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The Beauty Shop




The Beauty Shop  (i think this is my favorite review ever)
By Scott Barlett

John Hoeffleur is our leader!

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. In 1982 Urbana held it's first 'Sweet Corn Festival'. Now an annual summer event, they celebrated the 160th anniversary of its foundation by erecting a new city clock, and in 1964 opened America's second indoor shopping mall in Lincoln Square.

No doubt the one Hoeffluer sings about on the new Beauty Shop album: "passed out underneath the disco ball / that you bought from Spencer's at the shopping mall / the kids these days love rock'n'roll'" ('Paper Hearts For Jossie').

I've never been there, but picture Uncle Jessie from 'Dukes Of Hazzard' as a typical resident.

It's a backdrop that explains a lot about where Hoeffluer and his band The Beauty Shop are coming from – literally. Old-time charm the kids just love to kick against.

Too many Buds on a Friday night, a smoke, skateboarding through the quiet streets or riding out into the endless fields in beat-up pick-ups. And, of course, music.

The Beauty Shop are heavy. I don't mean musically, I mean like a hazy hangover on a blistering hot day, or a drunken argument with a girl or boyfriend that you're not sure will "be alright in the morning". That kind of heavy. They play on your mind, play on your heart. Weigh heavy on your chest.

Somehow, though, they remain incredibly beautiful at the same time. Maybe because we see some of ourselves in the music. And because the music itself is gorgeous against the weary words.

Leader Hoeffluer is all wrong on the surface. A punk-rock kid from small town US of A, hair standing on end like he's been rubbing balloons on his head, lumberjack shirt, jeans not quite meeting his DMs.

Just as I want my geniuses to be: an endearing, affable guy who's had his share of life, booze, relationships, places we've all been, but can encapsulate the tales into three minutes of punk attitude to a country tune.

When you see them play he shares a joke or several with the audience and plays guitar like a demon, picking out the most sublimely delicate or most thundering of riffs naturally, and without fanfare.He's cut from the same cloth as Josh Pearson, and has no ego about any of it.

He just likes people to hear his music, and is appreciative to a fault. Sincerity is a definite trait in both the man and his music. A sincerity that draws you closer on each listen or each visit to see them perform.

Debut album 'Yr Money Or Yr Life' was a classic shard of You really can take your Ryan Adams and poke him where the sun don't shine, boy. New album 'Crisis Helpline' picks up where it left off: at the crossroads of Hope Street and Melancoly Drive.

If there is any justice in this twisted universe, Hoeffleur will travel the world playing to people that love his music forever more. He certainly deserves some love and attention.


THE HUB 1-25-05
The Beauty Shop's 2001 debut Yr Money Or Yr Life was a moody, lo-fi, alt-country gem. The release earned the band comparisons to Leonard Cohen, Uncle Tupelo and the "Americana" Pixies. Their sophomore effort, Crisis Helpline, released October 2004 in the UK, offers a more diverse folk/pop/rock sound. Comprised of John Hoeffleur on guitar and vocals and Ariane Peralta on bass, the Beauty Shop enlisted Steve Lamos for drum work on Helpline, while now touring with Brett Sanderson on drums.

Hoeffleur's always had lyric writing down pat, knowing how to balance beauty and despair, dark drama and dark humor. But with this release, you can tell he's been working on the musicianship--bringing his guitar playing and melody crafting to a new level. As in the past, there are the melancholy ballads, such as "The Love I Could Not Save," but there are also more catchy, upbeat hooks on Helpline. "Monster," "Paper Hearts for Josie," "Somewhere" and the thoroughly infectious "Rumplestiltskin Lives" make this a memorable album. If more people had their hands on Helpline, it would easily be recognized as one of the best releases of 2004. Happily, the band is currently shopping the CD to US and larger UK indie labels for a more extensive release



by Eric Skalac

The Beauty Shop’s dark flavor of alt-rock creep is as intoxicating as cheap beer on Halloween, their tracks lush with the dusky character of cornfield-country despair. John Hoeffleur and Co. play simple and moody rock with an attitude you can’t help but love, tripping through beautiful song-work without the requisite rock star arrogance. Find some reviews, I dare you. These guys are lauded like the Pope, and for good reason. Their fantastic debut album Yr Money Or Yr Life seems only to be surpassed by their most recent, Crisis Helpline, an album that’s had Hoeffleur called, “a songwriter with a Midas-like tough in articulating the pious nature of love and heartbreak.” That’s NME, folks.


