A Chat with Kirk and the Jerks (09.02.2021)

The tale of Kirk and the Jerks is one that many people are completely unaware of. The band formed in the 1980s and went on to record 37 original tracks before drifting apart. Now, all of their songs are finally available to stream allowing the jerks to reach a whole new audience. With pulsing guitars and explosive energy, their music is as energising now as it was when they first recorded it. We sat down with drummer Curt Laudenberger to talk about the release of all their music, what everyone has been up to since the band ended, lost songs and much more!

OSR: How did the band first get together?

Laudenberger: Kirk Rice played drums with Dave Benner on guitar and Joel Kline (Jet Silver band) on bass in a band called Nobody’s Fools in the early 80’s. They were well known in the Lancaster, PA scene back then. Kirk then decided to try lead vocals, and he and Dave started Kirk & the Jerks in 1985 with Dave’s younger brother, Eric, on bass and Dave’s friend Mark Diener on drums. They recorded the first two demo tapes in the Benner’s garage on rented 4-track recorders.

OSR: Over the years there have been line-up changes.  How do you feel this has affected the sound of the band?

Laudenberger: The common theme was, of course, Kirk, and Eric played in every version of the band as well. There is no mistaking Kirk’s style and vocal delivery, so it still sounded like “Kirk & the Jerks” even though different members added their own guitar tones and backing vocals, input, etc. There was growth with each lineup and the production values also changed over time, so looking back as a collective it’s a nice mix of songs.

OSR: What have you been up to since the curtain closed on the band?  

Laudenberger: Everyone had to go get real jobs since the rock star thing didn’t work out. Some of the guys did other music projects like The Stiletto Boys and The Dying Elk Herd. Many Jerks lost touch through the years, so releasing the discography has given us a chance to catch up with one another.

OSR: Your album Kirk and the Jerks includes all your original songs.  Why release this now?

Laudenberger: I think it’s safe to say that there never would have been an album release if not for Indy Powers from Division Street Sounds. He grew up with the H-Street skate videos and really dug the Jerks’ tunes on there and made it a mission to track us down. He found Dave Benner online somehow and in 2020 they went through a long, tedious project of finding and digitizing all of the old recordings from 30 years ago. There were some random tracks posted online in the 2000s but there had never been an official release with vinyl, CD, lyrics, pictures, etc. until now. It’s an all-in-one package, so it’s a cool deal if you are a fan of the band. The guys at H-Street even made a Kirk & the Jerks skate deck that is for sale too!

OSR: The LP version of the album contains 12 songs.  How did you pick these tracks from the full 37?

Laudenberger: There was a Jerk email chain going around and we all just sort of gave our input and came up with a consensus. Of course, we had to put the songs from the H-Street videos on the vinyl since they are the songs most people recognize from the band. We tried to take a few tracks from each era.

OSR: What is the story behind the recorded songs that were lost?

Laudenberger: After the 1994-1996 regime came to an end, most people thought it was a wrap for the band, but actually Kirk and Eric hooked up with Casey Wolfe and Jim Patton from Lancaster and they recorded like seven or eight songs. A couple of leftovers from the previous lineup that were never recorded and a handful of new songs. The material was solid. ‘Date with a .38’ was a great one, but once the tracks were recorded, they never got around to mixing and mastering them and that lineup too split before long. Now no one knows what happened to the raw track data, a mystery.

Kirk and the Jerks on stage

OSR: How do you feel about the first pressing of the LP selling out in a month?

Laudenberger: We were all fired up to see orders being placed. There is no way to gauge how the public will respond to a band making its first release 25 to 35 years after the songs were recorded. We did it backwards. The short story is Art and Steve Godoy were from Lancaster, PA too. They were friends with Kirk growing up. They moved to California and became pro skaters. Had they not handed off the Jerks’ demo tapes to the guys at H-Street, it’d be doubtful that anyone outside of Lancaster would have ever heard of us and Indy would have never heard the songs. We had no idea those skate videos reached so many people around the world until many years after the band ended because there was no internet back then.

OSR: If people could feel only one thing while listening to your music, what would you like that to be and why?

Laudenberger: Kirk gave us a lot to think about, so many different ideas and thoughts and feelings in those songs. I think the lead-off track is a good place to start, ‘Who Cares if Tomorrow Comes’, be passionate, crank up the tunes, do whatever you enjoy doing and live for today.

OSR: Do you feel the band will ever get back together?

Laudenberger: No, the last note has been played.

OSR: Do you have a message for your fans?

Laudenberger: We just want to say thank you to all the people out there who have supported the band. We all kind of knew there was something special from way back when it started. The songs spoke for themselves. We could just never got out of Lancaster and make it happen in a big way, for whatever reason. Enjoy the songs everyone!

Thanks to Curt Laudenberger for chatting with us! You can find more about Kirk and the Jerks on their Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.

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