Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sister Chain

The History of The Sister Chain*

It all began in 1971 - 1972, when we were born.

Then a bunch of stuff happened.

And eventually, The Sister Chain (TSC) emerged on the Saint Mary’s/Notre Dame music scene in the fall of 1991.

The group, an acoustic-based, all-female ensemble, was made up of the following: Kate (née Beck) Clark on vocals/guitar, Michelle Godwin on vocals/bongos, Erin Hardin on vocals/guitar, Erin (née Grefenstette) Henninger on vocals/percussion, Meghan (née King) Johnson on vocals/guitar, and Maureen (née Richerson) Parlier on vocals/keys (however, we all switched up instruments a bit depending on what we felt compelled to do). Mo Richerson left the group after the first year or so, so you will note that any later recordings don’t have any keys/synth in them.

TSC often invited other guest musicians to play with us from time to time, too—to mix things up/fill up the sound/have a good time, etc., e.g. Mike Dumbra on electric guitar and Kris “Bonch” Bonitatibus with the sticks (both of ND Earl’s Court fame), as well as a guy from ND named Dave, whose last name totally escapes me at the moment – sorry DAVE!!! (BTW: Dave was the one who helped me to splice in recordings of my then 4 year old niece singing some of her own original tunes on the debut The Sister Chain tape, which was recorded live at Dalloway’s on Sept. 9, 1992. Also BTW, we had 2 lovable co-managers, Mary “MB” (née Barger) Dirksen and Bridget McCourt, who faithfully dubbed and sold said cassette tapes for $5 piece. And a final point of interest: MB and Bridget also established a checking account in the name of The Sister Chain, which I—I must admit it—thought was pretty cool. Seeing our band name on checks made us feel totally legit. ;-)

Anywho: one of TSC’s proudest, most historical moments was when we served as the entertainment for the grand opening of the original Dalloway’s Coffeehouse on SMC’s campus. We have a recording somewhere from that venue (cassette, of course), where the Dalloway’s founder, the fabulous Margaret “Peggy” Abood introduces us as “Sister Chain.” And then you hear her being corrected by quiet-as-a-mouse Ms. Hardin (what would you expect from a woman from New Orleans?), gently insisting that it’s THE Sister Chain, not simply Sister Chain (so don’t you ever forget it! ;-)

We had the great joy and honor of playing with many great musicians (some of whom are mentioned above) during that heyday of the SMC/ND music scene, and took much pride in being the only SMC “band” at the time (maybe first ever?). Hey, we even got 3rd place at Battle of the Bands one year at ND (much to the chagrin of many, I’m sure. lol!) Another funny thing: we actually co-headlined with Chisel at Dalloway’s once, do you remember that guys? Below is the flyer to prove it (mocked up by yours truly).

So back to the she-story (hhh!): All of The Sister Chain gals attended SMC, and all of them spent the year of 1990–91 studying abroad in Ireland together, with the exception of Kate Beck Clark. While in Ireland, Michelle Godwin, Erin Hardin, Erin Grefenstette Henninger, and Meghan King Johnson spent countless hours hanging around at their homesteads singing and playing guitar, often joined by lots of locals (lots of traditional Irish songs, classic folk songs, Indigo Girls, and originals going on). We also provided the music at mass regularly at St. Patrick’s College (Maynooth), where we attended, along with Seanie from Co. Sligo. (Props Sean, wherever you are! ;-)

Upon returning from Ireland, during the summer of ’91, Meg & Kate (both from Pittsburgh) got together regularly and started cranking out some tunes, with the intent to perform at SMC/ND upon returning there in the fall. Kate had a history of being in bands since high school (The Happy Accidents) and also during our freshman year of college (Ed’s Painting Company). She and Meg also enjoyed time together during high school and college choir (geeks! ;-) Kate was (is) an accomplished pianist, and also had a regular gig as an accompanist at church on Sundays at SMC. (Hmmm... so it seems we owe a lot to The Church for keeping us in practice...). Anywho: Meghan started learning guitar in the sixth grade, and after leaving it alone for awhile, started dedicating herself more seriously to it the summer after her senior year of high school (kudos to Ben Means for giving me lessons, again, wherever you are ;-).

