Monday, August 27, 2012

Those Peabodys

To someone (that someone being me) living in Richmond at the turn of the millennium, Austin TX seemed like a kind of Fantasy Dream World.  Shows every night, t-shirts in the winter, cheap Mexican food, a healthy economy, a progressive political climate, affordable rent, and women!  It didn't seem like a real place, but it was.  My friends JT, JD, and Ben made the move; and it didn't take much convincing for me to follow suit.
The popular Austin rock and roll band that I was aware of were Those Peabodys.  They formed when they were in High School in Temple, TX and were formerly known as something like Professor Peabody and His Wayback Machine.  I had given their album a good review in the now-defunct Punchline magazine.  What I found (and still find) remarkable about their first record is that the band was a 2-piece.
Adam Hatley played drums and guitar.  Some facts about him:
1. Easily one of the top 5 rock drummers I've ever had the honor to share a stage with.
2. Once he dressed up as He-Man from Masters of the Universe for Halloween, and he barely had to do anything to get make the costume.
Clarke Wilson played bass and vocals.  Some facts about him:
1. Best afro I've ever seen on a white person.
2. He prefers parties when they're at someone else's house.
By the time I moved to Austin, they had recruited Aaron Franklin to play drums.  They'd play house parties, Emo's, wherever.  Often places you could walk to, and you'd know everyone there. 
The lineup expanded further when JD Cronise was added on second guitar.  Around this time, they recorded their second album (in the spirit of not googling, I admit that I forgot what it's called).  The label that was supposed to put it out folded, so the album died.  Aaron Franklin was replaced by Mike Fonseca... wait, maybe Mike played drums on the album?  JD quit to form another band whose name I forget.  Look, I was living with my wife and two baby daughters, I had a hard time keeping up (see above about why I wanted to move to Austin).  Anyway, Mike quit or something and Erik Conn came in on drums.  They recorded again, and I don't think it was released.  Then they broke up.
Where are they now?
Adam and Clarke are now in a band called Bangaar.  Go see them.
Aaron Franklin started a monstrously successful barbecue company.  I think it's called Franklin's Barbecue.
JD went on to worldwide fame, fortune, and hot sauce (which I'm currently out of) in The Sword.
Mike Fonseca is in the band Modok, the best band in Austin currently.
Erik Conn is still in Tia Carrera and Thee Vitamins and at least three other bands.
So, here is the Those Peabodys album.  Listen to it while thinking back to days when Lone Star cans were partially blue.
Those Peabodys Youtube Playlist

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Human Thurma

This installment of my blog is being written from the road, so forgive me if I'm not as poetic as usual.

I don't remember whether or not the band HRM changed their name to Human Thurma before or after Eve replaced Erik Josephson on drums.  The guitarist's name was Sean Sheen, and he was in a bunch of other old math rock bands.  I believe he played bass in Butterglove, and was the vocalist in Ladyfinger.  Trevor Thomas (bass, vocals) had previously been in the band Adelle's Silk Stalkings.  I'm not sure that Human Thurma ever received the accolades given to some of their other bands, but to me they were just as good.  They did get it together enough to tour at least a few times; and made some fantastic recordings with Mark Smoot in  Maryland, and Tim Green somewhere in California.

Human Thurma playlist

I think Human Thurma might have broken up in the late 90's when Trevor moved to California?  He ended up moving back and is now carrying on the tradition in his band Hex Machine.  Sean lives in Seattle and might work at or near the Jimi Hendrix museum.  Eve is the one that was nice enough to send me those mp3's and might not want me to tell  you where he lives or what he is up to.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Action Patrol - Work Ethic