Beauty Shop, The Hazey Janes, Nice Man @ Stereo, 27/11/04
Michael Togneri

The headliners tonight, though, all the way from the metropolis that is Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, are Beauty Shop, which comprises only two permanent members and a touring drummer. These two are guitarist/singer John Hoeffleur and bassist Ariane Peralta, and their take on American folk displays a thoroughly modern sensitivity – not in the sense that they have sanitised their influences, but rather that they take it as living style of music, not something that is sacrosanct. Their sound, although fairly sparse, engages nonetheless, with its Southern-gothic tales of death, evil-minded love affairs, sordid sex, bad drugs and paranoiac murder. Hoeffleur has talked in interviews about his influences being songwriters such as Cohen and Waits, and there is perceptibly a mix of Cohen’s sophisticated miserablism and Waits’ manic groaning, in the lyrical content if not in the music. His voice, additionally, is somewhat reminiscent of Waits’ ravaged mumblings, albeit before it became a parody of itself. Hoeffleur holds to the melody fairly tightly, draping it over his nimble and energetic acoustic work. Peralta and the drummer have the rhythm very much in their control, never letting it run away with itself, keeping it lithe and mean. The set highlights include their current single, ‘Rumplestiltskin Lives,” an uptempo rockabilly number which Hoeffleur introduces in his gruff, shy speaking voice, and the black-humoured murder ballad “Hatchet Job” that follows (otherwise known, according to the drummer, as “the spooky one.”) Shoeshine Records have done well to give their music a release in the UK.


Buzz Magazine 7/28/04
by Jacob Dittmer
The Beauty Shop: Back in Business:
In the space normally reserved for coffee drinkers and Mac-using grad students, the stage is set for “Indie Rock Meets Urbana.” The festival-type line-up of numerous bands transforms Caffe Paradiso into a concert venue for hipsters and C-U music fans alike. For many , this event marks the return of The Beauty Shop to C-U; their first performance in nearly two years.

Singer/songwriter John Hoeffleur stands outside Paradiso holding his concealed beer beverage talking to old friends and fans about the band’s upcoming album and tour of England. For John, this is merely a return to the fold of C-U music’s scene and a chance to stretch his “show legs” before their trip across the Atlantic in August.

“Here, we’re off schedule,” John said. “But there (UK), we are right on time releasing our new CD in a few weeks. It’s easy for them to think we’re a cut above the rest because we’ve made it across the Atlantic, but we’re really not that different than any other band.” The new album, titled Crisis Helpline, comes two years after the release of Yr Money Yr Life in England and four years after its American release.

John talks about the C-U music scene, often making references to clubs, bars and bands that no longer exist. It’s this wistful “back in the day” attitude that distinguishes John as a seasoned performer in the community. But for those who only recently dove into C-U’s music culture, The Beauty Shop is usually referred to as “that band that did an awesome cover of The Misfits at The Great Cover-Up back in 2002.” John is most humble about The Beauty Shop’s accomplishments, saying that anyone with the drive and passion for music can do it.

“We didn’t have to work for anything really,” John said. “All this stuff was handed to us and it just snowballed from there.”

John’s retelling of the band’s history and his life with music is told with the same humility. John’s involvement in music goes back to his early teens. He said he picked up the bass in 7th grade, in admiration of Skid Row bassist Rachel Bolan’s nose jewelry. Once he made the journey from his hometown Arlington Heights to the University of Illinois in 1996, he found himself a member of Jove. As a freshman in college, he was playing bass with Garenne Bigby and Josh Augustine on guitar, and Brett Sanderson on drums. John found himself befriending members of The Blackouts as well as playing bass with them on part of their first record.

He soon made the decision to focus on guitar, choosing to play what he called protest and political songs in the coffeehouse circuit. He met Casey Smith, who played drums for The Beauty Shop for two years, and the two recorded a demo called Grief EP. After a few talked-about local performances, the EP made its way to Parasol Records. John was offered the chance to record an album via Parasol. Simultaneously, they auditioned bassist Ariane Peralta who responded to a handwritten “bassist wanted” ad on campus.