Upon returning to SMC’s campus in the fall of ’91, Kate & Meg found out that Michelle, Erin & Erin were intending to put a group together themselves. So, we said: “What the heck? Let’s all do it together.” (Yeah – that’s pretty much verbatim. Lol!) And alas, THE Sister Chain was born. (We invited Maureen to join in knowing that she was also an accomplished musician and singer.)

Oh the name, you ask? Yes, everyone wants to know where our name came from. ;-) Well, of course, we thought it would be cool to have something that represented the sisterhood of all of us being from Saint Mary’s. We were also a bit into the neo-hippie-Grateful Dead thing at the time; you know: the imagery of people running around with daisy chains, calling each other “sister” and “brother” and stuff like that. (Yeah: hokey to the core, I know.) Anyways: I was big on calling the group “Sister Betty,” in honor of the nun who organized the church music at SMC that Kate and I were doing at the time, though Kate was afraid Sr. B might take it the wrong way (though Sr. B later confessed that she would have been honored ;-). At any rate, we obviously compromised, threw it all together, and The Sister Chain was named. You know how compromise is: everybody gets a little bit of what they want, but no one really gets what they want – lol. At any rate, it worked well enough. That could probably be the theme of our entire history together, now that I think of it – somehow, despite, all of our differences, we made it all work.

OK, I am philosophizing now, but it really was special. Anyone who has ever been in a band or ensemble or group of some kind knows how special it is when a group somehow comes together and manages to hang together. It was tough after we all graduated, because life threw us apart, as is natural upon graduation. We knew it was likely that we wouldn’t all be playing much together again, if at all, after playing several shows and venues for two solid years. While at SMC, we had pretty regular gigs at Dalloway’s, and then on top of that, played anywhere and everywhere else that we could – every kind of benefit (MLK Day, Women’s Day, whatever), every house party invite, every special event (@ both SMC and ND alike, e.g. Hogstock, Battle of the Bands, the SU, etc.), and then of course came that magical moment when were able to move on to and to start playing pretty regularly at the infamous House of Moe (aka Club 23). Talk about good times, good music, and good friends. We pretty much adopted that place (in addition to Dalloway’s) as our home. So, if there was a theme to our closing, it could probably be summed up as “bittersweet,” which fittingly was a Big Head Todd and the Monsters cover song that we often did.

Speaking of songs, we did do a lot of originals, but also a lot of cover songs, too – all with our own personal stamp of course. We did both originals, and original versions of cover songs, largely because of our own musical limitations! Seriously: we never pretended to be musical virtuosos: we just liked to get together, and sing, and have a good time, and provide some enjoyment for other folks, too, while we were at it.

I’m pretty sure that our first official, original Sister Chain** song was “I’d Do Anything,” followed closely by “Night is Blue.” Michelle G wrote the lyrics to “I’d Do Anything” while we were in Ireland. I distinctly remember being in the basement of LeMans Hall at SMC one night, early in the fall of ’91, sitting around in a circle toying around with how we would put the words to music. I tried to roughly imitate what some musical friends of ours in Ireland had done with it one night while playing around (shout out to our Miss Judgment friends! ;-). Then we started throwing in harmonies on the chorus (our “unique” vocal arrangements was probably our forte). Then Mo Richerson threw in a cool synth intro at the beginning. Then, I’m pretty sure that the lights went out, but we kept singing anyways. When the lights came back on, another SMC-er, someone whom we didn’t know, walked in, totally flabbergasted, and said something to the effect of: “Is that you guys singing? Is that your song? You guys sound awesome.” It was a good source of encouragement. Do you girls remember that the way I do?

Incidentally: LeMans had some spaces with some good acoustics, which helped, I must admit. In addition to the LeMans basement, we also practiced frequently in the LeMans Chapel, which is somewhere up on the 3rd or 4th floor. I don’t know if this is the case now, but at the time, it wasn’t utilized very frequently for official functions, but the door was always open. And it was (still is?) a gorgeous, dark-wood, double-floor chapel – I think there might even be a full pipe organ in there? There’s definitely a balcony. So, like I said: good acoustics. It was in that very chapel that we auditioned to be included on the SMC/ND music compilation CD (remember that Ryan?). We were pretty excited to be included on that CD; our first (and now that I think of it, only!) CD recording, professional studio, publicity photos, etc. Funny thing: CDs were really just starting to come out at that time, so this was a big deal all around. ;-)

Some of the other mainstays in our “originals” repertoire (in addition to “Night is Blue,” like I already mentioned) included: “September Song,” “Seamus & Shoelaces,” “My Name Is Sky” (which is on the ND/SMC Incubus compilation CD), “Sunset,” “I Remember,” “The Green Grass Turned Blue,” and “Ceres.” There were lots more though. In fact, Mike Dumbra, whom I mentioned earlier, recently sent me mp3s of virtually all of our original songs. So if you want copies, hit me up.

