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The best kept secret in music


"Iowa State Daily"

It's shortly after 1 in the morning and the members of Pointswest have just finished a show at Gabe's Oasis in Iowa City. As their Midwest spring tour starts to wind down, it's obvious the fun is still there, even though that night's crowd was small.

"I just got a $78 hotel room for 30 bucks!" a band member is heard screaming in the background, an enthusiasm only found in either exhaustion or just pure excitement. From the sounds of it, it's most likely the latter.

Pointswest -- composed of members Rollie Belles, lead singer and rhythm guitarist; Jay Combs, drummer; Mike Ligocki, lead guitarist and backing vocals; and Kevin Collins, bass and backing vocals -- call Frederick, Md., a quiet town about 45 minutes west of Baltimore, their home.

"There's not much of a music scene there," Collins laments, saying they usually pack up their van and head to Baltimore "where the crowds are."

All this moving around has given the band the opportunity to play in a variety of different venues. But Collins says he knows exactly which place is the band's favorite to play.

"There's a little bar in Baltimore called the Brass Monkey [Saloon]," Collins says. "It's intimate."

Collins says this intimacy plays an integral role in the band's overall energy as well.

"I think I can vouch for the rest of the band when I say we like to play in small venues," Collins says. "Sure, we want to play in large venues, but in the smaller ones, it's intimate, so everyone can get crazy -- and that just gets me pumped."

Belles and Ligocki were playing together in various bands before Collins joined on as the band's original drummer.

"Once we added [Combs] to the band, I was happy to play bass," Collins says. "It's what I prefer to play, anyway."

Collins says the band's influences range from Glassjaw to old-school punk to OutKast.

"We all have different influences, but we each respect what it brings to the table." Collins says.

But the band's newfound comedic obsession with horses may be the strangest evidence that there's a certain sense of humor that can only come from being on the road.

"It started off as a joke with [Combs]," Collins laughs. "Now we sing kid's songs in the van about horses and we want to own a horse farm.

"Even our old van was called 'Seabiscuit.' "

Collins also says his nickname, "The Mare," has become almost legendary.

"I have fans back home coming up to me asking, 'Are you The Mare?' " Collins says. "Even my mother has started calling me The Mare. It's a nickname that just stuck.

"A quirky sense of humor is needed for the road," Collins adds with a chuckle. "We've started calling this tour the 'Hide Your Daughters Tour.' "

- Adam Greenfield


Use It On Yourself EP - 2003
Everywhere EP - 2002


Feeling a bit camera shy


Classic American author John Steinbeck once said that writers make people remember their humanity, and a band like Pointswest makes you do the same. With earnest, insightful lyrics laid over a bed of angular riffs and driving rhythms, this Maryland foursome may rock hard, but they still wear their hearts openly on their sleeves. Their songs embody the innocence and invincibility of youth, the hopefulness and heartache of growing up, and the perceptiveness and profundity of hard won experience.

The seed for what is today Pointswest began germinating four years ago when singer/songwriter Rollie Belles started playing with guitarist Mike Ligocki. “Our first work together was very independent,” Ligocki remembers. “I would write the music, words and solos to a song and bring them to the band to finish up. Rollie would do the same and whoever wrote the song played the solo and sang lead.”

Bassist Kevin Collins joined up with the pair two years into our story and the lineup as you see today cemented itself when drummer Jay Combs was added to the ranks in early 2002. “We’re friends outside this and in this,” Collins is quick to assert. “We’re in this together, it’s our future. We all have the same drive and we all want the same thing.”

Writing the music is now a completely collaborative effort, though Belles comes up with a majority of the lyrics. More obvious musical building blocks include the likes of Jimmy Eat World, Thursday, and Weezer, however the four lads have chiseled a sound out of the storm and the static that is all their own. But don’t expect any big ballads, as Rollie jokingly reveals, “Every time I try to write something slow, we get together as a band and then the guitars come in. Then it’s all over.

Touring up and down the Eastern seaboard, the band have been hawking a 5 song EP, Everywhere, that features some of the older songs you’ll hear in their setlists. Some of their newer tunes include “Watch Out What You Wish For” and “Four Hours From Home,” which Rollie is quick to deflate as yet another song about a girl. “It’s funny that it isn’t about a girl,” he muses, “because most of our songs are. Actually it’s about me living in New York and I’ve been driving home each week to keep the band together. So it’s just about being stressed out about being away from friends and family. And hating New York,” he laughingly adds.

Then there’s “Get Up,” which could be the band’s anthem the way Combs describes it; “It’s really about being motivated and doing something with your life,” he asserts. And that’s something these boys are very serious about indeed.

So if you’re feeling the need to find yourself between a rock and a soft spot, then Pointswest will show you the way.