooks took a tighter approach to playing and writing. The goal is to create memorable pop music that hits a commercially viable target while remaining true to the band's party spirit. The group may stretch it out onstage, but on record the boys are going for a compact groove. Richmond clubgoers can catch this band's evolving sound Saturday, April 29, at Alley Katz.

"The focus is on three-minute songs … the strength of the band and the songs is the selling point," Zednik offers. "We've seen countless bands that don't [jam] all that well. We didn't want to get lost in that. …Our goal was to edit songs down [and] get them concise."

Ganz and Zednik say the quintet has developed confidence after playing a load of decent gigs up and down the East Coast for the past couple of years. Mudcat has appeared at venues from Maine to the Wetlands in New York City to the Garage in Washington, to North Carolina festival stages. Granted, there is no major label tour or product and the guys all have day jobs. But by working a regional circuit with a new CD, the band figures to build a broader fan base that knows the group and comes to hear its songs.

The fact that the band has already built a mid-Atlantic following is a credit to both the group's talents and some good luck. When the band members met at the College of William and Mary in 1996, it was pure fun with little thought for a future. But they knew members of Agents of Good Roots, and Agents was glad to have them open at East Coast shows. Ganz and Zednik admit Mudcat wasn't really prepared at the time but the reaction was good nonetheless. Booking agents and venues took notice. By Christmas 1998 with everyone well out of college, living in Richmond and playing regularly, the band knew this wasn't an extended vacation but a gig with a possible future. The members always plowed all the money they earned back into the band, and by the summer of '99 they had enough to hire some experienced studio hands to help them make "Funny." With a new pop-oriented record, a more professional attitude and new management in hand, Mudcat Jones has hopes for a strong future.

"We haven't put on the full court press at all," Ganz says. "We're differently focused now. …This is what we want to

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