Friday, February 29, 2008

1994: The Year of Car Vs. Driver - Live At WREK Shows 1/4/94 and 9/13/94

From L to R: James Joyce, Ashley Moore, Steve Wishart, Matt Mauldin, Jon Rothman at the Somber Reptile after our final show on July 21, 1995 with Braid and Inkwell.

I have transferred our two Live at WREK shows - here are the links:

9/13/94: Car Vs. Driver - Live at WREK September 13, 1994

1/4/94: Car Vs. Driver - Live at WREK January 4, 1994

Here is a summary I wrote for the Car Vs. Driver Discography, put out by Gavin at Stickfigure Records:

Car vs. Driver began when I was 17 years old. By the time we played our final show, I was 19. This band was the music of my life during a period when people usually experience the greatest amount of freedom, which is what I think of whenever I listen to this music now. There were so many new experiences: living on our own, meeting new people, getting a new perspective on life. Our lifestyle in turn gave us a new perspective on expressing music, and we poured all of our energy and emotion into it. Music that now seems a world away – music from a different life. It’s hard to remember that everything about being in a band at that time was simply making a 7”, buying the cheapest van you could find, and touring the country for the summer. There was no infrastructure to build your music around, which also removed its barriers. Instead of running our band like a corporation, we played peoples living rooms and basements, engaged in kickball tournaments, made record covers out of manila envelopes, slept on top of our van, cooked pasta, and played with some of the most amazing bands in the process. Bands that epitomized the time – like Spirit Assembly, Policy of 3, Friction, Current, The Yah Mos, Assfactor 4, Frail, Hoover, Freemasonry, Scout, and Inkwell. The experience we had is something that could never be recreated, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been a part of that moment in time. Thank you Matt, Steve, and Jonathan for bringing this to me.

James Joyce
August 2004

This compilation is dedicated to our faithful roadies Ashley Lawrence Moore and William Anthony Nation.

We froze, sweat, bled, argued, and laughed.

WREK is the college radio station for Georgia Tech, and by far my favorite station in Atlanta. One great thing they have done for so many years is the Live At WREK show, which plays at 10PM on Tuesday nights. Everyone has played it from Minutemen and Sun Ra to any local Atlanta band you can imagine. It has become somewhat like the Peel Sessions for Atlanta bands, and an easy way to get a decent recording of your music (especially back before the days of quality home recording). When Car Vs. Driver played Live At WREK, we tried to play as many songs as possible so we would have demo versions of our new stuff, as well as some old songs we never properly recorded. People tell us that these recordings better represent Car Vs. Driver as a band than the records we put out. You can decide for yourself. Also, WREK has a great website where you can listen to all the content from the past week online, as well as the Live at WREK comilation CD they put out a few years ago and other gems.

I do not plan to post the Car Vs. Driver discography here, as you can still get the great 2XCD package that Stickfigure released in 2005, here is the link: .
Gavin was cool enough to keep our recordings in print by putting out this compilation, and he deserves all the business he can get. I will post our reunion show in 1997 soon, as well as flyers and pictures, but you should have enough to get started for now.

Keep in touch, and leave a comment so I don't feel like this stuff is going into a void.

Monday, February 18, 2008

King Tunes - More Go-Steadys Live on Album 88 and Unreleased Songs

So Ex-Teenage Rockstar (aka Steven Cummings) came through and gave me a tape of “Reflections”, which was a song we recorded at a studio in Atlanta by some railroad tracks, as well as a sassy live in the studio recording from March 1995 of the Go Steadys on Album 88, in preparation for our 7” release show at the Somber Reptile later that month. Now we have everything that I ever played on with the Go Steadys, however I am not sure if they recorded anything further after I left the group. One interesting note is that Kyle Richards plays the Album 88 show, which I completely do not remember him even playing with us after high school. Anyhow, it was fun hearing everyone talk again, especially Eric telling the announcer that he was from Compton, and Jesse working at the California Pizza Kitchen. The most infamous line, however, was Mike telling the DJ that he played the skinflute, which I completely missed me when I was in the studio, but afterwards was unbelievable that he actually got that over the air. I now have more practice in transferring tapes to computer, so I re-recorded all the Go Steadys songs and uploaded them to MediaFire, so you can download the best discography yet here:

Go-Steadys Complete Discography

Rob Fitzgerald - Our second drummer and youngest member of the band.