“We’re a meritocracy,” John said. “If you’ve got the skills to play, then you’re in. Ariane auditioned for us and she was it.”

Ariane has been with the band since 1999 and complements John perfectly. She has an understated, more reserved personality than John, but when it comes to performing, she is right alongside him musically. The drummer position has seen the most changes, with four different drummers in five years’ time.

“The package deal of the song includes everyone in the band regardless if you’re playing a barebones melody,” Ariane said. “Being flashy doesn’t equal sounding good, especially with our style of music.”

Outside Paradiso, Ariane eats a sandwich and talks to a friend while John points out who he considers The Beauty Shop’s biggest fan, Chris Fairfield. Fairfield is pleased to see John returning to play live in C-U, and wonders what has happened in the past few years. The two talk music with John eagerly talking about his recent musical infatuations, including hardcore L.A. punk band Fear and the bearded classic rockers ZZ Top. “Can’t get enough of ‘em,” John says to Fairfield.

Bands like ZZ Top don’t seem like heavy influences on John’s Beauty Shop writing style, and leaves one wondering if he is serious. Those unfamiliar with John aside from his music may think he sits around listening to dark folk singers like Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen, but he prefers to listen to whatever he likes, citing advice from a friend at Parasol.

“Mike Roux from Parasol once said to me, ‘There are no guilty pleasures, just submit,’” John said. “Cool is an illusion and isn’t representative of what’s good.”

“I still remember the first birthday party of yours we played at with people fighting on the fucking roof with swords,” John continues with Fairfield. Those lucky enough to see The Beauty Shop in their infancy know their willingness to play any venue, including living rooms and birthday parties. Fairfield happened to be a particularly lucky fan; the band performed at two of his birthday parties.

It’s this down-to-earth attitude that separates John and the band from many other artists. Getting on stage at Paradiso an hour-and-a-half later than scheduled—”These Woodstock events are never on time,” John jokes—John leans into the microphone singing the theme song to Channel 3 WCIA, eliciting laughter from the eager fans. He is quick to thank everyone in attendance for coming. He stops to thank all other parties involved with making the show happen. Sure, it’s the typical crowd pandering seen at sold-out shows in Chicago, but with John, it’s real.

“We always said, if there are more people in attendance than members of the band, it’s a show,” John said. “If there are fewer in attendance than band members, then it’s a practice. Either way, we could use it.”

This performance is more than a practice. John’s easy-going personality and excellent conversation skills makes him a natural performer. For having not performed live in C-U for sometime, John is surprisingly at ease.

This show reunites John with fellow Jove member Brett Sanderson on drums (the hardest working musician in C-U). It’s hard to believe this is the band’s first concert back in C-U, with their performance synching up for most of the show. As one would expect, the occasional slip-up occurs—John dropping his pick and accidentally unplugging his guitar, for instance—but overall, the moments of panicked eye contact between band members are few and far between. John is a natural performer with not one ounce of anxiety showing and a superb ability to make the crowd laugh.

“We don’t have MTV dreams,” John said. “I want to connect with people at our shows. Having some melody that fucks with their head long after we’re done is a real accomplishment.”

After the show, John and Ariane help Brett pack up his drums. They discuss how the show went and are relatively pleased with the first gig as the newly remodeled Beauty Shop.

“John and I have been playing together for so long that toying with parts of songs comes naturally,” Ariane said. “Brett caught on real quick. His drumming is just what we needed.”

The first record, Yr Money Yr Life, certainly contains a number of haunting melodies that stick in the listener’s head after one listen. The album received numerous positive reviews with many mentioning the lyrics in the company of dark American songwriters and comparing the sound to many alt-country bands of the ‘90s.

“The first record is a picture in time for me,” John said. “Many of the songs are about mental health mostly; depression, heartbreak and drug abuse.”

The new record was recorded throughout the past year with UK label Shoeshine promising to release it August 30 in England (still unsure about a U.S. release date). John said it deals with mental health but on a broader scale. He considers the album better in all regards, including production and songwriting. It’s more upbeat than the first record.

