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An enthusiastic local crowd says goodbye to Klein and Atomic Raygun Attack at the band's final show in 2009.
Former Fredericksburger Eric Klein played bass and sang with the popular pop-punk band Atomic Raygun Attack. He left town in 2009 and now lives with his wife in Japan.
BY RYAN BROSMER
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Eric Klein moved from a California farm to Fredericksburg at 14. During and after his time at Chancellor High School, he ran the one-time nexus for underground music in this city: FredRock .org. He also played in more bands than he can count, including Kamikaze Escape Plan, Jeff Mullins Band and Atomic Raygun Attack.
So what is he doing now?
In 2009, Klein left town and has been on the move ever since. He traveled to New York and hopped a plane to Thailand on Sept. 11 of that year and spent 14 months traveling the world. All told, he has spent only a couple of weeks in Fredericksburg in the past three years.
"I can't find any compelling reason to stay," he said.
In April 2011, Klein married longtime girlfriend and traveling partner Kyde Marshall. They moved to Japan just after the devastating earthquake and tsunami so Marshall could teach English. And so Klein was gone again. They plan to stay put at least till spring.
"Traveling the world has taught us that everything works out," Marshall said of their spur-of-the-moment adventures.
It also taught them that other cultures can taste different. Their trips are well-documented at kydeand eric.com, and they regularly post short YouTube videos that highlight the idiosyncrasies of their adopted hometown, Kumagaya. Their channel has nearly 900 subscribers.
Of particular note are their food reviews, which mainly consist of specialized fast-food offerings you will never see in the U.S. Case in point: the BK Ringo Burger, a cheeseburger topped with mayo and a spiced, grilled apple that they found at a Japanese Burger King. Perhaps you will want to wash that down with Salty Watermelon Pepsi. Or not.
Klein was once even more popular for his music.
Despite strong followings for many of his bands, it was with Atomic Raygun Attack that Klein gained a cult following in Fredericksburg and beyond. He played bass alongside Clint Winfrey on guitar and Andy Breivik on drums.
Between 2003 and 2009, the band played a clever, humor-laden brand of pop-punk that packed community centers, libraries, and other small venues for crowds singing along to every word. The band practiced and recorded at Klein's Spotsylvania home, and all of their music was released and is still available free online.
"We gathered a much larger fan base by giving music away for free than we ever would have if we tried to sell physical albums," Klein said. "Kids these days are all pirates with the Napsters and they will rob you blind and leave you with a stack of expensive CDs you can't sell."
That unorthodox plan succeeded, and earned the band a strange sort of local popularity.
"Once we were asked to play a 16-year old girl's birthday party, and it was a lot of fun," Klein said.
But the band--friends who had grown up together--were all growing older, starting families, and finding less time for the music. They played their final show on March 13, 2009, and that was that.
But Klein still thinks about the Fredericksburg music scene and the ebbs and flows he saw when he was an integral part of it.
"There were moments where there were lots of great shows, and then periods where there was nowhere for bands to play so everything dried up," he said. "I think a lot of that was due to lack of venues more than a lack of musicians or people interested to see them play."
Lately though, Klein has seen a more open music scene in this city, which he attributes to more willing venues and the efforts of Fredericksburg All Ages.
Klein and Kyde have recently launched Facebook and Twitter pages and are revamping their official travelog website. They might try to grow the documentation of their gonzo travels into something bigger. They are also deciding where to go next, with Sweden looking like a distinct possibility.
Or maybe an Atomic Raygun Attack reunion?
"I guess I miss writing songs with the guys from ARA more than anything," Klein says. "Shows were fun too, but I'm over moving equipment around all the time."
OK, so probably Sweden.
Ryan Brosmer can't wait to see what passes for a hamburger in Scandinavia.