Here are some classic Go Steadys flyers:

October 21, 1992 - This was our first big show, and we were pretty wet behind the ears. But we got through it, and played many other great shows afterwards, so I guess we did something right.

May 31, 1994 at the Atomic Music Hall in Athens. Flyer designed by Robert McAdams when he was living in Athens and wearing suits every Friday.

March 19, 1993 at the Hoyt Street Station in Athens. This was our first show in Athens (while we were still in High School). I believe we played with the Woggles at that show.

June 14, 1993 - This was a show at the Somber Reptile that was back when they served smart drinks and had disco night after 11:00 or so. It was so early in the Somber Reptile's existence that we didn't even know the right name and called it the Summer Reptile. Plenty of beer.

April 24, 1993 - Back at the Hoyt Street Station in Athens. Crystal was in a band called 7/10 split, which was made up of Roswell High School students. Check out Jason Griset endorsing Philly Titans.

February 26, 1994 - At the Somber Reptile with The Skats, Brumski and Skaffle House. By this time there were enough ska bands in Atlanta to actually fill up the bill. These were some fun shows. As far as the live recording, I never got a copy. Scooter parking available - hilarious.

May 29, 1993 at the Somber Reptile - This was our last show as the original high school lineup of 7. At the beginning of National Front (our first song), Jesse does a backflip off the stage and takes out the whole front of the audience. He had never successfully done a backflip before, but why not right there and then!

Set list from the May 29 show above - as you can see, we played about 50% covers (about right for a ska band). Check out the footprints.

Finally, November 13, 1993 at Hoyt Street North in Athens (again). I loved the image from "Man Bites Dog" to use in the flyer. We also started figuring out how to use computers at that time. No members of the Go Steadys became graphic designers (that I know of), but we were creative in other ways.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Brighter Days: The Go-Steadys (1991-1996)

From L to R: Laura Richards, Jesse Lauricella, Eric Fickes, Mike, Robbie Fitzgerald, Dan Gminksi, Brian Lysne, James Joyce, circa 1995.

Here is the download:
Go-Steadys Complete Discography

So I learned about ska music through my friend Miles Peterken, who also introduced me to punk and jazz, so you can say he was a pretty influential person in my early musical development. This was maybe 1989 or so, and in his bedroom he would pin record covers on the walls instead of posters. He is really the only person I have ever known to do this in this exact way. He liked to hang up all sorts of LP covers, and I distinctly remember seeing the first albums of both the Specials and Madness on the wall of his room, and possibly the first Selecter album as well.

If you remember what these covers look like, it completely blew my mind as a 15 year-old just getting into decent music. Both of these covers featured photos of the bands, which had a mixture of black and white members (for the Specials), and the trademark Madness group leaning-stance, or whatever it’s called, for their album. Both pictures showed members who were definitely not American in any way, and looking insanely cool. The Specials looked like some crazy gang, and Suggs from Madness probably looked to be about the coolest person I had ever seen. I didn’t hear these bands until at least a year or two later, when Brian Lysne bought the Specials Singles Collection on tape, I believe from Camelot Music, and we both listened to “A Message to You Rudy” for the first time on his boom box after returning from the mall. I can honestly say that I was initially totally bewildered by this song. It sounded like a bastardized reggae (definitely not Jamaican), with some kind of doo-wop vocals and really different recording sound. It sounded like some kind of working-class skinhead music, which I guess it was, and maybe not something we were going to understand, much less love to death. However, once “Do the Dog”, “Concrete Jungle”, and some others from the first album came on, we knew this music was awesome and totally unique in comparison with the music that was around at the time. Immediately we started looking for ska music in various tape and record stores, but the local Turtles and Camelot Music only had the ska bands that really had crossover success with mainstream music. We got English Beat (although Special Beat Service was the most common release you could find at that time), Specials and Madness. All three of these bands had amazing first albums, but highly questionable and confusing later albums. Finally I got a tape of Bim Skala Bim’s “Hows’ it Goin”, and started to break into the true ska music scene. When we started heading down to Little 5 Points and buying records at Wax N’ Facts, I got more records such as The Toaster’s “Pool Shark”, the Deltones’ “Nana Choc Choc in Paris”, as well as a few other great records of the genre.