“It’s still crazy to me we have this UK record deal,” Ariane said. “And that is the real deal. I would be a fool to pass up the opportunities the band has been offered.”

“The way to get success is to focus on the moment,” John said. “Getting it right for the fans in Champaign is the start.” John continues with his modesty, saying that what he and the band are doing is nothing special. But recently, he discovered their latest single was the “single of the week” on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 radio show.

“I feel like a goofball Patch Adams saying, ‘Anyone can do it,’” John said. “A lot of kids have something in their head telling them they can’t play like me. But do you think Gene Simmons is any kind of genius?”
 "A dirty needle of delicious despondence shot through with rough, down-beat country. One hit will floor you for days. Overdose and you may slip into the Beauty Shop's murky world for good" (Slant)

"Bleak and beauteous, slowed and catchy songs of hum, strum and pep" (Time Out)

" of the genre's most inspiring collectives" (Teletext)

"Sparse, poignant and sincere" (Classic Rock)

"This could make you believe you are listening to country rock's answer to Leonard Cohen" (Rock Sound)

"Prowling through the darkest shadows of Americana, songwriter John Hoeffleur drawls his lyrics of bitterness, jealousy and downright orneriness over a battered acoustic and loping rhythm section...a solid debut (Mail On Sunday)

"With each of these tracks The Beauty Shop have hidden a piece of us" (

"Blessed with a natural sense of timing and harmony...satisfyingly downbeat but melodic" (



Shoeshine Records Revue - Live - Hull Adelphi, 16th July 2002 Review by Nick Quantrill

A brief listen to the current Shoeshine Records sampler disc reveals a record label showcasing a varied and interesting stable of artists. Bringing together three acts, all with great records to promote, Francis McDonald (Teenage Fanclub etc.) proves that there is plenty of musical  talent around if only the record company executives could be bothered to look for it. First act to take the stage was American singer-songwriter Major Matt Mason USA. With his unique brand of urban folk/punk material he kept the crowds attention throughout his forty-minute set. Major Matts songs displayed a touching honesty, with subject matter ranging from the deeply personal through to the comic. Despite his apparent unease on stage, Major Matt provided great thought provoking entertainment. Cork based Boa Morte showcased a different aspect of the Shoeshine label. Their slow paced, quiet material has a haunting quality that draws the listener in. The use of cello adds a beauty and depth to the songs to make them memorable. The headliners from Illinois, The Beauty Shop offered a more straightforward, traditional approach. Mixing pop, country and hillbilly to create their own toe-taping sound, The Beauty Shop performed an enthusiastic set to conclude a great nights entertainment. It was also great to see the musicians so obviously enjoying themselves so much and taking  photos for their personal collections! As the music business continues to produce dull, soul-less clones to be forced upon the music market and the quick buck becomes ever more important, independent labels like Shoeshine  Records should be celebrated and supported all the more.


John Hoeffleur of The Beauty Shop is coming back to the UK in January to coincide with the re-release of The Beauty Shop "Yr Money or Yr Life" album. His music is dark Americana - often compared to The Handsome Family, Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. The reviews have been great - "beautiful, perfect, essential...5/5" said Drowned in Sound and "***ing excellent" said Time Out


The Edinburgh Evening News wax lyrical about John Hoeffleur/The Beauty Shop:

