by Jeremy Hart and Marc Hirsh
originally published in edited form in the Rice Thresher, September 24 & October 1, 1993
Bee Stung Lips (by Marc Hirsh)
Eric Garland (Baker '94) had been playing acoustic guitar in a duo with a friend since high school when he decided that he wanted to form a band. Modelling his sound on that of Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom, Garland found bass player Mike Trafton (Lovett '92) while advising at Lovett. Trafton in turn found drummer Howard Park (Baker '93), formerly of Ronnie Po and the Co., and they knew they were a band when, during the audition, "We'd just get 2 measures into it and then [Howard] was leading us." After losing their original singer, the three were practicing when Mike's roommate Lance Schupbach (Lovett '94) just started humming along with the songs, eventually rounding out the band.
Bee Stung Lips (formerly The Hop-Ons, Your Sorry Suitor, and Pennywhistle) stand out from other bands at Rice for several reasons. The group goes for a very clean sound, with Garland's exclusive preference for acoustic guitar a key factor. The music of the band is Pop, which isn't necessarily to say "popular." Songs like Crowded House's "It's Only Natural" and Elvis Costello's "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" might not be very well-known but they are short, melodic, and unpretentious, and if that's not Pop, I don't know what is. The band's originals follow the same pattern and are often as good as, if not better than, their choice of covers.
The band also works very hard at developing complex backing vocals, a skill which has fallen by the wayside in recent years. Garland claims to have been singing harmony to songs he hears on the radio since the age of 13, and he maintains that harmony vocals are his favorite part of the songs. "I was born to be a backup singer," he says. Park also contributes harmony vocals, and the band meticulously works out every part.
Although Bee Stung Lips is playing about 50% cover tunes currently, Garland points out that they are a writing band, not just a performing one. "We write girl songs, we write love songs, we write songs about sleeping late, what we ate," Garland explains. "We are apolitical. Politics of a relationship are complicated enough." The band is currently working on developing enough original material to record an album in Christmas.
Buddha on the Moon (by Jeremy Hart)
According to founder H.K. Kahng, a former member of the famed Rice band Güt Logic, he started Buddha on the Moon basically to try a new and different musical direction than he'd previously been going in. "I decided to write some real songs, y'know, with verses and choruses and stuff?" he says, also noting that when the members of Gut Logic all went their separate ways, he put down his electric and picked up an acoustic guitar. H.K. recruited a drummer, and taught J.J. Heldman to play bass, and the trio became Buddha on the Moon (the name was reportedly ripped off of a 50's sci-fi flick). In April of 1993, Tracy Jo Barnwell joined on guitar, and that lineup of the band played around Houston, as well as Wiess College's annual JamFest show. This summer, the band traveled to Atlanta to do some recording, then came back to play some more gigs in town. Unfortunately, the band's drummer quit abruptly, right before a major show, so Buddha is currently working with a new drummer, Jason Carreira.
Their music is probably best described as "dream pop": swirling, ethereal music, not very harsh or discordant, but not easy-listening, either. It's got a very heartfelt, pained feel to it. "Barefoot shoegazers," says H.K.
Besides their club appearances, Buddha is also becoming known through their recordings. They appeared with fellow Rice bands Dyn@mutt, Lozenge, and Tit on the Farrago Records 7-inch Alles is Güt, and are also going to try to release a full album by the end of the year. The future of Buddha on the Moon is up in the air right now, as bassist Heldman will be splitting overseas, but for right now, anyway, they're going to play as much as possible.
Conundrum (by Marc Hirsh)
"Electronic music is alright," according to Shepherd School student Graham LeBron (Brown '95), programmer, guitarist, and vocalist of Conundrum. LeBron, who picked up guitar in high school but couldn't find anyone with which to play, met up with programmer and vocalist Ken Lucero after graduation and started playing techno clubs in Dallas. Jason Georgoulis, who attends the University of North Texas with Lucero, rounds out the group with samples and keyboards.
