Monday, November 21, 2011

Sistersound and the Venusians

There's something intrinsically sad about people in middle age waxing nostalgic about how great things were back in their day.  I'm (as you may be able to tell) privy to it myself.  I remember watching that movie Dogtown and Z-Boys or whatever it was called and wanting to throw up when some guy said something like, "We changed the world!"  No, you didn't.  You rode a skateboard in an empty swimming pool.  My excuse is that I still write, perform, and record music, so it's okay to give a home to bands from days past that I feel never got their fair shake.
Life is different when you're young and under-employed.  The word "lighter" comes to mind.  Time is more important than money.  Sure, you were working 20 hours a week busing tables and living in a concrete basement; but your parents aren't telling you what time to be home, and there are girls and drugs and adventures and books and friends and music.  There was a time when my entire social circle revolved around music.  When we weren't playing it, we were watching our friends playing it, learning about it, talking about it, thinking about it, writing zines about it.  As you can tell, we have all grown up and nobody cares about such frivolity any more.
I don't know how I got to be friends with Eve.  To this day, I'm not even sure what his real name is.  In high school in Williamsburg, my friend Colin used to talk about a young wizard in Richmond who could play any instrument (obviously, this just means guitar, bass, and drums).  The next year when I ended up moving there, we ended up gravitating towards each other as people do.  Eve was a year older than me, and wasn't very active in the outside world because he and his girlfriend Amy had a daughter named J (said daughter is probably as old now as I was then, which... well, you know).  Circumstance was probably another player in our friendship - he was always home because he was watching his daughter, and I was never at work because... well, why would you work more than you needed to just make your $140 rent?
Eve was the first self-contained musical act I'd ever met.  He had a 4-track, which to me back then was a Very Big Deal; and could not only play any instrument (see above), but play them all well and write songs.  Really good songs.  Who knows how many countless hours he spent holed up in his stuffy, not air-conditioned, cat-infested magical palace... teaching himself how to play songs that he had willed into existence and recording them for no one to hear.
Some time in 1993, Eve set about trying to find a band.  Despite the fact that bass was his main instrument, he decided that he would take vocal/guitar duty.  He wasn't a "shredder" per se, but he had a very unique style and used an assortment of altered tunings that he would keep track of in a notebook (one thing is for sure, people in my peer group where an enormous boon to notebook manufacturers).  He christened this band Sistersound, which I told him wasn't that hot of a name because it would make people compare them to Sonic Youth.  Eventually he got Dave Garrett to play drums, and this guy Jeff to play bass (my chronology may be way off).  Dave was (is... Hi!) a friend from Williamsburg who was impossibly tall and would dub his cassettes at least 3 or 4 times to get a more lo-fi sound.  He was also in an incredible band called Thee Squids (this is not their story) and a very popular band called Bad Guy Reaction (this is not their story, either).  Jeff seemed nice enough - he once loaned me a very rare old Bad Brains 7" - but allegedly had a drug problem.  I only remember seeing this version of the band once at a house party.  I don't know if bands still play at house parties.
The next line-up that I remember was Eve on guitar, Ian Kruske on drums, and Pete on bass.  Ian was 2 years younger than me and will probably get his own entry on the first Monday of February, 2012.  After several bad LSD voyages, Ian was replaced by drummer extraordinaire and avid reader Chris Gallo.  Pete was an amazing bass player and had this gorgeous fretless Gibson SG bass.  They ended up getting a small following around town and recorded a couple of times up in Maryland with the legendary Mark Smoot.
Maybe I'm projecting, but when Pete died from cancer a year or two later, I'm not sure Eve ever fully recovered - at least in the context of his band.  Pete wasn't the first of my friends to have been taken too soon, and was far from the last.  I suppose it was around this time that Eve ended up playing drums in a band called Action Patrol, which got infinitely more popular than his real band ever did.  This is not their story, either.
Eve moved from Richmond to San Francisco late in the millennium.  I think he ended up losing faith in Sistersound and the Venusians, despite starting up another incarnation of them about a decade ago.  Last I heard, he was in a band called Foreign Telegram (thanks Kara!).

2015 EDIT: Sistersound has reformed and has new material!

It's impossible to listen to these songs without going back to a time when the highlight of your day would be finding enough change under a couch to be able to afford a $.99 50-ounce fountain drink at the East Coast gas station on the corner of Meadow and Main.  Maybe the songs were good on their own.  I think so.

01 no place to be
02 please hold back
I think Dave Garrett played drums on the next two songs:
03 talk to me
04 le freak deux
05 the passing of day
06 silly world
This next song is interesting, Eve overdubbed the same acoustic guitar/vocal part (you guessed it!) four times:
07 more
This next song was my introduction to the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff distortion pedal.  Years later, I ended up buying it from Eve, and still use it to this day.
08 bluebear
09 fly away from me
The next song was about a time that Eve was driving and wondered what would happen if he jerked the wheel and crashed into a tree, dying in a fiery blaze.  On an unrelated note, if you listen really close, you might be able to hear his baby daughter J crying.
10 fireball
11 follow the sun
This next title cracks me up.  High school was SO two years ago!
12 high school talent show
The last song on the tape was recorded a little while later, Pete may have been in the band by this point.
13 goodness

The next 7 songs were recorded by Mark Smoot in Silver Springs, MD.  I have no real idea when, possibly the mid to late 90's?  The lineup was Eve on guitar/vocals, Chris Gallo on drums and Pete on bass. 
01 envelope
02 silly world
03 blanket me
04 follow the sun
05 fireball
06 i fell awake
07 goodness

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