Some of our other mainstay cover songs (in addition to “Bittersweet,” which I already mentioned) included: “Black Boys on Mopeds” (Sinead O’Connor), “Mother” (Pink Floyd), “This One Goes Out to the One” (REM), “Walk on the Ocean” (Toad the Wet Sprocket – whom we hung out with after they did a show at ND’s SU, which was very cool ;-), and John Denver’s “Jet Plane.” We also threw in some traditionals from time to time, like “Red Is the Rose” (Irish traditional) and “Scarborough Fair.” So yeah: it pretty much ran the gamut; we were interested in all kinds of music. If there was a song that struck our fancy for one reason or another, we figured out how we could play it and make it our own. Good times, for sure.

But alas, as I mentioned, graduation and our impending end was inevitable. Here’s how it all shook out—that is, if my memory serves me correctly (God, I’m getting old – please pardon me folks if I get any of this wrong – I know that I will be duly corrected ;-) :

After graduation, Meg & Kate went back to Pittsburgh, continuing to perform as a duo, and eventually, looking to expand their sound, joined up with some other folks, including Tom Emmerling, the drummer of ND’s Palace Laundry, who is also a Pittsburgh native. We christened ourselves “Dolorous” (naming your band after a female was popular in those days; see “emiLy”). After about a year or so, Meg left the group to get married and go to Japan to teach English, which is right about when “Dolorous” took off, after re-naming themselves “Bitter Delores” and adding some other members. Bitter Delores became pretty big on the Pittsburgh scene, and stayed that way for awhile. After several years, that group also met its end. Kate is now happily married, still in Pittsburgh, and I think, now has her master’s in music education. At any rate, I know that she is still doing music in one form or another. We (meaning myself, Meghan, & Kate), have even played out together a couple of times over the last couple of years – doing both old stuff & new – primarily in the Morgantown, WV area (WVU music scene). This is primarily because I, Meghan, have been living in West Virginia for about 10 years now.

Oh, what am I doing you ask? ;-) Well, whilst in Japan, I continued to play and write music, even gave a few lessons. Upon returning, I spent four years in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, continuing to hone my skills – even took some guitar lessons in Dinkytown (cultural area of the University of MN), where a young Robert Zimmerman happened to hang out awhile back. My husband and I moved to Mpls-St. Paul largely because of the great, grassroots arts scene (which we were both familiar with), and while there, I expanded my “performing” to include acting as well, which I have continued to do, along with my music. Suffice it to stay, I’m still playing out. I have a MySpace Music page as well as a Facebook music page if anyone’s interested in checking it out. In fact, in addition to some of my more recent, independent stuff, I think I’ve also posted a song or two from my Sister Chain days that I penned there as well.

Let’s see... the other girls... I know Erin Grefensette (now Henninger) went to Ann Arbor, MI for a little while after graduating, along with Kate Beck Clark and Bridget McCourt, at some point. I think part of what prompted that move was also the music scene that was there. (Probably they were following the lead of ND’s Sea of Words, with whom we used to hang out with/play music with quite a bit as well). I already told you about Kate BC’s present day happenings... so on to Erin GH: she is now in Denver, CO primarily involved with being a mother to her beautiful little girl, Marlo, and living the good life with her über successful husband (you know lots of globe-trotting... nice, eh? ;-) We’ve all lost track of Bridget McC, one of our trusty managers. (Bridget, if you’re out there reading this somewhere, look us up, girl!). Our other manager, MB, is back in her home state of OH, also very involved with being a parent.

Michelle G also ended up in Michigan, her home state, after graduation, though not in Ann Arbor. She’s out in Denver, CO now as well, raising her two fine sons, doing some counseling, and happily married.

