By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
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By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
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"I don't have a problem making money off music," says the group's resident idealist, guitarist Henry Olmino. "As long as the songs are sincere."
The other members -- singer Jolie Lindholm, drummer Matt Crum, and bassist Jeronimo Gomez -- can't imagine trading day jobs for stardom any time soon. But for a young outfit, the Rocking Horse Winner has already had its share of glory, including some overtures from megalabel Sony.
Olmino, Gomez, and Crum (who live minutes away from each other in Davie) formed the nucleus of the proto-punk band As Friends Rust almost five years ago. Last year the three listened to a tape of Lindholm singing backup for another area band and enlisted her as vocalist in their new project. A five-song EP followed, generating a heady local buzz, and the Rocking Horse Winner is preparing to release its debut full length, The State of Feeling Concentration, on the local imprint Ohev Records this month.
How did a team of mostly suburban skate punks -- all under age 25 -- wind up in charge of such enchanting and artily agreeable sounds? The members don't seem to understand it themselves.
"I'm just not angry anymore," is Gomez's explanation. "As you get older, you get more sad. I'm not angry about anything."
Even Olmino, who was raised on a diet of skateboarder rations including the Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies, can't pinpoint how the change occurred either, except through the process of maturation. His punk roots still show through, but they're part of a well-rounded profile now.
"I like everything from James Taylor to Talking Heads to Minor Threat to Sarah McLachlan," he says.
Apparently, such a cross section gives the Rocking Horse Winner broad, even unexpected, appeal. That kind of acceptance assuages fears that the music may be too mellow.
"My grandma can listen to it," says Gomez. "But I've had mean-looking, tattooed hardcore kids come up and say, "You were awesome.'"
Though the band's sound is certainly an anomaly against the musical landscape of the region, it comes across as oddly familiar -- at least to those acquainted with the British outfit the Sundays. Although the tunes on Feeling Concentration have that characteristic moody, chiming guitar sound, Lindholm's voice is far prettier than the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler, with the strident edges sanded down to a supple soprano.
Lounging in Gomez's bedroom, the quartet seems genuinely puzzled by the comparison. "None of us ever really got into the Sundays," Gomez says. Lindholm agrees: "I had never heard the Sundays before. I've never been into any female bands that much. The only female singer I've ever liked was, like, Cyndi Lauper."
The four guffaw at this as Gomez's pet prairie dog scours his mattress in search of McDonald's leftovers. Quick to smile and well-stocked with in-jokes, they're an upbeat bunch.
"We're all best friends. I think that contributes a lot. We don't even have to talk, and we know what we're going to play," Gomez says. Like Lindholm, who hails from Boca Raton, he still lives with his parents. Olmino (who writes most of the group's material) also acknowledges a subliminal connection. "If I play something, they immediately know what I'm thinking and vice versa."
"It's definitely hard to find bandmates where everybody gets along," notes Gomez. "We've known each other for so long that we don't argue. If we do, it's for the benefit of the band."
"It's not even arguing," Crum says, with a wry grin. "It's more like a discussion."
"I don't think that I'd be able to write stuff as good as this is without them," Olmino says earnestly. Gomez feigns a tear, and the bandmates dissolve into laughter again. But they also admit to a hint of heartbreak in the compositions. In fact the four agree that all ten of Feeling Concentration's tracks are love songs in one form or another.
"This song's not supposed to be sad/It's just that I'm missing you/Along with every last taste from your glass," sings Lindholm on the lovely "Raspberry Water." Her voice becomes as tender as the brush of a fingertip. As denouement, Olmino offers a guitar line that spins from atmospheric to psychedelic.
The Rocking Horse Winner has already amassed a sizeable and devoted local following. The band members are accustomed to being lavished with praise after shows. This is despite Lindholm's initial stage fright and obvious discomfort at being the center of attention. Quiet and timid, she nearly froze onstage. Now, she says, the role of front man is feeling less stressful.
"I'm getting there," she says, squinting through tiny glasses. "It was hard at first, and I'm still adjusting. I'm getting used to it and it's not as bad anymore."