The group, which played Brown's Rave party last January, spent the summer saving money for a tape, which they recorded at the end of July. The result, the 7-song Somethin For Ya, swings from light pop to hard techno. LeBron defends his use of electronics, saying "I choose that medium because it's easier for me to express myself. There are no limitations at all. I can have 500 sounds going all at once if I want." He does, however, worry about incorrect categorization. "I want to say `electronic,' but then people think it's like Erasure."
Currently, the members of Conundrum admit that school is their first priority, and they refuse to send their demo to record companies or actively seek a career until after graduation. They do perform on occasion, however, and those interested are encouraged to see them tonight at the Pig with Venus In Furs.
Dyn@mutt (by Jeremy Hart)
One of the more long-lived Rice bands these days, Dyn@mutt have been together since the spring of 1992. Originally, bassist Chad Shaw played guitar in Güt Logic, and guitarist Dave Deggueler played acoustic at the Coffeehouse and in a cajun band here at Rice called Biff and the Backwater Boys. When Güt Logic fell apart, Shaw and Deggueler hooked up and decided to form a band, adding drummer Doug "Thor" Dillaman to the group. Since their formation, these guys have been very active, playing clubs all around Houston, opening for some major "indie" bands, and even touring Texas and other parts of the Southwest this summer. They have two albums out on tape, fetch. and the latest, ...Like a Hamster Wheel. Both albums are completely self-produced (the Dyno-boys are big on the whole punk D.I.Y. ethic). They also appear on the Alles is Güt 7-inch, and plan to record and release a full-length CD sometime this fall.
Dyn@mutt's "sound" is very difficult to describe, mostly because it's based on musical references unfamiliar to most people. Instead of Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, Dyn@mutt cite bands like Superchunk and Barkmarket as influences. They've been compared to everybody from Devo to Helmet to They Might Be Giants, but none of those actually come real close. The music is fast-paced, discordant rock, with lots of strange little time-changes and not too many melodies - drummer Dillaman jokingly referred to the band as "scientist rock," a term coined by the Minutemen. Dyn@mutt somewhat resemble punk rock, but not in much of a musical sense, rather in the aesthetic of punk. It's interesting music, but not very accessible. Basically, these three guys play what they like, how they like, and not for any kind of real profit. According to Dillaman, "This is more fun than anything else I've done in my life...and I know Dave feels the same way." Just sit back and enjoy the weirdness.
Hipnopop (by Marc Hirsh)
It may appear that Rice doesn't have very many jazz bands, but that's a misjudgement. In reality, the jazz contingent at Rice merely doesn't seem to care much for the concept of the band as self-contained, isolated unit, and a great deal of musical cross-pollination in the jazz arena is the result. Jazz musicians, much more than those in the University's rock bands, are much more willing to play with new people all the time. The Rice Jazz Society is a prime example of this, where anybody and everybody, regardless of whether or not they play an instrument, is invited to play, talk, or just listen to jazz. So, in a sense, there is only one jazz band at Rice, one which always changes members and performing under different names.
And then there's Hipnopop. Although pianist Nicholas Walker (Wiess '94) admits that the trio, which also includes bassist David Murray (Shepherd School '95) and drummer Erich Loftis (Shepherd School '95), does still play jazz clubs, he is involved with other musical pursuits as well. Walker, who won the International Association of Jazz Players Young Talent Award his freshman year, played bass and saxophone on Rohm Ryan's latest record, recorded with David Wynne in New York City and with Petenicks With Mystery Drummer, and is currently working on a record with Rice graduate Tom Senning (Wiess). In addition, he will be playing with the Bruce Dudley Trio at Cezanne in the next month.
Hipnopop grew out of a simple desire to play jazz and soon the group was playing the Coffeehouse and small clubs, such as Ovations, around town. "What we're trying to do," explains Walker, "is to study a lot of the tradition of jazz, from early swing to avant-garde, and just get a good understanding of all music and then realize our own sound."
Nicholas Walker will be playing bass with Eddie Hobizal on piano and Keith Karniky on drums at Wiess Jazz Night tonight.