Erin Hardin went back to her home town of New Orleans, spent some time in TX, and recently relocated back to NOLA. I think she’s done some teaching over the years, but I’m pretty sure her main focus at this point is her family, which includes her lovely hub, Bob, twin boys (Walker & Murphy), and adorable little Lola, whom they adopted about a year ago from China. I’m pretty sure a little boy named Bennet will be joining them from China soon, too.

Dang, I didn’t intend to make this so long – but, I guess it’s because The Sister Chain was definitely a big and extremely positive part of my time at Saint Mary’s. I hope that we helped to have a positive impact on others in the ND/SMC/SB scene at the time as well. I think we did, based on the various responses that we received.

In closing, thanks Ted, for the opportunity to reflect on those years and those good times, and for working to preserve those good times for the future—and I’m not just talking about The Sister Chain, of course—I’m referring to all of the great bands, the great people, that came together during those years to make that scene what it was.

If I missed anything (ha!), or if anyone wants to know anything more, feel free to look me up.

All the best!

And keep on rockin’ all!

Respectfully Submitted,
Meghan King Johnson, 6/24/2009

P.S. I have to give a shout-out to some of our fabulous friends who faithfully supported us during our Sister Chain years, people like: Christine Makarewizc, Joanne Gatti, Liz Quinlan, Lisa Philips, Lisa (Claussen) Kommers, Anne Delaney, Molly (McDonald) Peets, Missy (Arnett) Caudill, Melinda “Max” Tierney, Grant Johnson, and Mike Goodwin. And of course, all the musicians that I mentioned above, and some. I’m sure I’ve left some people out, which I’m sorry about, but dang! It’s late! And this thing needs to wrap! So, if I left out your name, I’m sorry—but please know that if you ever came to one of our shows, bought any of our tapes, or even took the time to read this long-winded memoir of sorts, we are grateful, and you are special. :-)

* intentional capital “T.” You’ll find out why when you read the article. ;-)
** it’s OK to leave out the “The” sometimes, just not on official documents, or when Erin Hardin’s around. ;-)


see also:
The Sister Chain on MySpace

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

V/A - The Jericho Sessions

The Jericho Sessions (1991) was the first of three campus band compilations put out by WVFI in the 1990s. Below are the original CD liner notes from the guys that brought it all together.
If I were on the University's 25-year plan, I could never begin to explain to you the rapid metamorphosis of this project. Perhaps Chris can. I called him around Thanksgiving and told him that I wanted to record a CD compilation featuring Notre Dame musicians. I actually heard optimism in his voice. I knew we were on to something.

Well, 5 months and 15 ulcers later, we have the final product. Our baby. The real irony here is that, at the moment, I'm failing "Physics of Music & Sound Reproduction." No matter. I've never thought that art and science had a healthy relationship anyway.

After a host of comedic - and largely sacrilegious - ideas for a name, we decided to call it "The Jericho Sessions." If you're unclear on the meaning, break out your Good Book. It's a great story.

So now the ball is in your court. Chris and I, in conjunction with WVFI 640 AM (Notre Dame's problem child), give you the very first collection of original tunes from your peers. This campus has more artistic greatness than you know, and exciting new music is alive and well. Catholic School was never so crazy.

Tony Graffeo is here. I've watched him play our dorm talent show for 3 years now, and his songwriting is extraordinary. I'm proud to admit that he was the original inspiration for this project.

I went to high school with Kevin Fleming. I can personally attest to his talent behind the skins. I introduced him to Ralph Falbo in the Fall of 1990, and I'd always assumed their skills would fit neatly together. Ralph is so dynamic at the keys, and he has an ear for music that I've always envied. He is the consummate professional.

I met Ted Leo when I did my first ever radio show as a freshman. I think my first phone call home began with the words "Ma, I met a skinhead." I think she cried. If only she knew him. Ted is the free-spirit who never ceases to entertain. I suppose the highest honor I can bestow upon him is to give him an avenue for his art.

There are many more fantastic musicians on this disc. I believe in every one of them. And I believe that you will hear more from them again someday. They'll be accepting awards, selling out stadiums... hell, some of them will probably still be in grad school here. Wherever they end up, there will be one thing that binds them together - their love for music. This I share with them. It is the most important thing in my life.

