Shortly after I moved to Bellingham in 1995, I decided that I had gone about as far as I could on my own and it was time to get brave and start a band. I placed an ad in a local free paper called the Echo that yielded about 5 or 6 messages on my machine. I can’t specifically remember the ad, but I think it mentioned Guided by Voices and Barbara Manning for sure. Most of the messages were dudes saying (imagine your best Bill and Ted voice here) “um, I don’t know who any of those band are, but, like, I play bass so give me a call.”
One person had heard of most of them, and he literally lived two blocks away. He came over and was really nice and we jammed a bit and played some demos of each others songs. And that was how it began. It’s always hard to find drummers and his brother in Seattle played drums so he ended up joining in and eventually moved to Bellingham.
We lasted about a year and a half, one 7″ single, one cassette, one record label, one additional member and oh, maybe a dozen or so shows. Oddly, of that handful of shows I think three were opening for Modest Mouse, who had their first album out at the time. I re-recorded a few of my favorites from this era as Maps for Sleep, but here are a few other selections in their original cassette non-glory.
QUASI BOho LIves of Solitude
I think this has something to do with being introverted and as punk as your mother will let you. Living a quiet life but being a bit rebellious on the inside. Or something like that. I like the flip flops into half-time and back.
This was the only song where we did male/female vocals. I wish we had done a little more of this. Instead we ended up being a bit Sebadoh like in that everyone took their turn being the singer/guitarist and everyone swapped instruments. In fact, the whole band ended up being my song, your song, his song both live and on recordings.
On the Proper Geometry cassette, this was one of the only songs recorded in the little campus recording studio where Joe and I were taking audio classes. I made use of my mom’s old lap steel for this which was fun. You can hear a distinct NZ/Flying Nun influence in the rhythm guitar part–that fast little strummy thing.
I always dreamed of having my own indie record label. Mac, Laura and Merge. Fugazi and Discord. Calvin and K. That was my hope when Joe and I started Elsinor and put out this 7″. This song was recorded on the first day that we rehearsed together as a three piece. We had literally been a full band for <2 hours and it shows. It makes for a fun little story, but after a couple months of rehearsing we were playing this so much tighter and better.
I remember a few years later driving home from a class at night and hearing this opening guitar riff on the college radio station and thinking, oh, I know this song. And then realizing, wait, this is MY song!
Before Virginia Creeper, I made one, maybe two cassettes as Turnpike. With this release I got brave and sent it out for reviews and got some nice feedback. In a unplanned way, it ended up in the hands of FM Cornog (aka East River Pipe) who writes lovely pop songs and recorded them on a four track similar to my set up. He wrote back with some really encouraging words. Those letters were instrumental in feeling ready to be in a band when I moved to Bellingham a year or two later.
Music coming soon–it’s all on cassette so I am in the process of making a digital copy.
The Wood Nymphs (The Bards)
I am convinced that every musician has at least one embarrassing band name in their past. I have two. Because how is The Wood Nymphs one iota less pretentious than the Bards? This period is from the late 80’s to early 90’s and was my friend Andrea and I recording our respective songs. Foreshadowing Virginia Creeper, this collaboration was more about each of us recording our own songs and putting them on the same cassette than songs we made together. We joked we were like the Indigo Girls and she was the folksy one and I was the rocking one. But, we all start somewhere and there are some glimpses of potential here and there. The only way to get better at songwriting is to start writing songs.