One In A Million... a million people live, work and play in upstate New York's Catskills region. These are their life stories... in their own words.
Series produced by Kent Garrett
Photo editing and website design by Ed Kirstein
The band Wurd :
When The Magic Strikes
On most Sunday afternoons if you go to East Meredith, New York and drive up Auto Lane, this is the sound you’ll probably hear. [Wurd performing: Baby, here I am / I’m a man on the scene / I can give you what you want / But you’ve gotta come home with me / I’ve got some good ol’ lovin’ / And I got some more in store / When I get through throwin’ it on you / You got to come back for more / Boys and things that come by the dozen / That ain’t nothin’ but drugstore lovin’ / Hey little thing let me light your candle / ‘Cause momma I’m so hard to handle now / Gets around]
It’s the sound of local band Wurd hard at work practicing. Loren Riggs on guitar and vocal, Jodie Pentzel vocal, Jesse Arno on drums and vocal, and Eric Guy on bass.
[Wurd performing: Take my hand, don’t be afraid / I’m gonna prove every word I say / I’m advertising love for free / So you can place your ad with me / Boys and things that come by the dozen / That ain’t nothing but 10 cent lovin’ / Hey little thing let me light your candle / ‘Cause momma I’m so hard to handle now / Gets around / Yeah / So hard to handle now]
This is their story in their own words:
Loren: It’s Wurd with a U, W-U-R-D. You can check it out at wurdmusic.com.
Q – How did you get that name?
Jesse: Well, I came up with the name one night when we were practicing. We were just sick of the old name, and we didn’t know if it was going to go over well or not. So, it was just random. It came out of my mouth because, you know, I’m just that kind of guy.
Jodie: That’s what happens.
Jesse: That’s what happens throwing ideas around, and everybody kind of agreed on it and that’s what we decided. But it’s with a U with an umlaut, so there’s two dots over the U more for a side effect kind of thing.
Q – But how’s it pronounced?
Loren and Jesse: Wurd.
Q – Wurd, okay. Well now, let me introduce everybody. Your name?
Loren: My name is Loren, Loren Riggs.
Q – What do you play?
Loren: I play guitar.
Jodie: My name is Jodie Pentzel. I’m vocals.
Jesse: Jesse Arno, drums, percussion, and vocals.
Eric: Eric Guy, I play bass.
Q – Where are you from?
Eric: I’m from Delhi.
Jesse: I’m from the great white North about an hour north of Lake Placid, Malone area.
Q – Uh-huh. Jodie?
Jodie: Right now Schenevus is where I reside, but I’m originally from Long Island.
Loren: I’m Loren. I’m from California originally and the West Coast, and I came out here back in ’01.
Q – Well, how did you end up in the Catskills?
Loren: I actually met somebody in Montana that was from Stamford and lived out here, was going to school at SUNY Delhi. So I came out and I liked the place, so I decided to stay.
Q – How about you, Jodie? How’d you get up here?
Jodie: I just decided to come up here for a better life for my kids, so I decided to move nine years ago.
Q – You’ve been here nine years?
Q – Okay.
Jesse: I graduated from college and then ended up taking a job down here with a friend, and that’s how I ended up in this area.
Eric: I’ve been here since I was a baby.
Q – So, you grew up in Delhi?
Eric: I grew up in Delhi right on Main Street. Never milked a cow or shucked a bale of hay in my life even though we’re in the heart of, you know, dairy country.
Jesse: He’s a country boy.
Eric Guy: A country city slicker.
Q – So, Loren, what is the game plan? I mean, what’s success for you guys? I mean, how do you measure success?
Loren: Getting a song right, you know, one song at a time, I think, you know. Maybe doing a couple of gigs here and there for a couple of extra hundred bucks a year, you know. Around here mostly we’ve got families and we’ve got jobs, and it’s like we’re all old, you know.
Jodie: [laughter] Speak for yourself.
Loren: We’re not going to be hopping on a tour bus any time soon I don’t think, you know.
Q – But, I mean, would you want to do that? Do you guys want to be a famous band? I guess that’s the question.
Loren: Hell yeah.
Jodie: I mean, everybody would want to be eventually.
Eric: I don’t know why you would do this and not want to, you know, take it to whatever the next level is. I don’t know.
Jesse: It’s been my number-one dream ever since I picked up a drum, a pair of drumsticks, to be in a famous band, like you know, gross $400 million a year. [laughter] You know, that’s what I’m saying, you know.
Loren: But I mean, ultimately, success is like I said, playing that one song, and especially if it’s an original tune. If one person comes to a gig or a campfire or whatever and walks away with a different, better outlook on life like especially because of one of my songs or something, I mean that to me is like that’s it, you know. Just affect that one person per day, you know, per gig, you know.
Around here, let me tell you something. Unless they know the words to my songs or our songs, they don’t want that. They want to hear, you know, they want to hear bar music. They want to hear cover tunes. They want to hear, you know, country tunes. They want to hear stuff that they recognize that’s on the radio, you know.