"THANK God for the Americana tag - that handy label for all things that aren't quite country, not really folk and hardly rock 'n' roll yet emanate from North America.
Only a couple of years ago we would have been forced to file singer-songwriter John Hoeffleur of Illinois-based trio The Beauty Shop in the drawer marked which would have meant that many people would have taken a firm grasp of the wrong end of the stick.
Admittedly Hoeffleur's morbid, mordant ditties have drawn comparisons to Johnny Cash but there's more than a hint of plucky old miserablist Leonard Cohen and even Kurt Cobain thrown in for good measure.
"I'm flexible," chuckles Hoeffleur,25. "I'm just as comfortable in front of a rock crowd or an crowd, but if people ask I tend to say that we're a rock 'n roll band because country still has some negative connotations in America. I should also add that lots of people that despise country music enjoy our record too."
That flexibility should come in handy, Hoeffleur is in town on Sunday to fill out one of the most eclectic bills the Capital has seen in months. He'll be joined by Scots indie-pop nobility - the BMX Bandits (see What's On Page three) and Eugene Kelly former frontman of former Cobain favourites, The Vaselines.
For odd man out Hoeffleur it's a rare chance to showcase songs from The Beauty Shop's acclaimed debut album, Yr Money Or Yr Life, albeit as a solo artist.
"A lot of these songs don't really require the rest of the band and I think most of them are good enough to stand up on their own," reasons Hoeffleur. "Our focus is on writing good songs that are a little more - shall we say 'hand-crafted' than most popular music."
Job done. Originally released last year in this country by Glasgow-based label Shoeshine Records, Yr Money Or Yr Life pretty much defies categorisation. Hoeffleur's none-more-black humour considerably leavens the downbeat arrangements and his, by turns, ironic and heartfelt drawl which at times sounds uncomfortably close to that of Crash Test Dummies (remember them?) vocalist, Brad Roberts.
Hoeffleur, however (whose normal speaking voice does sound like that anyway) manages to stay just the right side of affectation in his delivery of lines such as: "I made a mountain out of coke that I sniffed up my nose/ I wrote 'f***' on all my clothes, that's the life I chose" from the stand-out track I Got Issues.
Proof positive that Americans do have a healthy sense of irony after all or thinly veiled autobiography? "The Beauty Shop is kind of a weird band," Hoeffleur admits. "I mean, I'm a weirdo for sure, and it's weird that a regular guy like (drummer) Casey is in a band with me, because he's real nice and I'm mean, and he's vegan and my diet is beef - exclusively! And then you look at (bass player) Ariane, who's from Indiana, is a girl, is Filipino, is 4'11 and we're all playing country-rock music or whatever it is!"
Ah, maybe that's the best label for The Beauty Shop's twisted bluesy, countryish, lo-fi sound - whatever it is."


John Hoeffleur - Stange Fruit Club- The Spitz, London, 19th January 2003

Following the wildly eccentric but entirely pleasing Birmingham outfit Mistys Big Adventure, Mr Hoeffleur had an altogether more downbeat stage presentation, if only for the fact that he didnt have a lunatic in a vinyl costume with a hundred rubber gloves attached jumping about. Dont ask, but do venture out and take a look at Mistys if you get a chance, because the music is a lot more interesting than this, veering from thrash numbers to big funky ska slabs. As for JH, this time hes touring the UK without his band mates, and just with his acoustic guitar; the result strips the songs back to their essence, referencing folk and country traditions, yet empathetically more in tune with Gordon Gano, a light hearted Ian Curtis or a deeply fucked up mescaline-fueled male cousin of Rickie Lee Jones. There is probably no single artist out there right now who is as likely to appeal to the all-in-black teenage freaks, country heads and NME readers as John Hoeffleur- so many of the songs burn with barely concealed self doubt and anger, yet the music comes across like the sort of thing that EA Poe might have written had the guitar rather than the pen been his weapon of choice- theres a feeling that the melodies are somehow much older then their writer. This might make the whole thing sound terribly 17th Century and gothic, but there are flashes of warmth and light, and many of the songs are effortlessly catchy without any danger of being trite; there is pop modernity here as well as woe. My personal favourites- Death March and I got issues are on display, the former with its admission that of all the things I miss, I miss you most, and you get the impression that the narrator has been nursing his regrets for many nights and many bottles of whisky. How to summarise?  If I had to make a sweeping statement, Id say that John Hoeffleur stands every chance of being as fine a songwriter as John Strohm, Andrew Bird or Brendan Benson. Watch this space and watch this man. MP


The Beauty Shop
Yr Money Or Yr Life
Folks who like their Americana on the mildly twisted side--think early Palace or The Handsome Family, starring Burque familiar Brett Sparks--will treat this Illinois band's debut like a reprinting of Wisconsin Death Trip. John Hoeffleur's mournfully deadpan growl delivers lines like "When I leave, I'll leave you sore/And then you'll know how sorry feels" with enough understated menace to keep them from sounding like a tough-guy affectation, and the accompanying banjos, mandolins, acoustic guitars and simple drums are low-key, not half-assed. Hoeffleur's lyrics are pretty relentlessly bleak, but there's a fragile, almost desolate beauty to these songs that keeps the album from sounding like a Jim Thompson novel set to music.

