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When Columbus-based Shinola debuted in 1997 with a self-released album, the band instantly teetered on the edge of a breakthrough. In an attempt to push itself over the line on the next album, the "garage pop" foursome created a retro-robot image and changed its name to Go Robot Go. But now, after two more releases on Columbus's Bandaloop Records (including this year's Wait Three Days . . . Then Attack!), the band, which performs Thursday at the Blind Lemon in Lakewood, is still perched on the precipice.
"The new album debuted [in early March] at 111 on the college charts," guitarist Josh Lowe says optimistically. "You know, you're not going to write home about that, but the fact that that's the third album in a row we've got onto the college charts -- and that it debuted there -- is a good sign."
Still, the robot theme has not taken the underground scene by storm, mostly because it's a concept on paper only. Lowe admits that it "makes a good press release" and album art, but when the band plays live, it's "very different. We're a pure indie pop band that just gets up there and throws the music out. It never dawned on me that maybe we were selling ourselves short by not having a theatrical live show to go along with the shtick."
That doesn't mean Go Robot Go theater is in the planning stages. The band members -- now five of them, with the addition of a second keyboardist for the new album -- still work all week at mundane jobs and don't have the time to create live theater, especially with their "weekend warrior" ethic, which allows them to play anywhere, as long as they're back on the job by 6 a.m. Monday morning.
"We picked the robot shtick because of the weird vocal robotic sounds we use and because none of us in the band are like emotional players, so we don't really have this soul dripping out of our music," Lowe explains. "But now we're onto video games."
Lowe describes Wait Three Days as a concept album designed to make listeners believe they're playing a video game. And given the band's signature retro-'70s lyrical matter -- with references to Scooby Doo, roller-rink divas, and episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show -- they don't mean a Sony PlayStation.
"We're definitely creatures of the '70s," Lowe admits. "That's where we grew up, and that's one of the things that comes out -- we're probably too old to even be considered an indie pop band."
All this time on the brink of success -- "The Kelly Affair" from Wait Three Days was recently featured as a "hot new mp3" on the Abercrombie & Fitch website -- has given Lowe some perspective, and for now, he seems content. "We're actually on a little label now," he says. "I guess I would rather be a grassroots band and build to selling 100,000 records than a one-hit wonder."