By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
Robert Price is not a happy man. At least not now. It's the day before his band Kreamy 'Lectric Santa is set to embark on a monthlong club tour that will take them through the South, across Texas, and up and down the West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. And this isn't a band with a high-dollar booking agency doing the legwork for them; violinist/vocalist Priya Ray has been lining up dates for the last three months, calling the clubs, working out a financial agreement that will make the trip worthwhile (if not exactly profitable), and mapping out the group's destination in some kind of logical fashion. The Santas have been rehearsing constantly as well as taking care of the things that have to be done before you leave town, which if you're in a band means getting time off from your day job, making sure your van will make the journey in one piece, and combing the thrift stores in search of cheap replacements for your malfunctioning equipment. Add to that a last-minute gig at Cheers, and 250 copies of your new just-arrived-from-the-pressing-plant single, which will need to be stuffed by hand into 250 individual silkscreened covers (which you also did by hand the afternoon of that last-minute gig). And don't forget the T-shirts. Oh, and if you're Price, you've also just had a root canal, which has your sleep-deprived self feeling "pretty damaged."
It's a hectic time, to be sure, but on this afternoon everything appears at last to be falling into place. And then, by nightfall, a bomb drops. In an unfortunate accident on which no one in the band wishes to elaborate, the left-hand pinkie of Kreamy 'Lectric Santa drummer Tim Vaughn gets broken. Badly. So badly that it will take a month for it to be drumworthy again. The tour will have to be rescheduled, time off from those day jobs will have to be rescheduled, and months of work, time, and energy have gone, in a sense, down the toilet. Welcome to the glamorous world of an independent, underground rock and roll band. You look like you could use a beer.
Price may see it otherwise, but this is actually a very good time for Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, crumbling tour notwithstanding. Its latest single, a diverse three-songer titled 4, is the group's most adventurous and gloriously weird waxing yet. The A-side, "Transient Immobility," is a bizarre soundscape composed of random sounds, haunting piano, and manipulated tape noise that rumbles along like a lost bit of incidental atmospheria from a creepy film noir nail-biter. "Fear of God" is an assaulting pile driver that features his-and-her lyrics and intertwined and overlapping vocals from Price and Ray (not to mention some very nice wah-wah guitar splatter near the end). "Stupid Fresh" is a nervous, far-reaching piece of rant-and-wail built around a very desperate lyric.
A product of both the band's progression over the years and Price's ingenuity as a master of four-track tape technology, the single is the combination of tracks recorded at Space Cadette studio in South Miami and the band's rented house in Coconut Grove. "Those are pieces that were recorded mostly at the house, then we'd go into Space Cadette and mess around with it some more," Price explains. "We did the guitar, drums, and bass at the house and then laid down vocals and violin overdubs and tape shit. It came out a lot better than anything we've done so far. It's really clear. You can make stuff out even though it's still noisy. It's neat to be able to do most of the recording at home and not have to go to the studio and deal with engineers."
Initially the single was slated to be part of a longer, twelve-inch EP, which Price was hoping would be picked up by the New York City-based Menlo Park label (home of Frosty's first single and an upcoming split single with Frosty and the late Harry Pussy). Alas, the deal didn't materialize. "Basically we didn't really care," Price reflects on the failed EP. "We just figured, fuck it, we'll do a single instead. We'd just gotten our tax refunds back and decided to do it ourselves and get it out really quickly, not sit in the studio forever. Each time we've recorded something before it's been over months and months and months and months. We'd go into the studio, then two months would pass before we went in again, just saving the money to keep doing it. This time we did it pretty fast."
The new single is a successful elaboration on the sonic themes of Da Bronx Sity Chiken Machine Vol. II, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa's epic CD debut issued in 1995 on the local Star Crunch label. An overwhelming, sometimes difficult hodgepodge of instrumental chaos, found-sound gibberish, and seriously bent song structures, the hourlong Bronx Sity is one of those albums that make sense -- after a fashion -- only when heard in their entirety. Three brilliant arty-punk scorchers appear early on (the hit-in-waiting "Punk Rock Sity Waysted," "Messin Wit My Hed," "Sugar"), preparing you for the delightfully complex, hilariously grandiose Triad of Destiny, built around the vaguely anthemic "Whose Got Da Nu America?" and "Ikonocrap." A string of mostly instrumentals (with the notable exception of Jan Nine's forthright and moving reading of "Red Bull") bring the set to a close, each flowing into the other in a thick fuzzball of plaintive violin, mangy guitars, and the dexterous rhythm section of bassist Andrew Powell and drummer Tim Vaughn. By the time the set is over, you've been taken on a tour not just through the remnants and relics of postpunk's past, but through the halls of art-rock psychedelia constructed by Roky Erickson, Can, Brian Eno, Popul Vuh, and other lysergic luminaries.