Bang-bang, you’re smitten

Popgun fires the next shot in the pop-music wars

Mark Harrod of Popgun: Sonic toaster tarts for the hungry masses.

Mark Harrod of Popgun: Sonic toaster tarts for the hungry masses.

See it! 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, at Old Ironsides, 1901 10th St., with deathray and David Houston. $7.

Rock ‘n’ roll has put Mark Harrod’s ass in a sling.

OK, not really, but it did put his arm in a sling. Years of drumming locally for Go National, Grub Dog & the Amazing Sweethearts and other local bands weakened the bone in Harrod’s right arm; finally, it broke. Talk about suffering for your art.

But the injury isn’t slowing him down. Though he has given up drumming, Harrod is still going great guns with Popgun, the local sugar-sweet pop combo he sings with and writes the songs for. With a new, self-titled CD slated for release this Saturday and an accompanying record release show at Old Ironsides, Harrod is looking anything but convalescent.

He’s also anything but a rock star. Sitting inside a Denny’s, the most un-rocking joint in town (Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen blares from the jukebox); Harrod digs into a slice of apple pie, left-handed, and—between mouthfuls—describes his one and only brush with fame.

“I grew up in Indiana,” he says. “I came out to L.A. in ‘87, to be a star. Didn’t work.”

And how close did he come to stardom?

“Um … I met Linda Ronstadt.” He pauses, takes a bite. “At an American Music Awards show. They have these things called seat fillers. If somebody gets up to receive an award thing, the seat filler jumps down and sits in their seat, so when the camera pans the crowd, it looks full, like there isn’t anybody missing. I met Linda Ronstadt. I got her a chair. Sat behind Evander Holyfield.”

And that seems to be as close to the spotlight as Harrod could comfortably be. In person, he’s quiet and careful, like a teenager afraid to crack jokes around his girlfriend’s dad. He’s mild-mannered; it’s tough to picture this guy plotting world domination. Is he?

“I’m shooting for the point where we won’t have to have day jobs,” Harrod explains. “I don’t really care if it’s huge. It would be cool if it was huge, but I don’t expect it,” he insists, and munches his pie.

It’s tough to believe that this shy fellow is the same guy who orchestrated Popgun, an 11-song blast of power pop guaranteed to give you cavities. The music on this disc ranges somewhere between the Cars and the Beach Boys, with the keyboard sound from “96 Tears” thrown in. Pop clearly rules in the Harrod household; he even cites Manhattan Transfer as an influence (before insisting that perhaps that one should go without mention).

Popgun is a lot better than our last one,” Harrod says, referencing the SAMMIE-winning Shove Me, released when his band was still called 100 Acre Wood. “If this doesn’t win a SAMMIE this year, oh, it’s a crime,” he cracks.

“She’s Right There,” the album’s deviation from the power-pop paradigm, is also its most engaging track, a smoov-ridin’ groove that will take you back to awkward junior high slow dances in the gym. Other standout songs include the kooky-sounding “I Know U Lied” and the riff-heavy (and powerfully optimistic) “Super Duper"—both as hooky as all get out.

Popgun—with Harrod on vocals and guitar, Andrew Conway on bass, Larry Carr on drums and Kevin Harrod on keyboards—has been playing locally under the name 100 Acre Wood for nearly four years. Carr, the band’s most recent addition, didn’t come on board in time to play drums on all the tracks on Popgun, so Harrod recorded them himself. Along with the most recent Go National release, Popgun represents his last hurrah behind the drum kit.

But the pop can’t be stopped. The ever down-to-earth Harrod says he doesn’t expect Popgun to garner his band superstardom on a grand scale. Then he grins and adds, “But when you listen to it, you totally expect it.”

So come and listen. At Popgun’s CD release show this Saturday, Harrod promises door prizes and balloons galore.