By Jason Keil   Published Feb 06, 2004 at 5:18 AM

{image1}Vocalist and guitarist Paul Wall, one of the members of the Milwaukee band Trolley, is starting to grow sad about the band's drummer Nick Zahn taking a leave of absence. The quartet, which for the last eight years has become known for its hard-hitting melodic pop that brings to mind the music of The Kinks while winking at 1970s punk, will take a break from performing while Zahn goes to Asia with his girlfriend for the next few months.

"I wish I could play every night of my life," says Wall, "It's kind of tough playing around people's schedules, but I wouldn't trade being in a band for anything in the world."

Does this mean that Trolley will simply take a break after their February 7 performance at Vnuk's while Zahn hangs up his drumsticks for six months?

Far from it.

The group, with a fill-in drummer, will make an appearance at the upcoming International Pop Overthrow in Chicago, which showcases the best in power pop. Then Wall, Mike Perotto (vocals, guitar, and keyboards) and Terry Hackbarth (vocals, bass) will head back to the studio to record the follow-up to the band's fifth CD, "Last Chance Dance." Released in 2003 the record earned Trolley some of the best kudos of since their first album in 1996.

Wall admits that he and his band mates can get a little personal with their songwriting, and it's apparent on each of the songs on their most recent disc.

"Fade Away" deals with an "aging dime-store celebrity" ("Looking old and turning grey/about time they act their age") and the subject of "Ladies and Gentlemen" continues to elude Wall ("Did you forget what you came for/You mind your manners one by one"), though he has his suspicions. "(Perotto) wrote it and I have a funny feeling it's about me."

If you get the feeling that the members of Trolley are at each other's throats, you are sorely mistaken.

"I was very protective of my songs," explains Wall, "Now I find it just as fulfilling to write with someone else. You have got to trust your band mates' talents. What attracted me to them were their tastes for melodic pop and rock. I knew within one or two practices that (Perotto and Hackbarth) were the guys." (Note: Don Kurth was drummer before Nick Zahn joined the band.)

"Last Chance Dance" was two years in the making as Perotto, who Wall says is a human encyclopedia of '60s rock, was coming into his own as an engineer and became fascinated with the possibilities of recording on his eight-track reel-to-reel recorder.

The band recorded the album in a fashion that was similar to The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," (the Brian Wilson-led group is referenced in the song "She Talks about the Beach Boys") and the end result is something a little rougher around the edges than Trolley's previous work. Ace engineer Mike Zirkel mixed the album at Madison's Smart Studios.

"I like all of our albums quite a bit," Wall says, who is also in the garage-punk band The Nice Outfit, "('Last Chance Dance') shows a bit more of our '60s side, but I can be proud of all our songs.

"(The '60s rock and '70s punk) is what has always been melodic to my ears. It is all good music, no matter what genre it is. I've always tried to write these types of songs since I was 15. I was always a weird kid because I liked this type of music instead of heavy metal."

Trolley expects to take a new tack when recording the next record, according to Wall.

"(Perotto) doesn't want to do that again," says Wall, "It was hard." Instead, Trolley will go for a more "immediate" sound as they head back to the studio with Eugene III of The Etiquette to record the next album.

Despite the acclaim Trolley receives, not just locally, but at the many festivals they have played (North By Northeast and South By Southwest), and when sharing the stage with New Found Glory, Reel Big Fish and surf-guitar legend Dick Dale, Wall feels that what Trolley can be most proud of is its body of work. He says, "What is going to last is the stuff on the tape."

It will give their drummer something nice to come back home to. Trolley will be performing with The Carolinas, newly reformed, and their Easter Records label mates Heathrow at Vnuk's, located at 5036 S. Packard Ave. in Cudahy, on Sat., Feb. 7 at 10 p.m. For more information on Trolley, please visit