Love's Fresh Produce (by Jeremy Hart)
"I think we basically got started making noise and irritating people, then somebody decided we were a band, and then Brett showed up," says bassist Bill Tanner, a senior at Will Rice. He and guitarist/singer Stu Smith, a Will Rice Junior; guitarist Brett Peters, a Will Rice sophomore; and drummer Jason Carreira, another Will Rice junior and a member of Buddha on the Moon, make up the band known as Love's Fresh Produce.
Produce only played a few times last year, but this year they plan to take off. Right now they've only got one groupie, but they're hoping that'll change.
The band plays all kinds of music. The "Produce sound" is extremely varied, ranging from Sebadoh covers to "Funkytown," and even an acoustic ballad or two. "Sounds good through two doors," according to one impartial observer.
Lozenge (by Jeremy Hart)
In the beginning, there was Güt Logic. They made lots of noise, injured themselves, and tried to be a Goth parody, but it didn't work. The band broke up in early 1992, and nearly everyone in the band went in their own different direction. "It got stupid," says Kyle Bruckmann, formerly singer and percussionist for Güt Logic. Bruckmann himself decided to move on to something in somewhat of the same vein as his old band, but with absolutely no pretense at taking themselves seriously. He pilgrimaged to Austin, bought an accordion, and managed to install a mike in it, so he could plug it into an amplifier. Then he found Kurt Johnson, a grad student at Rice who could make "terrifying dying elephant noises" with his fretless bass, and an enthusiastic "metal percussionist" in Philip Montoro. Since then only one other member has been recruited, drummer/percussionist Mark Stevens.
Live, Bruckmann plays his accordion through guitar effects pedals, Johnson goes wild on the bass, and Stevens and Montoro pound out an amazingly tight, stacatto rhythm on an assortment of pipes, springs, oil drums, and square bars of metal (oh yeah, and a real drum or two). Add a lot of feedback, some frenzied, hoarse bellowing from Bruckmann, and you've got Lozenge. Bruckmann describes their band as "the musical equivalent of Tourette's Syndrome" - but Montoro is more surreal in his description: "Iron Man, during his awkward phase, maybe thirteen or fourteen, attempting to pogo in a small room filled with elephant seals, wolverines, and discarded washers and dryers." Right. Not a bad description, actually...
Despite their notoriety, Lozenge has actually only played one or two real shows. They practiced all year last year, played Wiess' JamFest, broke up for the summer, then got back together and started practicing again this fall. They hope to play some local gigs in Houston, and, due to their inclusion on the Alles is Güt joint 7-inch, they have been getting attention as far away as San Francisco, Portland, Cambridge, and Atlanta. The band is currently sucking up to Project A-Bomb Records in hopes of maybe being offered the opportunity to release an album.
The Lozenges (by Jeremy Hart)
Nope, they're no relation at all to Lozenge - they just somehow came up with the same name, independently. The Lozenges are "a fun little group," just two guys, Brett Peters and John-Paul Yabraian, who like to goof around and write songs about their friends. They started sometime last year, while studying calculus at two am., basically by just writing songs off the tops of their heads. "Brett is the musical one," says Yabraian, "he plays the instruments." Yabraian, who sings and plays kazoo for the duo, describes the band as "like a big slab of bacon. We get sort of greasy if you cook us too long, and we're full of nitrates," while Peters calls the Lozenges "two guys, a guitar, a kazoo, a bottle of prescription drugs...and a little Palmolive." Their completely self-released debut album, Hop in, Mamud, consists of songs all named "It's [put name here]," each one about a friend of theirs. The songs tend to not be very well thought-out, but they're fun to listen to.
In terms of playing experience, the Lozenges haven't had much. They took third place at the Will Rice Day Songwriting Contest last year, and guitarist Peters is also in the band Love's Fresh Produce (the Lozenges came first, apparently), but other than that, they don't play too many gigs. "Brett says we've done arena tours, but I don't remember them," says Yabraian. The duo's future plans are to write some more songs, mostly because they've already found a title and cover art for their next album, and John-Paul says their "eventual goal" is to write a song about every person at Rice. Good luck, guys.
