January 18, 2001
About 4,000 years ago, God entered into an agreement with a mere mortal. This covenant charged the 100-year-old man with fathering kings of new nations (with his 90-year-old wife) and circumcising every male of each generation. The agreement in effect made that man the leader of the Hebrew people. God named the man Abraham.
For many, the mention of the name Abraham inspires thoughts pertaining to the above brief summary of Genesis 17. This name association has been the cause of some conflict for the modern-day rock outfit called Abraham. The Columbia City-based band is perhaps best known for the song "Never Never Never" on the latest Extreme Essentials CD release. The band's unintended Old Testament reference has made for some unintended New Testament implications.
"There's been some confusion about it," says Abraham lead vocalist Dave Schmoekel, a 22-year-old portrait photographer by day. "We [the members of the band] were watching some movie - I don't even remember which one - and they were talking about some conspiracy with coins. We thought it was so stupid that someone would actually take the time to lay out all the coins and realize that all the faces on them are facing away from the penny. We were joking around and our guitarist said 'Damn the penny!' We were thinking about using that as our name just because it was funny, but I thought it sounded too much like Damn Yankees. After about 45 minutes of sitting there trying to figure out a band name, our drummer says, 'Why don't we just call the band Abraham and be done with it?' My parents like it. My dad was a pastor, so they love the name."
"When we first got started, our first show we got booked was at a place called New Planet Cafe. Well, they didn't know, and we didn't know they didn't know we were not a Christian band, and we didn't know it was a Christian club - which didn't bother us because we're all Christians, but at the same time, it's not like our music [is]. So we started sound-checking with [Rage Against the Machine's] 'Killing in the Name of . . .' and it sort of freaked them out a little bit. And my car broke down. It ended up costing us about 55 dollars to play that show."
Since then, Abraham - consisting of singer Schmoekel, drummer Jordan Berry, guitarist Gabe Berry and Beav, the bassist - have been impressing crowds with live shows at popular local venues like Columbia Street West, Legends and Piere's. The band primed a packed house for one of the Why Store's final Fort Wayne shows at Piere's. Fans seeking to take Abraham home can look forward to a shiny new CD release from the band by spring. As the rays of high-profile success beam down on the band, Schmoekel continues to find light humor in the group's early low-brow hijinks.
"We played this show in Ligonier at a place called the Java Hut. It was bizarre," Schmoekel says. "They had a sign out - we had no idea until we got there - that said you have to have a high school ID. You had to be in high school or younger to get in. We were playing there with Skavossas, and we get there and we're getting ready and [the guy in charge] says 'OK now, no swearing tonight and don't smoke over here. You can smoke across the street at Pizza Hut.' I was like, 'Can I sit in my car and smoke?' and they're like 'No. We don't want to give these kids a bad impression.' So I'm like 'that's cool. That's fine.'
"Well, we get on stage, and it's a punk club, big time. Our music isn't going anywhere with these people, so I figured I'd jump out into the crowd and try to get them into it. I jump in there and start moshing with these kids. I had a pack of cigarettes in my shirt pocket, and the next thing I know they just start flying all over the place, all through the crowd. The guy's like freaking out, running around picking up cigarettes all over the place. They don't want to encourage it and here I am, out there throwing them around like candy."
In a gesture that would shame the Marlboro Man, Schmoekel admits that at one time, his cigarette smoking threatened his singing voice.
"It did for quite a while, but I've eased up a lot on it lately," he says.
"The singing or the smoking?" I ask.
"The smoking," Schmoekel says while dragging on a Winston Light with the exact same breath. "I was up to a pack a day, a good pack a day, sometimes a little more. Now I usually smoke about five or six cigarettes a day."
Schmoekel's brand of choice? The famously dry Winston Lights.
"I started smoking them because the packs were cool," Schmoekel says. "I thought, 'That's a cool pack. I might as well smoke those.' This time, I'm smoking them because they're buy two get one free. I'm a special-value smoker."
Some of the 'extra money' left over from those budget smokes will likely be spent on the wants and needs of Schmoekel's wife and two children. The Mrs. gave birth to the couple's daughter in February. The little bundle of joy has served to showcase the parallels between father and son.
"My son, he's really jealous," Schmoekel says. "He's exactly like me. He just always wants to be the center of attention. That's how I've always been. It took me a long time to come to grips with that, but that's just who I am. I love it. I can't get away from it."
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