By Jason Keil   Published Aug 12, 2004 at 5:17 AM

{image1}Paris Texas can finally loosen up and breathe a little bit easier.

The Wisconsin-based band's third release, the relentlessly paced "Like You Like An Arsonist," their first for the upstart New Line Records label (a subsidiary of the film studio that brought moviegoers "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy), is 11 tracks of straightforward dynamite that blows away the emo-punk classification that has stuck with the band since its debut "So You Think It's Hot Here" on Polyvinyl.

Now that the smoke around Paris Texas has cleared, its members can continue to live the lives of struggling musicians. But instead of constantly drowning in a sea of frustration, debt and near-empty shows in Peoria, Paris Texas can start to work its way out of that hole, as guitarist Nick Zinkgraf puts it, "New Line helps us keep our heads above water."

"Like You Like An Arsonist" is not only about fun and rebellion, but it also deals with the struggles that the quintet, which also consists of Matt Tennessenn on bass (those who frequent Atomic Records may recognize him as the one of the many knowledgeable staff members behind the counter), vocalist Scott Sherpe, guitarist Nolan Treolo and drummer Sam Vinz, had to go through to get to this point.

Zinkgraf put is a little more bluntly, "Our influences are friends, Friday nights and bullsh-t. Lyrically, it's a little more in-your-face (than our previous work). There is anger and friendship in every note."

The band's first show was probably the earliest indication that it was going to be a long way to the top if Paris Texas wanted to rock and roll. It was Valentine's Day 1998 and the couples who attended the show that evening felt compelled to go back to their place earlier than expected so they could celebrate the lover's holiday more appropriately. According to the band's bio, "Lovers did not hold hands and weep, at least not with joy. But there was something there, some kind of germ that, if fostered in the right environment, might grow."

It also took some patience to see that "something" through as the band's tribulations began to mount. Shortly after the group's debut was released, one of the original guitarists left. Treolo came in and gave Paris Texas some much needed edge to help them escape the indie-rock pigeon-hole.

But after a while, the boys were beginning to think that the Almighty might be upset with them. On the strength of "Brazilliant" EP, the group ventured out for its biggest tour yet, but the duration of the trip began to dwindle quickly as the van made more unplanned stops on the side of the road than it did at gigs.

Then there were the "sabbaticals" each of the members took. But the biggest blow the band faced came when Sherpe, the group's main lyric writer, moved to Arizona.

But some of that bad karma was starting to get traded in. An intern at New Line Records in New York City, who also happened to be a hometown friend, placed a demo of the searing track "Hip Replacement" on the desk of the powers that be, which led to the group's reformation at Smart Studios in Madison to start recording "Like You Like An Arsonist."

It ended up being the band's biggest undertaking yet. It was over eight months in the making, which may not seem like a long time, but when compared to the week it took to record the 11 songs on the band's debut, Paris Texas knew it needed to become confident in its craft in order to start raking the songs over the coals.

Local musician Kristian Riley was brought in to produce the album (he shares production credit with Treolo), which was quite a fruitful relationship, according to Zinkgraf.

"We wanted to keep everything homegrown. Coming from a do-it-yourself background, there is always a bit of skepticism and concern and Kristian really took that fear away. It wasn't roses all the time, but he got some really awesome performances out of us. His mark is definitely in the middle of the songs."

Production moved to Milwaukee's own Bionic Studios, located mere blocks away from Tennessenn's residence. Not only was it a more cost-effective move, but it also symbolized the group's change from a Madison-based band (four of the five members of Paris Texas originally hail from our state's capital) to a Milwaukee-based band. The change is even more apparent after reading the liner notes of "Like You Like An Arsonist." Props are given to the locally-based Decibully, The Promise Ring (now defunct) and Hey Mercedes.

"The Madison music scene went way south," says Zinkgraf, "The kids need to start making a scene there. We've become more of a Milwaukee band. We've got each other's back all of the time."

More good karma is going Paris Texas' way. The current tour has been free of vehicular mishaps and Sherpe will return to Milwaukee in August. Once the personal situations are in order, the boys will hit the road again. It certainly won't be roses, but stopping to smell them will be easier.

"Like You Like An Arsonist" is available at record stores everywhere (Look for it misplaced with Dashboard Confessional and all the other "emo" albums.) The label's Web site and the band's is