Sharp-eyed patrons of the 4th annual I-4 Fest this year will notice, among the beer-drenched, amplified festivities, a rare sighting: a performance by Bob on Blonde, an elusive pop-rock local band that's periodically dropped electric-yet-soulful music for years, yet only plays to an audience when they feel like interacting with other people … and that's not often.
It's not that Bob on Blonde's live show is technically difficult to pull off; it's that the two core members — Bob Hershberger and Waylon Thornton — don't much care for the outside world. As their constantly varying lineup of other musicians confirms, that reclusive nature often translates to the shedding of the band itself.
"It's funny," says Hershberger. "I kind of broke up the band last week and then `Orlando Weekly` contacted me two days afterwards. I'm still playing — Waylon and I are always gonna play — it's just the two `other` guys that were with us are no longer with us. We usually end up getting rid of `other bandmates`. Not in a bad way. It's always under good terms, we just `play` when we can. It's really based on the friendship aspect of it. That sounds completely gay and homoerotic, but it's hard to let people into that bubble."
Not that either Hershberger or Thornton (currently the drummer for Mumpsy), whose last public show was five months ago, are strangers to full-band commitments. Hershberger was once a member of Plain Jane Automobile, a local rock group that makes no secret of its commercial desires.
"You get to really see people and their behavior and greed," says Hershberger. "They do it to be the cool kid in class or shit like that, and I just didn't want to do that anymore."
So a few years ago, Hershberger began playing acoustic shows on his own. It was Thornton who came up with the Bob on Blonde moniker, a play on Hershberger's dislike for Bob Dylan. The two quickly became a duo, gradually inviting other area musicians to play out but always recording alone. Eventually, the two opened their own studio on the corner of Michigan Street and Bumby Avenue, which only contributed to their distaste for the band grind.
Says Hershberger, whose current recording projects include new albums from the Great Deceivers, Truckstop Coffee and Dr. Moonstien, "I record bands for a living, so that's the last fucking thing I want to do at the end of the day is hang out with three more band dudes. Any way I put it is going to sound arrogant and self-centered. It's not meant to be that at all. `Thornton and I` are joined at the hip. He's the hemorrhoid on my ass."
These days, the theoretical band still records the occasional track, posting new songs like the sleepy, midtempo "City of Sevens" or the straightforward "In and Outs" on their MySpace page. For the most part, however, the married Hershberger stays within the boundaries of his "own little world."
"I'm at a point where I'm like, ‘Let's just go to the house and smoke pot and play Xbox 360.' I don't go out in public unless I have to. I feel like fucking Larry David most of the time. My little world consists of my house and then three stop signs up is the studio. And that's about it. My life consists of a little four-block area. I can't handle any more than that."[email protected]