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Where were you back in mid-February 1982?
If your name is Mike Lapp and you happen to be the guitarist for the Agency – Fort Wayne’s hottest retro rock band – you were likely being deflowered after a gig on a swing choir tour during your junior year in high school.
If your name is Kris Hensler, you were just a handful of years older than the aforementioned man-in-the-making, touring southern California as the drummer for a punk-flavored rock n’ roll outfit called Shattered Faith. Just how the group’s collective faith became damaged remains a mystery.
“I got into the band after they had formed it,” Hensler admits during a recent phone interview. “I’m not sure why their faith was shattered. I just think they thought the name sounded cool. I don’t think it was a statement.”
Lapp shares precious few facts related to his whirlwind journey to carnal glory.
“It was in Missouri, the Show-Me State,” Lapp says during the same phone interview. “She’s got to be married by now. We were in St. Louis.”
Twenty years after these events, drummer Hensler and guitarist-vocalist Lapp who founded the alternative rock band the Hush back in the late 80s have just pushed past a year and a half of providing high-energy hits from the 70s and 80s as part of The Agency. The Fort Wayne-based band which includes bassist-vocalist Andy Simmons; keyboardist Andy Schaefer; and Ingrid Daly on saxophone and vocals looks forward to clocking more quality time on stage in the coming years. While the band promises to come up with some original material sometime this year, the Agency vows to serve audiences the most faithful renditions possible of the songs found in the groups classic pop-rock coffers.
“As a cover band, (our goal is) to play the material like it is,” Lapp says. “You won’t hear us doing a reggae version of “Tempted” by Squeeze. We try to impersonate and emulate the people we’re portraying as closely as we can.”
“The people who come to see us, they want to hear it sound like (a certain) group,” Hensler says. “They don’t want to hear Bill’s Garage Band. We practice until a song sounds like the record. And if it’s not working – if we play it out a few times and people don’t dance to it or it doesn’t sound good – we ditch it. We don’t keep shoving it down people’s throats because we like the song.”
“It’s a variety,” Lapp says. “We pull out Pink Floyd and back it up with a Boz Scaggs tune. How many bands out there are doing anything like that? None. None.”
While the Agency’s current playing field is contained to the immediate Fort Wayne area, it should widen soon as the band begins promoting its services in mid-American cities such as Chicago and Detroit. Although the touring circuit can be glamorous and exciting, it presents its share of downsides.
“Sticky club floors,” Lapp laments.
“Columbia Street at four in the morning is bad,” Hensler says. “One night I almost couldn’t get out of the building because my feet were stuck.”
“When you’re old rat bastards like we are, I think that hauling the gear around is the worst part. You’ve got adrenaline going while you’re on stage so you don’t even think about being tired. But at four in the morning, it starts to catch up with you.”
But until it catches up with them, the Agency treats audiences to an entertainment experience brimming with high-caliber musicianship and professional flair.
“You won’t find us wearing ripped jeans and flannel shirts, backwards ball caps,” Lapp says. “We’re really trying to maintain a professional approach. People pay money to come see you so you want to give them something they can remember and think about or enjoy for that period of time.”
“Sometimes we do a thing where we all wear matching suits kind of like the Knack,” Hensler says. “We’ll do that for a set and then we’ll change into other more colorful kinds of stuff.”
With all this talk of costume changes, Lapp finds himself compelled to admit to a fashion limitation inherent to many a mature rocker.
“I can’t do spandex anymore.”