Yr Money or Yr Life
Beauty Shop singer John Hoeffleur sounds as if he's singing only because he has to. His low-key, deep drawl ambles out of his mouth like a cat getting out of the way of the feet of an approaching humanwilling to move but making it clear by the speed at which he does so that he'd really rather not. This has nothing to do with laziness, mind youHoeffleur's haunted, introspective country rock songs are too well-crafted for that to be the case. Instead, it sounds as though he'd much rather be able to beam his songs directly into your brain, which would be much less trouble than singing and strumming a no-doubt battered acoustic guitar. After all, once the tunes are out in the open, they're subject to misinterpretation, so why should he put much effort into singing them? Bassist Ariane Pertala and drummer Casey Smith seem perfectly willing to follow Hoeffleur's relaxed tempos and bare-bones arrangements. This sounds like an exercise in laconic self-indulgence, but Yr Money or Yr Life is actually quite charming. This band's artless presentation isn't any less "take it or leave it" than that of someone more obnoxious and challenging, and there isn't a shred of dishonesty. The Beauty Shop gives world-weary a good name.
Michael Toland

For fans of: the Handsome Family, Lee Hazlewood, Johnny Dowd

The Beauty Shop, a quirky cross of cowpunk and avant rock



 Interview with Francis MacDonald crud magazine

The Beauty Shop (a name for the future)





The Beauty Shop's John Hoeffleur and Casey Smith

1. Mixing session you wish you could have attended-
John: "Minutemen-Double Nickels on the Dime. Anything with 70's era Aerosmith, mostly for the 'lifestyle' aspects."
Casey: "Michelle Shocked, The Texas Campfire Tapes. It's a very lo-fi Sony Walkman recording with trucks/crickets and the works. The songs still make it through the muck and are f**king amazing."

2. Songs you think you probably shouldn't like but just can't help yourself-
John: '"I Can't Go For That' by Hall and Oates, 'Nookie' by Limp Bizkit, 'Jeopardy' by Greg Kihn Band and some silly ass song on the oldies station called 'Sugar Shack.'
Casey: "Cyndi Lauper's, 'I'll Kiss You'Ouchthe shame. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils' 'Chicken Train.' I blame my family."

3. Favorite record that you can't find on CD (or CD you can't find on vinyl)-
John: "If anyone has a copy of any sort of Bill Bruford's Master Strokes, with Allan Holdsworth and Jeff Berlin, let me know. I had fusionaire's disease for a couple years but I still think that's some ill shit."
Casey: "Hmmmm.... records?"

4. First Concert-
John: "8th grade, Red Hot Chili Peppers with opening act Pearl Jam at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago. I don't care what anybody thinks of those bands, it was a rad show, certainly at least for a 1st show."
Casey: "Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble at the Virginia Theater (Champaign, IL), they opened for The Fabulous Thunderbirds."

5. Favorite Bass Player-
John: "Good one. Absolute favorite I guess has got to be Mike Watt, but I used to be a bass player, and so I've got a long, rambling list."
Casey: "No faves really.... there's lots of talent out there."

After building a rabid hometown following, Champaign's The Beauty Shop  recently released a debut CD (Yr money or Yr life) full of songs that would not be out of place on Handsome Family or Uncle Tupelo albums.



John Hoeffleur
Hull Adelphi (15/01/03)

Finding out about John Hoeffleur of The Beauty Shop's set at the Adelphi (Hull's best live music venue, recent host to several Elephant Six bands and well deserving of more support, just to get that in early) after an exam two days beforehand was a pleasant discovery. The Champagne-Urbana, Illinois three-piece's 2000 album, Yr Money or Yr Life is a masterwork of the embittered, sardonic and eerie-comic, earning comparisons with Cohen, Cave, Cobain, Tom Waits and the Violent Femmes. It's been in my CD tray on a regular basis since I caught the band at last summer's Shoeshine Revue tour. I'd been rather impressed (to say the least) by the full band back in August, and wondered about the nature of this solo show (it was billed as a John Hoeffleur gig with "of The Beauty Shop" close underneath.