--Kevin Flaherty

Why did we undertake this project? I don't remember. If we knew then what we know now, the only Jericho Sessions would have been old Joshua's. I don't think Kevin knew what he was getting us into. Taco Bell at 9:00am, a smorgasbord of beer, a lot of late nights, and endless rounds of phone tag. What a blast.

The main reason for all this was for the bands. [and girls, power...] Seriously, there is so much talent to be heard on this campus. Someone just needed to make it happen. Somehow it turned out to be me and Stooge.

We were not without help. Thanks to Mark Bintinger, owner of the official project vehicle, and a really great boss. After I graduate I hope to work for someone like Mark again. Thanks to Nose who listened to me bitch about this project every night. And thanks to my mom for everything she's ever done for me. Apologies for all the things I've screwed up. Through it all she's believed in me.

As I sit here writing the tenth version of these notes Bon is hamming it up to some band's music track. Fried doesn't even come close. 15 bands in 7 days. Think about that. My phone will be off the hook for awhile. Even accounting for the sleep deprivation, I am thrilled to have been involved in this project. And I couldn't be prouder of what we accomplished.

It must be said, nothing that Kevin and I have done is all too amazing. It just needed to be done. Our sincerest hope is that the spirit of cooperation and action that we've begun lives on. [Thanks Anton...] When I come back here in my plaid pants (probably black plaid...), if it's a sunny day (and above 55 degrees) I want there to be a band jamming on Fieldhouse Mall.

Thanks to each and every act; those who made it and those who didn't. Thanks for trusting us with your music and allowing us to let other hear it. Personal thanks go to Chisel and Bone Forest. More than anyone you guys helped me remember what music is really all about... goin' balls out and havin' a blast. Never change!!

Thank you to Joel Fox who took my enjoyment of music to appreciation. Even if it's not your style, listen to a punk song, or a folk song. See past the format to the substance. The talent.

Thank you - thanks for taking a try on some bands you maybe never heard of. You just might find the band of the nineties. Or not. But it beats buying another T-shirt.

Remember, it's all about the music. That's what we all share, how we're all connected. So welcome to our family. We have a pretty good time.

--Christopher D. Walter

P.S. Thanks to anyone who gives me a job after seeing this on my resume.

Track Listing:
1. "God's Answering Machine" - Tony Graffeo
2. "Spacey Floater" - Brian Muller
3. "And She Rides On" - Dominic Campanella & Chris Norborg
4. "Little Lover" - Fresh Water For The Horses
5. "Walk In The Streets" - The Turquoise Sidewalk
6. "Better Off Dead" - Exit 77
7. "Moon Blues" - Little Geneva
8. "Swingin' In The Chapel" - Ralph Falbo Trio
9. "Hide Away" - Don McGahn
10. "World On Its Side" - The XYZ Affair
11. "Censorship Is A Lie" - Doghaus
12. "Swamp Fox/Spike" - Chisel
13. "Autistic For The Night" - Bone Forest
14. "Strange Addiction" - Chronic Desire
15. "Bee Slippers" - 5 O'Clock Shadows
16. "Love Lay Down" - Jester
17. "Another Mission" - Greg Jeffrey
18. "By My Side" - SyR
19. "Scream" - Sigi Loya


Thursday, June 11, 2009

emiLy - Walking Home on the Emergency Bed

It was finals week, I think. We were camped in our usual spots in the basement of Lafortune Hall. Totally cool.

Some months prior, I'd clambered into a booth in that same basement next to Ted Leo, demanding that he tell me the first word that came to mind. I'd been walking around Lafortune doing this to everybody. You see I was trying to name a band.

That's not to say we didn't have a working band name. It was "Barge Mounted Winch." Don't ask; I have no answers, and the first guy to make a joke about BMW gets stabbed in the face.

In any case, I shook Ted down for a name while he was talking to Emily Davis. He looked at me with a combination of amusement and worry and said, "Emily!"

We liked it. So we became emiLy. I'm not entirely sure how the little e big L thing happened. Mike and Doug most likely have better memories about this than I do.

I do remember that Mike often claimed that the big L was for love, man.

But that's all beside the point. The thing is, Mike was really tired. He'd been studying hard, I think. He got up from the booth, staggered, and stammered blearily: "Oh man, I'm walking home on the emergency bed."

