If one is to believe everything written about Evanston native and current resident Jason Narducy, it might be that he sometimes shoots clay pigeons in the dark after sugar-benders; inspired Foo Fighter Dave Grohl to play punk music; runs a painting company even when touring as Bob Mould’s bassist; and started his first touring punk band at age 10.
That’s a pretty impressive three truths and a lie. The last three are definitely true and the first one, although published on the website of his band, Split Single, neither been confirmed nor denied as of press time. He really is the humble Kevin Bacon of indie rock. His rock CV deserves its own Wikipedia page with hyperlinks to 25 years of mix tapes.
Mr. Narducy grew up in Evanston, getting his first guitar at age 8 and starting a band called Verböten two years later. Dave Grohl’s cousin was in that band and while Dave was visiting her in Evanston, she dragged him to a basement rehearsal, where he was blown away.
Mr. Grohl famously retells the tale on his 2014 HBO series, “Sonic Highways,” recounting, “Watching Jason was the first time I thought I could start my own band and write my own kind of music. Jason totally set my life in this new direction. It wasn’t Jimmy Page or a Kiss poster I had – it was him.”
As Seattle blew up with grunge and Chicago exploded with alt-rock in the mid-90s, Jason Narducy had evolved his duo, Jason and Allison, into a four-piece called Verbow, which was signed to a major label, Epic. Mr. Narducy got sage advice about how to spend the advance they received while recording and still has guitars from that check.
Like most bubbles, the search for the next quadruple platinum artist dried up, as did the support major labels were giving to nurture small and mid-sized acts. One bright spot was that Mr. Narducy gained another famous fan, Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü, Sugar, and solo work), who helped bank-roll and produce Verbow’s major-label debut, Chronicals.
After Verbow was dropped, Mr. Narducy took a break from the music business, needing something to pay the bills. He started Inside Outside – a painting company that specializes in residential painting both inside and outside.
It was an admittedly tough transition to go from performing with people cheering every three minutes to hiring painters and making sure the caulk was sufficiently dry before applying an oil-based primer. A few years later Bob Mould emailed Mr. Narducy, asking if he would be willing to tour as a band member, playing bass – to which he instantly agreed.
Part of Mr. Narducy’s success in this phase, and throughout his musical career, has been his grit. He credits a lesson learned from a youth basketball camp when Michael Jordan showed up, telling the kids not to just practice, but to play every time in the gym with the intensity of a game.
This was something Mr. Narducy found he could apply to music, practicing Mould songs with a full bass rig and P.A. at full volume before rehearsals ever started. That type of commitment earns a second invitation.
“You spend a lot of time with these guys when you’re touring, so you really want to get along. And sometimes you just need to do your job, shut up, and be a team player,” Mr. Narducy said.
He has gained a reputation for a being more than an able sideman. And this is where the Kevin Bacon connection comes in – the actor who has famously worked with every actor in every movie within six degrees. The same could be said of Jason Narducy, having stints either touring or recording or both with a who’s who of the indie rock world. In addition to Bob Mould, an incomplete list would have names like Superchunk, Telekenisis, & Guided By Voices. Other A-listers contributing to his power pop/rock albums and bands are Britt Daniel (Spoon), John Stirratt (Wilco), Jon Wurster (Superchunk/Mountain Goats/Bob Mould), Liz Phair, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/ Postal Service), Nora O’Connor (Decemberists/The Flat Five), Jake Smith (Mysteries of Life), Matt Walker (Morrisey’s drummer).
As if his musical resume was not enough to set him apart from his peers, he also has a wicked sense of humor that plays out on social media, as does his quick-witted and keen sense of politics. He is not afraid of mixing it up with trolls who push back – and few, if any, have refuted his positions.
Last, Mr. Narducy has the “sexiest” elbows in rock. A search of “sexiest elbows in rock” in YouTube turns up several short videos with other musicians and comedians praising, fawning over, and sucking on Mr. Narducy’s elbows. The tone is tongue-in-cheek, all shot in a mockumentary style similar to “Best in Show” or “Spinal Tap.”
Those who know Mr. Narducy likely follow him on social media @SplitSingle Band and plan on going to one of his upcoming shows. He is playing solo at The Wine Goddess on Dec. 2 and at Space with Bob Mould Dec. 30 and 31.