After an entertaining support set from Matt of Hull's own Edible Five-Foot Smiths, worth checking as a full band for their unusual combination of Radiohead, Bossa Nova, and Canada asphyxiation alone (The Cooper Temple Clause and Truck Records probably agree too) Hoeffleur takes the stage to a jam-packed Adelphi (in actual fact two of my mates have just gone to play pool and they were about 15% of the assembled crowd). After inviting requests and thanking the audience for turning up he launched into an excellent new (from memory untitled) song, slightly alt-country based with an air of rich, mellow desperation with a recital of "passed out underneath the disco these days love rock'n'roll" before launching into Hatchet Job, a slanted blues number evoking, and possibly lyrically referencing Nick Drake with "the fruit that this tree bears is truly strange indeed".

The following Monster references mental illness with a sublime unease, it's "your as good as dead...monsters in your head" couplet combining with more disconcerting material. On request we get the first Yr Money... track of the night, I Got Issues retains a sweaty, smirking whisky-drenched nastiness in this stripped down form. I can't emphasise enough how superb irritated lyrics like "I wrote fuck on all my clothes, that's the life I chose, I made a monkey out of me, but that's my ancestry...the only really perfect love is one that gets away" coupled with light hearted response "so I got me my straw hat, and my bottle of Jack, and head down to those train tracks" are in the context of Hoeffleur's work. In contrast his stage demeanour couldn't be more accommodating, there's a lot of interaction with the audience, and the three or four fans present are fortunate enough to be seeing an artist they respect amenable to their request.

Dutch Courage shines with scathing comical cynicism. Anyone who's been called "Mr Whiskeyhead" might understand. He stops between songs to note "In case you've noticed I'm a real bona fide American, so if you want to come up to me after the show and ask me about the fascism over there go I'm just kidding, maybe..." Other highlights include a contemplative 803 W. Nevada and more fraught new song Sly/A Desperate Cry for Help before Hoeffleur closes with Yr Money's finale, Science Lights - tonight it's introduced as "a song about genetic engineering, I'm willing to take up the pro-cloning position for the debate tonight". Played alone on an acoustic guitar it takes on an instrumentally mellow nature that surprisingly complements Hoeffleur singing "Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, you can't conceal this suicide" particularly well.

After the show he told me the second Beauty Shop album should be out in spring or summer this year, and I for one can't wait. Tonight he offers to play a Misfits cover set. As the refrain to Bloody Nose goes "Life's a bitch, and then you die, but how long can it be postponed" - tonight's brilliance can't be summed up better.

Reviewed By Thomas Lee


September 06, 2001

And the Beauty Shop did a too-genuine rendition of Leonard Cohen, with an amazing version of "Everybody Knows" the highlight of the set. The singer has a great gravelly deep voice ideally suited to the material, but without sounding like he's doing a Cohen imitation.



BMX Bandits, Eugene Kelly, John Hoeffleur

The Bongo Club

Next with the one-man-and-a-guitar show is John Hoeffleur,
frontman of American trio The Beauty Shop .

Hoeffleur looks charmingly like a backwoods tree-feller, and sings with
the disarming croon of a moonshine-drunk Southern boy. Unlike the rest of the bill, he was by no means preaching to the converted - but by the end of a charming, tender and deliciously bitter set, he had most definitely converted the preached-to.

Beside the Bandits' frontman Duglas T Stewart, however, Hoeffleur is
positively Victor Meldrew. If the crowd wasn't emphatically on his side
already, you'd guess he was trying a little too hard to be liked. But,
really, his enthusiastic and personable anecdotes simply reinforce the
legend that he really is one of the nicest men in pop. And, entirely at
odds with any notion of rock n' roll aloofness


Metro, Chicago
Thursday, August 2, 2001

But the crowd closed ranks when The Beauty Shop took the stage. Another three-piece, this one features John Hoeffleur, a vocalist with the deep drawl of Crash Test Dummies and the dark attitude of Nick Cave. Their set merged cowpunk attitude with lazy strumming and a wicked sense of the macabre (see "Death March," which talks of licking a corpse's canteen and becoming a ghost -- and should be a college radio hit). A quietly dangerous act, they didn't move much on stage, but Hoeffleur entranced the crowd with his twangy guitar picking and wry recitation of "I Got Issues" and a jangly tale of "Dutch Courage." Bassist Casey Smith anchored the right side of the stage, playing Kim Deal to Hoeffleur's Frank Black with her silently enigmatic presence, adding a solid thumping bassline to move Hoeffleur's riffs along.