Jaws dropped, and an album was named.

When emiLy went on its final tour, I remember Mike putting this tape on while we were driving. I also remember cringing and writhing on the back seat and begging him to turn it off. I think that I may have been more sensitive, at age 24, to the spastic, googly, songwriting of my 20 year old self, than I am now at 37. (Fuck. I'm 37.)

Now I listen to it, and I'm surprised. It sounds like a young punk band. Just as good and just as bad as a young punk band. I'm not entirely sure what all my writhing and begging for it to stop in the Suburban was all about.

Sometime in the late nineties, Steve Sostak of Sweep the Leg Johnny approached me with a business proposition. Sweep would buy the name "Walking Home on the Emergency Bed" from emiLy for the price of one thirty-pack of Old Style.

We totally got the better end of that deal. If they paid up. I can't remember if they paid up. Damn. It is possible that I was drunk when that deal went down. Sorry guys. I owe you all some beers.

In conclusion, I'm happy that the best song on this tape is "Minuteman": "I pray to god/that I never learn to do this right." Some prayers do get answered.

--Joe Cannon

This cassette was recorded in April of 1993 at "Radium City" (WVFI), and was engineered by Ted Leo. Live tracks were taken from a March 20, 1993 show at Dalloway's Coffeehouse. This was split-label released as RTO1/SS003 (Rent To Own + Sudden Shame).


see also:
emiLy on MySpace
emiLy on

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bessie - Live at Clifford, May 3, 1997

--- MIKE ---

The Origin Story

I only vaguely recollect the beginnings of the band that would become Bessie. I know it had something to do with Grad Student Amy The Bassist (GSATB) recruiting me to play "something" (bass? guitar? drums?) in her new band. After I settled on playing the drums, with the caveat that I was still learning how to play, GSATB asked The Chris Owen to sing lead. Somehow we also convinced Jen C's then-boyfriend, Irish Terry Q. from Ireland, to round out the group on guitar. I know Amy and Chris wanted to call the band The Homeowners, and to this day I have no idea how we settled on the name Bessie.

The Outfit

What a completely wacky combination of musical styles and personalities. Amy was the ringleader, scheduling practices and writing most of the foundation material for the songs on her bass. I supplied the practice space (Clifford the Big Red House) and tried my best to imitate Hannah Fox on drums (because I was completely obsessed with her band Babe The Blue Ox at the time). Fortunately, Doug McE. let me borrow his drumset and Whiff gave me some drums lessons, otherwise this whole venture would have been even more horrible than it already was.

Practices were too few and far between, styles (Amy's quirky bass, Chris' shouting vocals, Terry's funk guitar, and my half-assed drumming) never quite meshed, and yet we still managed to play a bunch of shows (including going on a brief "tour" of Michigan) and frighten people. The best compliment I ever got for this band was from Joe C. who said something to the effect that "I thought this band was supposed to be a joke, but actually your songs are rather complicated and interesting" after he heard us play. Not too bad. And when it rocked, it was really, really fun. I love playing drums, even if I'm terrible.

The Conclusion

I was never truly happy with the band, mostly because I was so frustrated trying to play drum parts that I was simply not competent to perform. It's still painful for me to listen to these songs, for that reason alone. I think with more time (we were together for a grand total of about 4 months?) this band could have evolved into something really good. As it stands, it's a decent record of an experimental hybrid weird rock band that tried really hard to, well, I'm not really sure. The song "Gertrude Is A Dog" still makes me really happy. You broke if you don't dance to that.


--- CHRIS ---

Are there any bands that sound like this anymore? When I listen to this now a voice in my head says “Indie, Indie, Indie!" (like Jan saying "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"). What would one call this style of music? Maybe I just found a way to avoid it, but I don’t feel like you hear it anymore. It is like a 90s indie clusterfuck- Mike's Babe the Blue Ox influenced drums, the Rites of Spring-lite male vocals alternating B-52s-like with 90s grrrrrl vox, Britpop guitar... individually those elements provide the color, but overall I would say it was Amy's Kim Deal pose that defined this band (I don't know who young women emulate these days, but I don't miss the days when a tuneless young gal might pick up a bass, stitch together the first 4 unrelated melodies she comes up with and immediately get on stage. I am sure it still happens, I am just not there to watch and there is probably a different muse). Needless to say, we were not the Pixies.

