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This ambient instrumental trio's music is often disturbing and always inventive.

Mood Swings

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Big Lazy's subterranean, minor-key instrumental journeys into eerie and twangy worlds are not the stuff of mainstream pop culture. Often disturbing and always inventive, the trio's tight and thoughtful approach produces stark and unpredictable music that's often more befitting a midnight nightmare than an MTV play list.

But even if the Brooklyn-based group's music sometimes ventures into threatening sonic seas, the band's mysterious sound has a wide range of fans from Israeli punk rockers to National Public Radio listeners. Finding these fans and business breaks aren't easy for the struggling band, but opportunity knocks enough to keep Big Lazy on a working man's course.

"It's hard to make [breaks] happen … but when they happen it's so natural it's easy," 41-year-old guitarist Stephen Ulrich says.

The band has made reverb-drenched natural magic happen at past Richmond shows. On Sunday, the group returns to Poe's Pub.

Ulrich says Richmond is one of the band's favorite towns. He fondly recalls the aftermath of one of its first local shows. He, upright bassist Paul Dugan and drummer Tamir Muskat had an off night at a VCU-area club and afterwards they were approached by a group of art students.

"These kids came up to us ... these really smart, sweet, underage kids. They said, 'Hey, will you play at our house?' We played until 7 a.m. There were bongs, the whole bit. ... Richmond has been very good to us."

Ulrich readily admits moments such as those are rare and the road is often filled with disappointments.

The past year has opened new doors for the group. It played its first gigs in Israel to sold-out crowds. A second full-length CD is finished and ready for fall release, and two soundtracks for "gritty, noire" independent New York films are in the can. An independent label has also offered the band worldwide distribution. Ulrich says the group weighs such business deals carefully: "We're not sure we're ready to franchise the lemonade stand yet."

Prior to this year, Big Lazy found recognition through its live shows in New York and the mid-Atlantic region. It also received soundtrack exposure on the television drama "Homicide" and in the film "Frogs for Snakes."

The band got a big break when John Cougar Mellencamp canceled a 1999 NPR performance and producers hired Big Lazy for a 20-minute fill-in slot after seeing the group's picture in the New Yorker. Through that exposure, Ulrich says the band sold boxes of recordings and got its name out nationwide to a different brand of music listener.

Big Lazy's path is no joy ride but the dice rolls the band's way often enough to let the bets ride. The new CD's instrumentals are fresh and raw and the live show is constantly evolving. There's also the label deal to consider and an August appearance with other independent bands at the two-day Sleazefest in Chapel Hill, N.C. As Big Lazy well knows, you make your friends where you find them.

"For us, it's not a matter of sending out resumes," Ulrich notes with both humor and honesty. "It's about who sees us in some dive."





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