Coincidentally around this time, two major events occurred to solidify our involvement with ska music. The first was WREK starting the “Afriskamatic” radio show, which was amazing, but also interesting in that at first they didn’t even have enough ska music and had to play African music to fill out the entire 2 hour show. We would record it on tape and listen to it all week in the car. It was funny to find the albums that they were playing on the show years later when ska distribution became better and recognize the songs that I heard first on that radio show, like Symaryp for example. Another great example is a song by the Terrorists, which was an NYC ska-punk band who did a song with Lee Perry called “Guerilla Priest“. When I bought their discography many years later, I completely forgot about the song, and then when it came on I had this immense wave of nostalgia and insane laughter when I heard it. The song is truly a Lee Perry classic. The second big event in our ska development was Jesse Lauricella moving to Atlanta around 1991. Since my last name is Joyce, he was naturally put into my homeroom class as it was organized in alphabetical order. I believe he was behind me, and Brian Lysne was behind him. He came from New Jersey, and was very knowledgeable about the NYC ska scene, mainly revolving around the Moon SKA record label. He had seen many of these bands live, including the Toasters, Scofflaws, Let’s Go Bowling, and many others from that era. He also brought a selection of tapes for us to dub and enjoy. One of these was the “Skankin’ Around The World” Volume 1 tape, which I believe is the best ska compilation ever created, and I still listen to it on a regular basis. After hanging out with him for a few weeks, we decided that we needed to form a ska band and show everyone what was up. Jesse would naturally be the singer, and Brian would be the bassman. We got Eric Fickes to play guitar, as he was always game for musical projects back then, and I would play drums. We were pretty rough at the beginning, and had a few members come in and out for about 6 months or so. Michelle Ward played keyboards for a practice, Jesse’s friends Paul and Dave played sax and trombone, but they were not technically horn players and did not last. It was too bad because Paul was possibly the scariest guy I had ever seen in person. He was about 10 years older than us, and had full sleeves of tattoos, had the physique of a marine out of Paris Island and always wore a wife-beater. When Jason Griset joined the band on sax, he was actually too scared to tell Paul how to play any of the parts because the dude was so menacing. We also had this African-American skinhead singer named Fran├žoise for a show, who looked really cool, but not very talented in the singer/frontman department. Eventually, we ditched all of these secondary members and acquired the three real talents for the band and completed our first full group of seven members. This was comprised of the four of us (Jesse, Brian, Eric and myself), along with Jason Griset on Tenor Sax, Kyle Richards on Trumpet, and Shawn Simpson on Drums. I met these guys in my band class (the main place to find horn players for your ska band in those days), and in the case of Jason and Shawn, happened to be some of the most talented musicians I have ever played with (then or since). Sometimes when we would be playing a show at the Hoyt Street Station in Athens, for example, they would set up in the parking lot before the show and have a sax-drums duo playing jazz music, and it was amazing. Since they were so unbelievable on their instruments, I naturally switched to rhythm guitar while Shawn took over full drumming responsibilities. We started doing ska versions of “Freddie the Freeloader” and “Miles Mode”, and these guys truly legitimized the Go Steadys for us.