Pachelbel's Bazooka (by Jeremy Hart)
Few bands at Rice have gone through more name changes than this one. Pachelbel's Bazooka (the winner of a recent contest, and not necessarily the name they'll stick with) started out as Red Jaundice, then became Ruckus, then Wet Paint, and then Stab before coming up with the current name. The band itself started out as two pairs of friends from Wiess and Hanszen who wanted to play together. Former bassist Kyle Key and former drummer Steve Girard were both in a band called Red Jaundice at the time, but when that fell apart, they took the name, joined up with singer Bill Fillbach and guitarist Steve Estes, and grabbed another guitarist, Paul Boutz, to form the second incarnation of Red Jaundice. They played together for a year, despite Fillbach's departure for Vietnam and the addition of singer David Mebane, and had a few gigs at parties, College Nights, the Pub, and JamFest.
At the beginning of this year, Fillbach is back on vocals, Boutz is no longer with the band, and Albert Sheen and Tim Hillman have ably replaced Key and Girard as the band's rhythm section. Now, according to Fillbach, they're just trying to play together as much as they can before they graduate. They have recorded a demo tape of songs, mostly for auditioning at clubs in the Rice area, and from the sound of it, their music has changed dramatically. Formerly almost famous for their own goofy blend of sixties/seventies hard rock and heavy metal, the new and improved Bazooka have changed directions, becoming more "eclectic" in style and embracing everything from Latin rhythms to Sex Pistols-era punk rock.
Sprawl (by Marc Hirsh)
Rice's greatest musical success story in recent years has been Sprawl. Now one of the more active local bands, Sprawl started up in September 1986 in the basement of Sid. Drummer Nick Cooper (Wiess '91) says the reasons for the formation of the band could be summed up in the first line of "Big Ass Jewel," one of the first songs they ever wrote: "Big ass jewel/Shooting psychedelic lightning into George Rupp's pool." Since their first shows at Sid's Oktoberfest and Clear Lake's Apocalypse Monster Club, the band has been through numerous personnel changes. Currently the band is comprised of Rice graduates Cooper, Matt Kelly (Wiess '90) on lead vocals, Clay Embry (Hanszen '91) on saxophone, and Jeff Nunnaly (Sid '88) on bass, with King Bo V on trumpet, Rev. Dave Dove on trombone, and Joe Salinas on guitar rounding out the band.
In the days before Venus In Furs, Sprawl were the keepers of "Rice University's reggae/punk/ska sound," but they have since passed that title onto the younger band. Cooper now describes the Sprawl sound as "speed gospel from Space City." The evolution of the band's style came naturally, not through any conscious effort to conform to the trends of the day. "I honestly couldn't tell you who the Stone Temple Pilots are," Cooper explains. "I couldn't tell you what the new Dinosaur Jr. sounds like." Sprawl knows the type of music that it wants to play and doesn't bother with keeping up with it's own roots, let alone current styles. "We've been playing too long to have any musical influences anymore," Cooper says. Sprawl begins its first European tour in Germany on January 19, 1994, but will conquer Fitzgerald's tonight first.
Joel Stein (by Marc Hirsh)
"I write about people being aware of themselves and being responsible for their actions," says Baker junior Joel Stein, whose talent has prompted the Public News to refer to Paul Simon and Bob Dylan as "the next Joel Stein."
Stein was always interested in music, though he views the fiurst time that he saw A Hard Day's Night as a turning point in his youth. Now majoring in music composition at the Shepherd School, Stein was writing songs prolifically by the age of 15.
Stein considers the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and David Rice as influences. "Most of my lyrics are somewhat intellectual," explains Stein, who enjoys creating odd situations between people. "But most situations between people are odd, so it works."
Stein also admits that "a rather disturbing amount" of his material is based on real experiences, pointing to a song called "Change," which he says is "completely true."