Q – Why is that do you think?
Loren: Because you play in bars around here and people are just partying.
Jodie: It’s the familiarity of it.
Loren: Yeah. Partying and getting drunk and they want to dance to something they know, you know, so it’s kind of hard to break in with an original, the whole original music aspect, but you know, whatever.
Q – I mean, do you feel like that sort of dampens your creativity?
Jesse: Not really.
Jesse: You know, because as we were talking pre-interview, a lot of our best stuff, as Loren mentioned, is our improvisational jams that we come up with off the top of our head. Then it could be five, six, seven, eight minutes long and then later on in the night we listen back to it and, you know, we have a hard time believing that we actually played that earlier, you know, because it sounds really professional and, you know, it sounds really good. The musicianship individualistically is phenomenal.
Jodie: The covers are not like—we’re not doing them exactly like they originally were. We’re adding us to it.
Jodie: So it’s more us.
Jesse: Some people would actually say, that’s not how that song goes. But I mean, we take it and make it our own, you know. I mean obviously there’s—
Loren: For the most part, yeah.
Q – So, I mean, when you say you add us to it, I mean, what is us? I mean, what makes you guys tick sort of musically? I mean, when you say you add stuff to it, is it a different rhythm?
Jesse: Yup, yup. It’s what you feel, you know.
Jodie: Yeah, it’s just the feeling you put into it.
Jesse: You know, you play along while the song’s playing. You know, when you’re doing a cover it’s got a basic framework. Everybody knows kind of how it goes. But as a group you’re kind of feeling it, and you play how you feel. What comes out at the end is, you know, the Wurd version of whatever it is we’re playing. To get that break, to get it out there is probably, in my opinion, one of the toughest aspects of the whole thing is to get out there and get that break, you know. You hear stuff that’s not all that great, but they were in the right place or they knew somebody and they got the break, you know.
Loren: And that’s it too. Even if you do pound the streets and beat your head against the wall trying to get out there, no matter how much work you actually do except for honing your own craft, I mean, if I’m out there just holding up signs saying Wurd, you know, wurdmusic.com, you know, none of that matters. It’s being in the right place at the right time.
Jodie: And that one person.
Loren: You’re going to have somebody that is connected to somebody else that might say, you guys are sweet, big fucking deal.
Jesse: Yeah. I think at this point in our careers we’re looking for like that one song or two to like somehow break and somebody hear it that really likes it because as Loren said, we’re all old or older. You know, we’re not single. We don’t not have kids. We can’t just like dedicate our lives to playing music and traveling and playing locally and promoting ourselves like, you know, a lot of these younger bands do. It takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication.
Eric: And that’s what it takes, you know. You’ve got to get out there and you’ve got to be on the road and you’ve got to play a lot of gigs and get the exposure out there. If you have a family and things, you know, look at how many bands you’ve heard have broken up with issues that have nothing to do with the band, you know. That’s a whole different lifestyle, you know.
Q – Well, where are you guys at, let’s say, if I were to say a scale of like one to 10. I mean, where are you at in terms of that scale in terms of talent and, you know, professionalism?
Jesse: That’s a tough one.
Jodie: That is a tough one.
Loren: I mean, like we said, we listen back at night. We record. We’ve got thousands of hours of material, and some of it is, you know, phenomenal. I mean, really. I mean, some of it is really super good, you know. We all make mistakes, you know, but when it gels, when it comes together—this is the other thing honestly, when it comes together there’s nothing better. I don’t care if it’s right here in the basement or if it’s for 100,000 people. I mean, the most I’ve ever played for probably is 1,500 at a time, you know. But I mean, there are moments right here in this basement with nobody listening that are just like, that’s why I play music.
Jesse: It’s the magic, and that’s why we record it. I’ve said it a hundred times. These guys get tired of hearing me. You’ve got to record everything because you never know when the magic’s going to strike, when the muse is hanging around, you know, and it happens. It really does.
Q – Let me ask you. Last question then: Where do you guys want to be doing, let’s say, when I come back for an interview 10 years from now? Do you want to be here, or you want to be on—? Ten years from now.
Jesse: I think we ought to be sitting in front of our Grammys on the mantel. Maybe we could do the interview in our tour bus in the driveway.
Loren: I’ll tell you what. Ten years from now, Kent, we’ll be interviewing you. [laughter]
[Wurd performing: When they come to take you down / When they bring that wagon ‘round / When they come to call on you / And drag your poor body down / Just one thing I ask of you / Just one thing for me / Please forget you know my name / My darling Sugaree / Shake it, shake it Sugaree / Just don’t tell them that you know me / Shake it, shake it Sugaree / Just don’t tell them that you know me / You thought you was the cool fool / Could never do no wrong / Had everything sewed up tight / How come you laid awake all night long / Just one thing I ask of you / Just one thing for me / Please forget you know my name