Despite what Mike remembers, I believe I was the last member to enter this band. After a brief period of direction-free practice, they asked me to come in to help provide some pizazz. Like if George Bush had asked Mick Foley to come in and help provide some direction. In addition to jazzing things up with some unnecessary second lead vocals, the magic I sprinkled on top, as I remember, was lobbying to call the band "The Homowners" (purposely misspelled, I was 10 years ahead of Shitgaze/No-Fi) and suggesting we cover "What Goes On" by the Velvet Underground. For whatever reason, the Homowners name never stuck and our "What Goes On" provided an excruciating 7 minute set piece for audiences to contemplate unfinished homework, impending student loans, really anything to avoid paying attention to this awful never-ending rendition of what used to be a good song.

I listened to this once a few months ago when Ted sent it to me and it was even worse than I remember. Though it might not have needed to be; Amy was learning the bass as we went but she practiced a lot and “Gertrude” was a catchy song. Mike's drumming was perfectly fine, I thought, despite his self-flagellation about not mastering them immediately. Terry's borrowed 12 string electric (with 6 strings), though perpetually falling out of tune, was well played (and he struck an exotic U2-y figure onstage, contrasting depressingly with the basements we played in). However, this band suffered from a common ailment in the scene that really didn't work this time- different flavors that did not go well together. This band did not mix well. Listening to any of these songs it is obvious and the best example of this is the experiment in dual male/female lead vocalists. Though unique among our SBP90s brethren, it was unavoidably awkward and strained. The music is bad, but the vocals are worse.

I feel like I was constantly trying to quit this band and I wish I could say why you can hear my voice on these songs, but I have no excuse. It pains me to hear my earnest Guy Picciotto impersonation, lyrics ripped off from Doug's Raymond Carver rip off period (I think there is actually a song called "Gazebo" here) and I want to publicly apologize to anyone who had to watch us. If you sat through the Mad Dogs and Bessie in the same night, I formally request you stop reading now. You had enough of me that night to last the rest of your life. Interestingly, the Mad Dogs were a way for me to react to what I thought of as an occasionally pretentious scene, whereas my Bessie vocals were an attempt to conform to it... which makes them that much more embarrassing.

In fact, I am absolutely positive this was the worst band of the SBP90s scene 1994-1998 because I can prove it. A few years ago in a “ND Years” box I found a VHS tape labeled "The Cure- Staring at the Sea the Singles video collection." I put it in my VCR, hit rewind and genuinely looked forward to cranking it while I cleaned the house. Imagine the horror I felt when I heard my own voice loudly saying something typically stupid. Roger videotaped us live at Dalloway’s, somehow it found its way onto this tape and now it is a living document I can always refer to when I want to revisit the agony we put audiences through. The crowd is even shown, sleepwatching for the whole 45 minutes or so, wishing they could be anywhere but witnessing us define the opposite of “Chemistry” and listening to me talk endlessly between songs. Unfunny, unattractive, unappealing. (As an aside, here are two tips for young bands and bands young at heart: 1) Never play longer than 30 minutes 2) Unless your name is Bob Pollard or David Lee Roth, never speak, on any subject or at any length, between songs. Actually, James and Dave were very funny in Krautmiser, but in general it is a cardinal rule best learned early- less talk, more rock). This tape is atrocious. No nostalgia, whatsoever, out of this tape until the Cure take over an hour into it. Ted requested I send it to him and I say to you now what I said to him then: You'll take my Staring at the Sea VHS over my dead body! There is no way I would allow this to get on the internet. I have a child and want no visual evidence of this band available online to discredit what is left of my family name. Even my daytime personality doesn’t know where I have hidden the original. On the bright side, at least there is no video evidence of the show we played opening for Mustard Plug in Kalamazoo (though I haven’t checked that Hulmerist video in a while either).

Regarding the download available below, I cannot under any circumstances recommend you listen to it. I asked Ted not to make it available, but his will to document has grown stronger than his quality control impulse. He needs help. Please join me in making this the least downloaded SBP90s entry yet. Finally, I want to apologize to Jim McNamee for the rude comments I made to him at this show. Not cool, not funny, not clever - the opposite of Jim himself, whom I miss.

see also:
Bessie on MySpace