With around 135 songs to his credit (only 75 of which are "recordable"), Stein is looking for major backing. He has recorded an album, Dipped In Honey, which was produced entirely on his own. The tape was sent to several record companies and Stein is putting things on hold until he hears from them.
Tit (by Jeremy Hart)
"Concept is better than talent. We're a conceptual band," says Eveline Chang, a Jones senior, when asked to describe Tit-2.
Anyway, Tit ("2," since they're the second generation of the band) is very difficult to describe. Their single "You Make Me Wanna Douche" is basically heavy bass and guitar mutilation as a backdrop for high-pitched shrieking and mad feminist ranting.
The original Tit began a couple of years ago, but since then they've gone through several graduating members and new arrivals.
Now "Tit-2" (which may change its name to either "Tits" or "Boobies," instead) consists of Chang, Brown senior Michele Pulich, '93 graduates Courtney Kelley and J. J. Heldmann, and new recruits Tracy Jo Barnwell (a Will Rice sophomore, also in Buddha on the Moon), on guitar and Julie Capehart on drums.
When the band plays together, Change says, there's not much real structure. She emphasizes the imporvisational nature of the band. "We don't really practice, we just kind of play." She notes that while the band is a parody of what she calls "chick rock," they are not denigrating the "riot grrl" phenomenon.
Tomcat (by Marc Hirsh)
"Tomcat started off as a supergroup, but Clapton, Hendrix, and others dropped out," explains Tomcat bassist David Hale (Sid '95) with a straight face. "None of the originals are in it anymore, it's just us." Meaning just Hale (who also plays rhythm guitar), lead guitarist Brian Beagly (Sid '95), Henry Mayer (Sid '95) on rhythm guitar and drums, and drummer Eric Nelson (Sid '95), who is in India for the semester.
The four Sid juniors had been friends since freshman year when they all simultaneously started playing guitar and talking about a band. When they realized that they had 4 guitarists, Hale changed to bass and Nelson switched to drums. Currently a power trio, Tomcat, who made their Rice debut at last year's JamFest, will return to its original configuration as a foursome when Nelson returns in January.
Hale describes Tomcat's music as a combination of blues, folk, and grunge but hesitates to refer to his band in those terms. "Basically," he elaborates, "I think it appals the three of us to be called grunge, we're too loud to be folk, and we're not good enough to be blues." Hale lists as the band's influences Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and a touch of the Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival. "But," Hale is quick to point out, "mainly Neil Young."
The members of Tomcat are all currently developing originals and waiting to see around whom the songwriting solidifies. Hale sees the band as being in a pivotal point in its career, with the potential to either fall apart or ascend to greatness. The band hopes to play the Coffeehouse and "anywhere else that folks might be desperate enough to hear us."
Venus in Furs (by Jeremy Hart)
Not really a "Rice band" anymore (only one member hasn't graduated yet), Venus in Furs has been around awhile. Drummer Deron Neblitt, vocalist/guitarist Kevin Timson and guitarist Eldon Little all met O-Week of their freshman year, and have been together ever since. They met Louis Spiegler, who played bass (and has since left the band), then Jef Rice, who plays trumpet and sings on some of the band's tunes. Saxophonist Keith Lafoe and trombone player Andy Wagner joined a bit later, but Wagner dropped out for a year. Since then, about a year ago, Wagner returned to play with the band, and Patrick Higgins, a phenomenal "new" bassist, joined. Venus in Furs has played quite a few places, including clubs in Houston, Austin, Dallas, and even Arizona and Louisiana, as well as at Rice college parties. They have two albums out, the four-song Margaritas in a Blender of Sound EP and the recently-released Deliquescent, their first full album.
The Venus in Furs sound gathers influences from all over the place: jazz, lots and lots of funk, rap, reggae, blues (especially on the vocals), some occasional punk thrashing, and a heavy dose of ska. The music that comes out is fast, funky, soulful - and all over the place. "We try not to get into a rut," says Lafoe. Check 'em out this Friday at the Pig.
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