When I was 10 or so, I enrolled in a karate class.  I don't remember much from it, but one lesson stuck with me.  The instructor told us that no matter how good we ever got at martial arts - or anything for that matter - there would ALWAYS be someone out there that was going to be better.  I can forgive his mistake in saying this, because it was a good decade before the band Action Patrol formed.
Fast forward to 1993, maybe late summer?  My friend Eve played me a practice tape of his new band, tentatively titled "Sleestack".  Now, Eve was a bassist first and a guitarist second.  I'd never heard him play drums, but they might as well have been his first instrument.  The guitarist's name was Chris Taggart, and I think the bassist was Josh Brown (later to be replaced by some girl named either Kelly or Kathy or Tommi) Tom Baisden)?  The singer's name was Nappy for some reason that was not known to me at the time.  The practice tape couldn't have been higher quality than boombox, but they definitely seemed ready to play shows.  They were practicing at least twice a week and Eve said that they had enough songs for a set, but "weren't ready."  This was baffling to me.
Legend has it that Action Patrol existed for a full year before ever playing out.  This - like most things about the band - was very... thought out.  That may have a negative connotation, but I'm not saying that it was contrived.  It's just that they seemed to like to plan.  Most bands would (and I'm sure still do) get together, write some songs, play some shows, record some demos, put out some records, maybe tour, etc. etc.  I remember when they recorded for their album, they didn't let anyone hear the recordings before the official release.  Again, baffling (though I get it now).
The music was propelled by Chris Taggart's lightning-fast staccato riffs (which were in MAJOR keys, keeping the sound from veering into heavy metal territory), Eve's almost jazzy drumming, and Nappy's frantic-sounding vocals.  Tom held the whole thing together with his melodic basslines - often playing counterpoint to the guitar parts.  Their sound was described as "a deep fusion of east coast hardcore and west coast punk rock" in an interview by someone that didn't know what he was talking about (me).  Their first show was (I think?) New Years 1994 at a house party, and they played in their screenprinted orange shirts (later to become full jumpsuits).  The atmosphere was absolutely electric.  I don't know if Nappy had ever been in a band before, but he was easily one of the most energetic frontmen I've ever seen.  Totally insane, but also charismatic and non-threatening.  Chris Taggart, on the other hand, stayed completely still; somehow giving off the impression that despite his calm demeanor, he was orchestrating the entire event.  Overnight, they became one of the most popular punk bands in Richmond.

By June, they had become established enough to put out their first 7" record.  EVERYONE had a copy.  In fact, somebody stole mine (if you're reading this and it was you, send it back.  No questions asked).  By winter, they released a full-length album on Whirled Records.  Have I ever mentioned that I play it pretty loose regarding dates and other trivia?  This stuff was a long time ago.  Eventually they toured, and I think Eve either quit or got kicked out soon after that.  He was replaced by Rich Green (previously of hardcore band Grip).  Rich was a solid drummer, but for me it just wasn't the same, and I only saw them a couple of times after the personnel change.  Their popularity only grew though, and they ended up putting out a total of three records.  Some time in 1997, they broke up.  I don't know why.
One of their shows with Rich on drums was videotaped.
This show was at a house party on Dick Street in Greensboro, NC.  Shows there used to be nuts, and this was probably one of the best examples.  50 or so kids crammed into a living room to sing along to one of their favorite bands.
Their discography also can be found here.
In a private conversation with Nappy, he said the following.  I am reposting it without permission:
the years we were playing and the experiences we had pretty much made up some of the best moments of my life so far. it was a really special thing to be a part of punk back then. i'm sure all young people feel the same way about their particular scene in each subcultural micro-generation...but i just really had a great time.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thee Squids

Quick - what's the best rock and roll band to ever come out of Williamsburg, Virginia?
Depends on who you ask, of course.  Bruce Hornsby might say otherwise, but my vote goes to Thee Squids.
I think Thee Squids started in 1992 or so.  You might notice a trend here - I like to play fast and loose with the facts when it comes to these band bios.  There may have been a guy named Kyle in the band at some point, and Thomas might have played the organ on a track or two; but the key members to Thee Squids were always Brian Campas on bass and vocals, Neale Shaeffer on guitar and vocals, and Dave Garrett on drums.  I heard a boombox recording of them from around this time, and didn't think it was very good.  Besides, they were all in other bands: Brian was in the band Bear, Neale was in the band Placebo, and Dave was in the band Bad Guy Reaction.  Thee Squids seemed to go by the wayside.
Fast forward to 1997 (1998?  See the "fast and loose" passage above).  I heard that Thee Squids had gotten back together and were playing at the Henry Street Gallery, so I figured what the hey.  I was not expecting to be completely blown away.  I knew something was different when I saw their equipment.  In the old days, it always seemed like the aesthetic was to use whatever kind of gear was the cheapest or the easiest to get your hands on.  This time around, Neale had a brand new Gibson SG and some new-looking half-stack.  I forget exactly what Brian and Dave had gotten, but their stuff looked more pro also.  More importantly, you could tell immediately that they had all been PRACTICING.  Both as a group, in other groups, and independently.  They even recorded a full length album:
Thee Squids album on youtube
So what is the moral of this story?
It's this.  No matter what you do - whether it's playing an instrument, or shooting free-throws, or balancing debits against credits, or baking, or trolling internet blogs, or painting bowls of fruit - you have to practice.  Maybe I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again.  Unless you're Mark Morton playing guitar or a spider weaving a web, you need to practice whatever it is you think you're good at until your arm falls off.