As for the actual band name, we kind of ripped it from “The Steadys” out of NYC, but nobody in Atlanta had ever heard of The Steadys, so we became The Go Steadys. In the spring of 1993, I recorded a 4-song demo of us as the original seven piece band in my basement, and I have included it in the attached file:

1. What You Are
2. Anthem
3. Brighter Days
4. By My Side

“What You Are” is lyrically probably the most misogynistic song I have ever played. Jesse was particularly angry about a break-up with a girl in our class, and really wanted to get his vengeance. High School can be a difficult time for all of us. We used to play this song first at all of our shows, and it always got the crowd moving. “Anthem” was written after we played with the Special Beat, and Jesse had the urge to write a nice xenophobic ska song about Americans playing ska, including the chorus “bust out that American ska and a piece of apple pie, if those tea-sipping jerks got something to say we’ll put a fist right in their eye” – classic Jesse Lauricella. “Brighter Days” was one of my favorite songs by the band, especially played with this lineup. “By My Side” was so new that Jason hadn’t learned the horn part, so Kyle played trumpet on it alone, and I actually like this version better anyhow than the one with the full horn section recorded later. Also, I have to say about the original lineup that I really liked Shawn Simpson’s drumming on this demo, which was much different compared to other ska drummers. He added a real swing to the group, but also kept the intensity of the music high. He would play my crappy drumset with only one rack tom (no floor tom), one cymbal, a snare, high-hat and bass drum, and still completely kill it every time.

From L to R: Jesse Lauricella, Brian Lysne, Jason Griset, Eric Fickes (on floor), Kyle Richards, Shawn Simpson, James Joyce - Spring 1993.

We played some of our best shows at this time, even playing in Athens for college crowds while we were still in high school, which is pretty rare. We played with the Woggles and the Earthworms in Athens, as well as the Special Beat, Toasters, etc. that came through Atlanta at that time. We also started playing with a new breed of Atlanta ska bands, including the Skats (which featured Brian and Rob Kincheloe as well as a very young Mike Griffith on drums), and Brumski (featuring the soon to be legendary Tom Cheshire). Unfortunately, we lost Shawn, Jason and Kyle at the end of our Senior year as Shawn and Jason went to music school in Denton, TX and Kyle went to Boston to study medicine. Kyle started playing bass in Boston bands, and I would get demos from them occasionally. Jason returned to the Go Steadys later on when he transferred to Valdosta, but I never saw Shawn Simpson again. At the end of this time, I switched from guitar to trombone, and we went about finding new members for the group. Kyle recruited his sister, Laura Richards, to join the band on trombone (now we had two trombone players). She was super nice, but a little young, so she became kind of the little sister of the group. I was dating a girl named Crystal Bradley at the time, and she was in another ska band called 7/10 split, and I believe she was the one who found our next drummer, Robbie Fitzgerald, and our trumpet player, Chad Paulin. Jesse’s friend Mike moved down from New Jersey and took over secondary vocals, and we got a friend of Jesse’s named Dan Gminski (I'm not sure of the spelling) to play bass clarinet. Crystal also joined us on keyboards and Jason Griset returned to start helping us on sax duties, so that brought the total band membership up to 11 (Jesse, James, Brian, Eric, Crystal, Robbie, Laura, Chad, Dan, Mike, and Jason). This was insanity from a band logistics perspective. It was hard to even get everyone to the show on time. I remember once playing with Skankin’ Pickle at the Chameleon Club in Buckhead, and the band went on without me on trombone because I was over at Tower Records wandering around being oblivious. Also, keep in mind that this was before the advent of cell phones, so there was a lot of legwork involved with these shows and practices. We recorded a few more songs under this lineup at Dwarf studios in Ellijay, the place where Car Vs. Driver recorded their first 7”.

