"There's such a pool of good players in Lawrence," says pianist Jared Rosenberg, who trails only singer and founder Robert Suchan in terms of tenure. "We hope to work with the Popes again. They have that brotherly thing going on that keeps them in sync. The band is always open. We'll have a different lineup in a month. [Drummer] Dave Shettler from the first album might come back."
Shettler's return would be fitting given that Hard Times Are in Fashion, like the Toledo, Ohio-born band's debut, appears on Doghouse Records. Koufax released its two in-between albums on the Get Up Kids-popularized Vagrant imprint.
"We recorded Hard Times on our own dime, then we decided to go with Doghouse as part of our clean-slate mentality," Rosenberg croaks into an erratically transmitting cell phone as the band's van weaves through the mountains of Redding, California. His groggy voice is a product of a raucous CD-release after-party.
Hard Times' blend of piano-peppered rock and a sarcastic singer recalls Ben Folds and Joe Jackson, with Suchan's vaguely cosmopolitan delivery closer to the latter. That unplaceable accent might come in handy if the group needs to sell itself as foreign-born on its upcoming overseas tour.
Album closer "Colour Us Canadian" addresses the "ridiculous paranoia" Koufax encountered when crossing the Canadian border, Rosenberg says. It also unwittingly echoes an episode, documented in Spin, in which members of Hot Hot Heat defused marauding anti-American hooligans by declaring themselves Canadians. (In fact, that group does hail from Canada.)
Rosenberg isn't predicting any tense encounters. "Americans actually dislike people from other countries," he says. "Europeans understand it's the powers that be that make the decisions. They've always been kind in the political discussions we've had."
Koufax expects an even warmer response when the group returns to the Jackpot Saloon in Lawrence on Friday.
"Even though we're not based out of Lawrence, we sure as hell have enough friends coming out to the shows," he says. "It's an oasis."