even better demos.

That’s “I’m Not The One” by a band called Fashion Central, and it’s one of two distinct types of demos that we had begun receiving with regularity at our PO Box.

That type was the pop kind of demo; usually bubblegummish power pop or lyrically clever stuff that was clearly a result of our having released Flying Suit. Fashion Central were previously called Schwa (or maybe it was vice versa), and they released a record with SpinArt, which was one of the better pop labels out there at the time.

I really liked them, and since they were a pure pop band, I penciled them in for a track in the Baker’s Dozen series. Unfortunately I can’t recall who I got to know from the band, but I do recall that he was more than happy to agree to contribute a track.

Another band that sent us a demo was Dishes. I distinctly remember meeting a woman in the band online, but do not remember where – certainly it was in one of the music mailing lists or message boards, and we obviously made contact with each other one way or another because she sent me a demo tape. However, when I reached out to her a couple of months ago, she very politely told me that she had no fucking idea who I was, and didn’t seem particularly interested in trying to figure it out.

That’s cool; maybe I’m a little creepy.

But the demo was a nice example of the other type of demo we regularly received – straight-ahead indie rock, occasionally flavored with math rock or peppered with noise. Dishes were a decent enough example of it, but I also received a lot of this type of tape.

I had a pile of detuned-sounding music with very obvious separation between the guitars and bass so that you could hear each instrument distinctly (a-la Pavement), a production technique that was in vogue by the mid-90s and a sound that I liked very much. I never acted on the Dishes tape, though (as clearly evidenced by the fact that the woman who mailed the tape had no clue who I was).

The tape I received that completely blew my mind, though, came from a Boston band called Shiva Speedway. They were an all-female band that had some super-talented songwriters and musicians that created this amazingly noisy sound that was rife with tension but with an underlying sense of melody. I initially became familiar with them through a split seven-inch they did for Harriet Records, and became acquainted with their drummer, Pam (once again, online).

Pam was immediately interested in working with Dromedary. I’ll never know why; like The Mommyheads, they were far better than us. She sent us a demo, clearly thinking that we knew what we were doing.

Here’s “Deal With The Devil,” from that demo tape.

I loved this. Loved loved loved loved loved it. The tension that builds in the first two verses, as the song speeds up and slows down, was the perfect complement to the payoff – the chorus, which hits you hard, but not until the end of the song. And the chorus has a dynamite melodic element that gets twisted by the deliberately off-key harmony vocals.

Unfortunately there’s another channel that you can’t hear in this recording. It’s another whole channel of guitar, playing jangly harmonies in the verse and more noise in the chorus.

They were fantastic.

Pam sent me the band’s entire recorded output, including all their demos, and we began emailing about the possibility of working on a full-length. She seemed receptive to it, and also receptive to doing a track in the Baker’s Dozen series.

By the end of 1995, I had begun talking about Shiva Speedway as if they already were a Dromedary band. I never said it publicly, or mentioned it in ads, but I definitely talked about them with Sandy and Rich that way. I also played them for Footstone, and remember Mark really liking them.

Once again, I felt like we had a small family of bands, and that always felt great. Where Dromedary Mach I may have been Melting Hopefuls, Footstone, Godspeed and cuppa joe, and Dromedary Mach II was The Mommyheads, Footstone, cuppa joe, Gapeseed, and Toast, by late 1995 I spoke of Dromedary as being made up of Footstone, Blenderette, Moviola, Gapeseed and Shiva Speedway.  Dromedary Mach III.

It was the strongest group of bands we’d lined up, and it was about to get even stronger.

With that, we rang out 1995. Unlike years prior, where we gathered up Rich and went out to find a party (or, as we had the previous New Year’s, went to a party at Lissette’s house), we had a brand-new baby who was too young for us to feel comfortable finding a babysitter. We’d still never left you alone for more than a couple of hours.

So we had a party at our house instead. Our new house, which was finally in a “showable” condition. We invited a bunch of people – Rich and Lissette, obviously, but also a bunch of Rich’s friends, folks from college, Dromedary people, and a few people from our respective work lives. Because we didn’t want the party to keep our newly-sleeping-through-the-night baby awake, we asked everyone to come over a little later, so you’d be sleeping when they arrived.

I remember one thing about that New Year’s, and one thing only.

My favorite band at the time was Seam. It wasn’t even a close competition. That year, Seam had released Are You Driving Me Crazy?, and I thought it was the best album ever made, by any band. It was wonderfully mellow and incredibly emotional; despite the fact that the guitars were distorted and the drums were loud and you could barely hear the vocals, it was still the most mellow record I owned. It put me in the same place Codeine (the band) did, without putting me to sleep in the process.

While Sandy got ready for the big party, my job was simple: get the baby to sleep.

And so I held you in my arms, buried your face in my neck, and slow-danced with you to Are You Driving Me Crazy?

It was magical. Long after you were sound asleep I danced, clutching you to my chest and thinking about the year.

I had entered 1995 hoping to have found a new dayjob, gotten Dromedary to the next level, put out a crop of new records, and moved a step closer to working Dromedary full-time.

Instead, I released one CD, had a baby and bought a house.

The entire plan had been put on hold, and at some level, that was unbelievably depressing.

But on another level, I was somebody’s dad, and his tiny hands were wrapped around my neck while I danced to Seam. And nothing could be more rewarding. Dromedary could – and would – wait.

Forever, for the rest of my life, when I hear this song I will think of you.

Eventually the record came to an end and I brought you up to your crib. We had our party, laughed and enjoyed ourselves, talked about 1996.

We turned on the television in time to see the ball fall. The first band I saw in 1996 was the Goo Goo Dolls, performing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. I believe they performed “Name.”

I thought back to the fall of 1990, when I attended the CMJ New Music Marathon with the executive board of WSAM. When we attended that convention, the Goo Goo Dolls’ Hold Me Up was one of our favorite records. At that time, I would never have dreamed that I’d see the Goo Goo Dolls ringing in the New Year on Dick Clark. Alternative rock no longer existed, having been completely absorbed into popular culture. As I sat there and watched the Goo Goo Dolls perform – or pretend to perform, with a backing tape ensuring that the notes and the mix were perfect – I reflected on how far our music had come, and tried guessing at where it was going to go.

~ by Al on October 6, 2009.

3 Responses to “even better demos.”

  1. Yeah, Shiva Speedway!
    Looks like they are playing Hoboken in November.
    You should go.
    I should go too.

  2. I got all excited for a second, then dug further into the website and read this:

    “Special things in store for 2001!”

    Seems like the website needs updating.

  3. You should go…..back in time!!

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