Indianapolis’ The Late Show regains power-pop mojo

Formed in 1972 at North Central High School in Indianapolis, The Late Show’s original line-up included drummer Mark Cutsinger and guitarist Kevin Kimberlin, along with Main and Mark Moran.

By 1979, guitarist Rick Clayton and drummer Chris Pyle had replaced Cutsinger and Kimberlin and they went into Indy’s Soundsmith Studios to record Portable Pop. Not liking the dead-sounding room, they eventually set up monitors in the loading dock area and recorded the entire album live.

A gleaming, lively, of-the-period piece of work, Portable Pop echoes bands like the Knack and The Romantics, but also the British Invasion sound, and Elvis Costello. Released in 1980 on Rave Records, it would be the only official release by The Late Show, and out-of-print for many years.

The band continued to play, first as The Late Show, and then Recordio and finally, Rockhouse. They even recorded a second record, Recordio in Stereo, in Memphis with producer John Hampton (The Raconteurs, White Stripes, The Replacements, Gin Blossoms) in 1983. It was never released, but Trashy Creatures is ready to revive some of those tracks too.

Trashy Creatures is ready to revive some of those tracks too.

Rob Nichols: Tell me how this deal to re-release your Portable Pop album came about?

Don Main: Well, when the Memphis label Trashy Creatures realized that we were back together and were writing new material for another release at some point, they thought that it made sense to re-release Portable Pop as a warm-up for the new record. The Late Show was very popular in Memphis and Portable Pop continues to show up on power pop lists and critics compilations. So it was just a natural thing to do. Burger Records in LA is also releasing on cassette with a bonus live set from 1981.

RN: How did you get the band back together?

Main: We did a reunion at The Vogue a few years back. That fueled the possibility. Then we started playing just to play together, probably to retell the stories that used to propel us from state to state in a haze of self-medication, laughter and complaining, which is pretty much life on the road. But then we began contemplating another record together after all this time and it has taken on a new life. Everybody in the band is better now then ever. I think the new record will be fabulous.

RN: After Portable Pop was recorded and released, how did you keep doing it after what may have been a letdown of not taking the major label deal years before?

Main: That was not hard then. Mark and I had already blown deals with really big industry people [and] deals to be on TV guaranteed over two years. At that point, we were just happy to have four guys together who wanted to do the same thing and enjoyed doing it.

RN: What was the evolution of going from Late Show to Recordio? Why the name change?

Main: Recordio came after the four of us had split for awhile, in 1983 or so. For three years, from 80-82 we averaged about 250 dates a year. Rick and I had developed some vocal problems so we needed to lay off for a while. Mark and Chris went on without us with replacements. When we came back, we decided to change names and direction. Rockhouse was at the end, when you are just thrashing about [though] we were quite good and won the first Sunshine Promotions statewide battle of the bands.

RN: Are you still a power pop guy?

Main: I am not into stuff that sounds like it is of a period just for the sake of sounding like it came from that period. Everything borrows from everything. If it is good, it’s good. I hear stuff on the Disney channel that sounds like Beatles meets grass roots with auto-tune.

RN: Tell me a bit about your other band, Hot Freak Nation.

Main: It’s not similar to Portable Pop; The Late Show will have a much more retro sound and feel. Hot Freak Nation gets a little farther out with the songwriting collaboration of Greg Roberson and myself. We don’t have an identity, so we do what we want. [An album] comes out in July and we will see where we get pigeonholed.

RN: What is your goal with music these days?

Main:. Finish up two records by the end of year. [There’s] more music to get out; wait until you hear this [new] stuff.

RN: That’s all. Anything else?

Main: I think it is pretty cool that a rerelease of a pretty obscure record like Portable Pop could get added to over 70 college and independent stations and be in the CMJ Top 200. I mean, it is 30 years old.

Hear “Take a Chance”

(Editor’s note: The Portable Pop album features the original 12-song LP plus four previously unreleased studio bonus tracks recorded just prior Portable Pop. The cassette reissue contains the original 12-song LP plus an entire 10 song live concert from 1980 as bonus tracks.)

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