"Songs From the Pointless Forest" is the title of the debut CD from Maryland songwriter Kowtow Popof. The reference in the title is lost on most, so herewith is the explanation, courtesy of Popof (not his real name): "It doesn't really mean anything." Knowing that wouldn't wash, we pressed the point. "It's from the record by Harry Nilsson, 'The Point.' Oblio and his dog Arrow were banished to the Pointless Forest," he explains. Okay, that's better. It even gives us a musical reference point.
"Oh sure, I love Nilsson," says Popov. " 'The Point' was probably the first record I ever bought." The late Nilsson was noted for the intellectual wit hiding in his melodies, and Popov found himself drawn in that direction as his record collection grew to include Cat Stevens, the Strawbs, Gentle Giant and Jethro Tull.
When punk came around, Popov grabbed onto the energy. "It was fresh and different. It definitely came around at the right time." Graduating college left him feeling aimless, so the Kowtow man began strumming tunes, and he found himself in the Washington bands Bellyland and Senses Bureau, before becoming frustrated and deciding that a one-man-band was the way to go.
On the CD, Popov takes care of all the instruments including drums (except for one cut, where a pal played), and creates a mixture of all his influences. Many of the tunes start with acoustic guitar chords, before taking some art-rock turns, with Popof throwing in some pre-punk Roxy Music moves and the full-blown drama of bands like Simple Minds and Midnight Oil.
When he plays Friday at Arlington's O'Carroll's restaurant and bar, Popof will be joined by guitarist Johnny del Rio (don't believe that name either), but there will be no rhythm section re-creating the CD. The songs will stand on their own. "Maybe I can get the audience to clap along," he laughs.
One last thing, though. What about the name? "People can't spell it, can't pronounce it, can't get past it. Maybe it's a really big mistake. Or maybe it's perfect because it will stick in people's minds."
To hear a free Sound Bite from Kowtow Popov, call 202/334-9000 and press 8113.