5. Goin’ Away
6. Fallen
7. Brighter Days
8. By My Side
9. King Tone Corporate Anthem
10. No. 5

“Goin’ Away” was not really our best song, and extremely difficult for Mike and Jesse to harmonize on, but it had an end-of-show kind of feeling to it, so it was always part of our set. “Fallen” was probably my least favorite song we did, but had a great rockabilly-style riff from Eric that he could really belt out, and the crowd always loved it. “Brighter Days” was played with more horns this time. “King Tone Corporate Anthem” was an instrumental with a name borrowed from the “Devo Corporate Anthem”, and had the big “S-K-A” intro that was fun to play. I think we did a few mambo lines through the audience with that one. “No. 5” was also another almost-instrumental, and had some pretty good trombone playing on my part if I do say so myself. Crystal adds some good keyboards as well. As you can see, Robbie Fitzgerald couldn’t really keep up with the virtuoso drumming of Shawn Simpson, but he transformed the band into a more modern, driving ska band of the new third wave era. Two of these songs (Goin’ Away and Fallen) were pressed as a 7”, but not for sale at shows. We only used them for sending to clubs and promotion. Also something strange about the 7” was that it had an 8” cover, so it didn’t fit in any 7” boxes. Mine is currently filed in the 10” section of my collection.

The Go Steadys 7" in an 8" sleeve.

Only 100 Pressed. I got #31.

Unauthorized Reproduction Punishable by DEATH.

Live at the Somber Reptile in 1994/5: Dan, James and Brian.

We were playing several times per month and having a great time, and also playing in Huntsville, Athens and Auburn, but I was also in Car Vs. Driver and The Midget Farmers as well as pursuing a degree in Physics and Astronomy full time. By about spring of 1995, I was getting seriously burnt out on the strain of being in a band of 10+ members, and wanted to get out. As what usually happens in the Go Steadys, if you leave the band, it is almost expected of you to recruit a new person to join, and I got Steven Cummings brought in on tenor sax. He was in my Astronomy class, and once I found out he could play sax, I ensnared him as soon as possible for practice. They continued on for a few years without me, and recorded a few more songs (if anyone has these, please send them and I will post them to this blog entry), but after another year or so Steven left, along with Robbie, Brian and Eric to form other bands. The first three started The Del Rays in Athens, while Eric moved to North Carolina and joined the Stingy Brims, another ska band from the region. Jesse kept adding and replacing members, until he fell in love with a girl down in Mexico and moved down there to be with her, and the band officially dissolved. When he returned a year or two later, he started a Latin-influenced ska band called Mandorico, and they have been working very hard as a band for years and years, although I have yet to see them. Chad joined the Robustos in Atlanta, and had much more success as a third wave ska band than the Go Steadys ever had. Crystal Bradley moved about 10 more times before settling in DC for a few years and starting a band with the singer from Bratmobile called Partyline. They were hugely popular and came to Europe several times while I was in Amsterdam, but I was always out of town and never got to see them play. I do not know what happened to Dan, Laura or Mike, but that’s the way it goes sometimes in these situations at that time in your life. Supposedly Dan works as a tatoo artist in Germany, but I have not confirmed this. Brian moved to Japan for several years, and then became an accountant and moved to Minnesota (I believe). Eric became a computer programmer and moved recently to Denver where he and his wife are raising their first child – Fletcher Fickes. Steven Cummings draws comic books for a living and is almost impossible to hang out with due to his hectic work schedule. I haven’t seen Jesse in almost ten years, but maybe I’ll catch Mandorico one of these years and say hello. I see they moved to LA and seem to be doing fine.

Overall, I can honestly say that this was the most fun that I ever had on stage with a band, and that is truly saying a lot. It really gave me so much joy during my late high school years to play in this band and experience everything we experienced – jumping around, wearing crazy clothes, Jesse doing back flips off the stage, mambo trains through the crowd, bringing everyone up on stage for our version of “Monkey Man”, playing “Don’t Worry Be Happy” with the Skats, crashing the front porch of a house in Athens from dancing so hard, playing a party at a loft on Memorial Drive where the crowd literally knocked down the wall to the adjoining loft and started looting the place while we played – dancing around with all the neighbor’s stuff in their arms (!!!), Shawn Simpson driving 100+ mph up to Athens for shows, looking everywhere for a good pork-pie hat, smoking cigars, acting like complete assholes, and generally having the time of our lives.