Monday, October 3, 2011

Intro/Maximillian Colby

Oh great, another music blog.  Oh great, another oh so self-aware, self-effacing intro to another music blog.  I know, I know, I know.  This is a blog for myself, people I have been in bands with, my friends, and curious strangers - and certainly that list will be in order of most to least interested.  My main focus with this blog is to commit these things to "paper" before I forget them, and to share music with others.  It will no doubt have its moments of pedantic solipsism and narcissism, but isn't that why people do this? It would be nice if someone out there was googling one of the obscure bands I'll feature here and also discover other obscure bands in the process.
This blog will also have a very strict "Haters to the Left" policy.  This is not a place for you to air your grievances.  If you have something negative to say, by all means, make your own zine.

The first time I ever saw Maximillian Colby, they were opening up for my band at the time in the basement of the Corn Rocket House (whatever the hell that means) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  It must have either been very late in 1993 or early in 1994.  Being from the oh-so-cosmopolitan Richmond, Virginia, we probably had something of a snobby attitude towards everyone there.  They were the first band of the evening, and it was allegedly their first show.  The genre known as "emo" was in its infancy, but I had been inundated by octave chords/dudes screaming/quiet parts/that drum beat/etc. etc. etc.  for well over a year, and I was done.
It seemed like it was a solemn affair as Max set up their gear.  I remember thinking it was cool that both guitarists had matching wood-grain Les Pauls.  What I didn't think was so cool at the time was what they were wearing - I don't remember exactly, but I do remember khakis and baseball hats.  Things took a turn for the worse as the song "New Jello" opened the set.  A quiet part, droning on the low E with a chord on top alternating between a perfect and flat fifth.  Then comes the loud part, the octave chords, the screaming.  Again.  And again.  Really, guys?  I remember remarking after the show, "Great, now even fratboys are playing emo now."  I wasn't into it.  In hindsight, it takes a special kind of 20 year old to comment on how tacky an emo band was in 1994 when their own band was playing a style of music that could probably be called "grunge" - but the ego must protect itself, no?
A few months later, I went to a show upstairs at the Metro in Richmond.  I wasn't there to see Max Colby, but they were playing with someone I did want to see.  At the top of the stairs, their bassist was giving away demo tapes.  We recognized each other.  He had a very retiring demeanor, and gave me their demo.  I did not like their band, but I admired the token of goodwill.  I ended up watching all of Max's set that night, and started hearing things I liked.  Despite the fact that every song was in the same key, they had a subtle sense of dynamics.  Within their narrow framework, there were some interesting things going on.
I actually listened to their tape a few times, and it grew on me.  It was a perfect Walkman soundtrack for walking around Richmond at night, bathed by that unflattering orange/pink streetlight.  I seem to remember some of the members of the band moving to Richmond - I know that Bob, their bass player did.
That summer, I got a job working at a Goodwill trailer.  This was at a time when "not having to do a lot" was a big, big appeal when it came to jobs.  Because I was a Floater (a flattering term for someone that goes from donation trailer to donation trailer), I once ended up at the same trailer as Bob.  We hung out and talked most of the day, ate lunch, "worked".
A few weeks later, Bob, Marty Key and I started a Buzz*oven cover band called nevo*zzuB.  We didn't actually know any of their songs, so it was just a bunch of devil chords and screams of "I feel!"  On the night of our only show at Twister's, Bob said he wouldn't do the show because he was afraid that the guys in Buzz*oven would show up and beat us up.  Rob from Avail covered for him.  I remember hearing that Ash (?) from Buzz*oven was actually in the crowd and thought it was hilarious.
I barely remember hearing that Max Colby broke up maybe in the fall of 1994?  Winter?  Bob still lived in Richmond, and I remember hearing that he was getting into hard drugs.  The last time I saw him, I remember him not looking well.  He died of spinal meningitis.  I still remember being shocked and upset, but more because he was close to some close friends of mine.  I think it was Marty that took him to the hospital.  I don't know, because I didn't feel comfortable talking to him about it.
Five years later, I befriended Erin (not going to try to spell her name right), who I think was friends with Bob.  She was the bassist in the band 400 Years, a band I did not like.  I let her borrow my Maximillian Colby tape.  This was back in a time when music was still connected to its physical body.  You could dub a cassette tape, but you're going to lose some quality (especially on the high end {though I have met some people that actually prefer this}).  I ended up moving away before I could get it back, and had no way to get in touch with her (again, this is before you-know-what).
Ten years after that, I ended up finding Erin on you-know-where.  Amazingly, she still had my Maximillian Colby demo!  She sent it back to me.  Who does that?
So, here it is.  The second to last song is a little warbly at the beginning, and... well, it's a 17 year old normal bias second generation 4-track tape.
New Jello
Sifelaver
Bluestone
Cowboy Syndrome
Balance
Petty Fix
Coughfin'
1 Gallon Alda
Anacin
Chuck

The cover cracks me up - "Recorded with a 4-track and a lot of patience" - to think!  Spending an entire day on a recording!

If you want better-sounding versions of these songs, you can actually purchase their discography here.

I think that what won me over to their side was a conversation I had with Drew, their guitarist/vocalist.  I asked what the hell that first line was on "New Jello."  He said something to the effect of, "You like things that roll."  There was a funny story behind it.  Drew and his friends were skating, and some kind of hot-shot skater was also hanging out.  They started talking about what kind of wheels they used, and the guy made fun of Drew for having inferior wheels.  "I like wheels that actually roll."

Also, their other guitarist is Mike Nesmith from the Monkees' nephew.

5 comments:

  1. Wearing khakis back then was punk...

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  2. One of our friends (Dave Weaver?) used to make mix tapes and then redub them several times to ensure maximum lo-fidelity.

    What was that emo "band" we formed in the 1208 attic that used only the lyrics "No, please, no" in various combinations?

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  3. Hi Dave. For the record, the Corn Rocket House was named after the Harrisonburg band Corn Rocket, who were active circa 92-93 up there. I was still in high school in the Charlottesville area at the time, and I actually have their demo, though I never saw them. They sound kind of like the Butthole Surfers or something, maybe the Melvins.

    Anyway, this blog is awesome. Please keep doing it.

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  4. Yep, Corn Rocket House, where that band lived, where we played with you. A corn rocket is a 40 oz of malt liquor. I recorded and released their first release, a cassette of course.

    I was the only member of Max Colby to wear khaki shorts and a baseball hat, the rest of the guys wore more acceptable punk rock costumes. Coincidentally, The song Petty Fix is about a tortuous portion of my first year in college, being insensately harassed and assaulted by a set of frat boys. They would break into my dorm room, wake me up in my sleep and destroy my room... because I = faggot.

    Anywho, your account of Sife Laver is close. Instead of a hot-shot skater it was Guy from Fugazi, who broke my young tender emo heart when he yelled "get some fucking wheels that roll" at us at a Crain show in DC. So much for heros, and the whole street-suggestion thing.

    I still wear my khaki shorts and baseball hat. :)

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  5. Could you possible re-upload the demo tracks? They seem to be corrupted.

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