Local music: The Japhies

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , Star Tribune | Updated 8/17/2012

Notoriously wild rockers the Japhies settle down to record an album.

Lead singer Reed Wilkerson of the Japhies at the 2011 Replacements tribute

If true, this might be one of the best compliments ever paid to a band.

Japhies singer Reed Wilkerson -- who has raised quite a ruckus of late with his wild, Iggy-fied stage antics -- jumped off the bar at Cause Spirits & Soundbar one night last fall and scraped a young, female audience member bad enough for an ambulance to be called. Instead of suing, the girl allegedly told the band afterward, "That was awesome!"

"I told her she can get into our shows free for the rest of her life," said an astonished Wilkerson. "But she has to stand more toward the back."

The rare act to be played on local shows on both 93X and 89.3 the Current -- a testament to their classic rawwwk sound and punky attitude -- the Japhies have thus far built a reputation on their action-packed shows. At a Zombie Pub Crawl party at Palmer's, the crowd-surfing Wilkerson got thrown over the bar.

The quartet's members are quite proud of the notoriety they've attained, even when it has drawn ire and skepticism. That said, they are hoping to jump into new territory as quickly as possible.

Last week, the Japhies started recording at Flowers Studio with producer Ed Ackerson for a full-length debut they hope to have out by late spring. A sign of how serious they are about making a record that will add to their reputation, the band that sometimes played two gigs in one week last year hasn't performed for two months. In that time, they hunkered down and concentrated on writing songs.

"We love playing live, but until now we haven't quite figured out the right way to capture that energy in the studio," Wilkerson explained. "So our philosophy was to stop playing and really try not to think about the live performances at all, and just try to make the best songs possible, period."

Their new batch of 20 songs reflects a tumultuous year in their personal lives. The singer saw a couple of friends die in that time, and he and another member each broke up with longtime girlfriends -- splits that he said were "all about choosing between the band and the relationship." No need to say who won out.

A Twin Cities native, Wilkerson formed the Japhies with snaky guitarist Ben Horvoka, from Sioux City, S.D. Those two share songwriting duties with bassist Matthew Homan. All come from varying musical backgrounds -- so much so that they could agree on only one band to listen to in the van on tour last year.

"You can count on a heavy Zeppelin influence on the new record," said Wilkerson, who added that Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury (not Iggy Pop) have always been his main influences as a frontman.

"I can play guitar, too, but I'm sick of seeing so many Twin Cities bands whose singers just stand there staring at their fretboards."

The Japhies will finally end their stage hiatus Friday at the Triple Rock. The gig is billed as Wilkerson's 26th birthday party, but more important, it's being used to test-drive the new material. Not surprisingly, the birthday boy said, "it's only been two months, but it seems a lot longer. We are seriously itching for this show."