November 17, 2000 -- When the same brewery that makes Samuel Adams launched a new beer called "BoDean's Twisted Tea," rock band the BoDeans didn't kick up a fuss — even though Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas had been performing under that name for 16 years, right down to the capital "D." Live and let live, they figured.
Then, in the summer, the beer company took out a huge ad for BoDean's Twisted Tea — featuring some guitars and a blurb about the BoDeans' July 9 Summerfest gig — in the paper of the band's hometown, Milwaukee. "And we said, 'Oops! Too close!'" says singer-guitarist Neumann.
"It's one thing to have a common name, but to represent us and lead people to believe that [we endorse the beer], that's too much. We don't endorse it, and it shouldn't look that way."
The band asked the brewer to stop, but it didn't. So this week, the group filed suit to protect its name.
"Weird" is how Neumann describes the situation. "We sent them some legal letters and they pretty much said they didn't feel they'd infringed on anything. They refused to change anything. So we had to approach it through the legal path.
"Lucky, I don't have to follow it too close; our manager hired a lawyer and he's dealing with it," Neumann says. "When it gets to stuff like that, it's kind of ugly, and I try to stay away."
Indeed, Neumann has enough to deal with musically. His first solo album, Shy Dog, was released earlier this year and he's doing a few gigs to promote it. He and Llanas are also trying to get the BoDeans' recording career back on track after splitting with their longtime record label and perpetually being on the edge of breakthrough success with underground faves like 1986's "She's a Runaway."
In the four years since the band's last record, Blend, the BoDeans haven't released an album (except for an overseas-only best-of compilation). Although both Neumann and Llanas released solo albums, the BoDeans continue to tour, and Neumann and Llanas remain songwriting and singing partners — albeit, at times, tense ones. Neumann has made no attempt to hide his irritation at Llanas for making a solo album and only did his own reluctantly.
"I thought we'd built a lot of momentum up and hit a place that gave us opportunities to get a larger audience," Neumann says. "Shutting down the whole organization didn't seem like a good idea to me. But I'm the only one voicing that [opinion]; it fell on deaf ears. Sam went and did his thing, so I didn't have any choice but to do a record, too."
Neumann calls his solo shows "strangely liberating. There are things I can do where, if I did them onstage [with the BoDeans], Sam would get irritated. I had to have a non-aggressive role," he says. "I get to play drums onstage as well as everything else I want to do. Sam had a bad habit of kind of stomping on me right before I went on, and that would ruin the show for me. I'd have a hard time with that stuff. Throughout the years, I've just decided it's better not to push it, just do my thing."
Despite the harsh words, the duo remains committed to the band, Neumann quickly adds.
"Everything is cool. I can say the stuff I do because it's just the way it is. Sam and I are like a marriage; we've learned how to live together and how to be together. All I'm expressing is there's definitely a difference between us."