--John Everson
Originally published in The Illinois Entertainer (online edition) August 8, 2001



Some bands put a picture of themselves on the cover. Some bands try to best express their visual image through the CD booklet art. The mannequin flashing gang symbols on the front of The Beauty Shop's debut CD Yr Money or Yr Life, and the accompanying faux horror show photos and fonts, give no indication of the trio behind the music. But maybe it is a window to the soul of The Beauty Shop's songwriter John Hoeffleur. The lyrics to "I Got Issues" have me believing:

I made a mountain out of coke/That I sniffed up my nose
I wrote fuck on all clothes/That's the life I chose


I open my big mouth/And let my hatred out
Just to see you pout/Girl that's what I'm about

My first taste of the Champaign-Urbana based The Beauty Shop was the band's self-released (y'know, burned 100 at home, then more, then more) Grief EP. The cover art was so disturbing I almost couldn't bring myself to play the CD. While the little man on my shoulder whispered "don't judge a book, blah blah blah" I held out for a few more days. When the local buzz got loud enough to drown out those aggravating voices I finally put in the CD andwell, it was quite good. And listening again it was great. It kind of reminded me of Johnny Dowd's first album. Stark, dark tales of death, or so they both sounded like to me. I forgot about "the cover" and at the urging of Parasol's headmaster Geoff, went to see them live. He was right. They were great. And, how to describe great? The singer, and de facto bandleader, John Hoeffleur, has some kind of charisma. It's the look in his eyes. The look of a guy who designed "the cover."

John picks up The Beauty Shop story in his own words: "The Beauty Shop is kind of a weird band. I mean, I'm a weirdo for sure, and it's weird that a regular guy like (drummer) Casey is in a band with me, because he's real nice and I'm mean, and he's vegan and my diet is beef, exclusively. It's an odd match. Casey can build Robots, I'm a wizard with cardboard. I built a few dogs to pick up girls with and a ten-foot tall piece of toast and two bong costumes for Halloween. And then you look at (bassist) Ariane, who's from Indiana (!), is a girl, is Filipino, is 4'11 I think, and we're all playing country-rock music or whatever it is. I use a beat up acoustic, Casey's got like two drums, and we're playing kind of sedate music, and that was something really new to some people or something. The Grief EP was recorded at a time of pretty dismal morale for various personal reasons, but one factor was certainly the slow death of Casey's cat, who during recording lost control of one front leg. We just watched this poor cat kind of limply slide its front limb across the hardwood floor."

Whew! Yr Money Or Yr Life contains tracks from the Grief EP, plus newly recorded material. The Beauty Shop has been compared to Leonard Cohen and Uncle Tupelo, and cites Chris Whitley and the Gun Club as influences. I stand behind the Johnny Dowd comparisons and love the ghost tales, the drinking tales, the death tales, all of them. "Death March" can be sampled on Parasol's Sweet Sixteen, Volume 2.



A message from John Hoeffleur:

Hello everybody, my name is John and I play guitar and sing and write the songs for my band, The Beauty Shop. We're a quiet little band from Urbana IL. Mud just put out our record, Yr Money or Yr Life, and hooked us up with all sorts of exposure we never even dreamed of. Our focus is on writing good songs that are a little more, shall we say, "handcrafted" than most popular music. For the most part, our sound fits in with this new alt-country whatever thing you may have heard about, maybe a little darker than most. But I should also add that lots of people that despise country music enjoy our record, too. Anyway, we're tying to keep it real, not a lot of stunts and garbage, I just want the band to sound good live and get the songs to feel right. We recorded everything ourselves and put out an EP called "Grief" about a year or so ago, which makes up about half of our new CD. A lot of people told us they like our record, and they really seem sincere, so if you have a chance you might want to check it out somehow. And if you can help us out getting a show someplace, than please let us know. Hell, we just like to hear from people, so please write us at mailto: or check our website at (this site is no longer up)

Thanks for your time and take care.

John Hoeffleur