Over the Rhine broadens its fan base By Regis Behe TRIBUNE-REVIEW Friday, February 22, 2002 Familiarity, the saying goes, breeds contempt. Or at least indifference. Last year, Cincinnati's Over the Rhine broadened its fan base, touring nationally with the Cowboy Junkies and playing concerts in 13 European cities. At home, their efforts, while not ignored, did not exactly set the Queen City ablaze. "We'll go to Chicago and play two sold-out shows," says songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Linford Detweiler, who will make a stop with the band Thursday at Rosebud, Strip District. "Sometimes, it feels like some of the other cities are more excited about us than Cincinnati." Not that Detweiler is complaining. With lead singer (and wife) Karin Bergquist, the duo has been a regional staple since 1989, joining the Afghan Whigs and the Ass Ponys as Cincinnati's most notable musical exports. Truth be told, however, Over the Rhine isn't soon going to rival any of the hitmakers of the day by making music that is quietly intense, introspective and thoughtful. "Films for Radio," the band's 2001 release, is an intricate, seductive album of songs that do not easily fit into any sub-category of pop or rock music. "When we approached this album, we almost wanted each song to feel like a little short film that almost could have been directed by different directors," Detweiler says. "To my ear, each song kind of has a distinct personality. It's all Over the Rhine, but for us, I feel like we covered quite a bit of territory, musically." Detweiler says the album's first tune, the ethereal, longing "The World Can Wait," captures the theme of the record, with the line So fade to black and white now/roll the movie of my life/inside my head. "I think what all the characters in all the songs are trying to do is pan back and see their lives and figure out where they've come from and where they're headed," he says. "I think they're all old enough, the characters in the songs, where they're able to pan back and think about the ground that they've covered. Maybe, personally, that's what the record is about, just maturing a little bit." In other words, don't expect silly love songs. Like the Cowboy Junkies, and even Bruce Springsteen (when he bothers to write), Over the Rhine addresses concerns that mirror those of adults unable to escape time's inexorable march. "Music is always, without sounding too precious about it, a means of self discovery," Detweiler says. "Doing anything creative is a great way to sort of process the terrain you've covered, and a good way to sort of learn what you truly care about." Detweiler says the band is gaining more momentum and attention, partially because of a record deal it signed with Back Porch Records, a Virgin subsidiary. He says reviews for "Films for Radio," especially in Europe, were positive, and that the group's foreign tour was "overwhelming." "The question that kept being repeated was 'Where have you guys been?'" Detweiler says, especially in Germany, where the band's name alone resonates. "It was pretty exciting for us to play in Germany and Scandinavia, and we sold more records in Paris than we did in all of Ohio." Not that Over the Rhine is a nonentity at home. Detweiler says he and Bergquist usually are recognized while running errands, and the band's annual Christmas show sells out. "It seems like there's a lot of support," he says. "But I know a lot of those people drive in from other places, and I guess we have been on the road the last three or four years. I can feel a sort of pulling away from a regional thing." Oh well. Cincinnati's loss is the rest of the world's gain.