The New Puritan ReView;
After a show at the only real "alternative" music venue in Tampa - The Stone Lounge - I had an opportunity to corral at least two of the members of the charismatic / enigmatic power trio known to locals as Edison Shine. For those who have not yet ventured into The Sunshine State, Edison Shine is a mighty spark which contains enough energy to catapult entire audiences light years into the future, while every dream you've ever had flickers before your mind's eye in kaleidescopic detail. Huge chunks of glorious bass riffage and the beat of a thousand different drums captivate your soles, whilst a barrage of guitar nuances ensue in sensurround, guided by tales of mystery women who beckon from the future dressed in lingerie and cowgirl garb, and others who will pluck the strings of your heart in order to steal the more formidable strings of your guitar. Modern sci-fi fables, intertwining the sublime and the subversive elements in us all.Read more or less
It should be noted that the members of this unit have extended their energies far beyond the mere restraints of their respective functions within the group, and have helped coordinate such extracurricular activities as the annual St. Petersburg Alternative Music Festival, which featured no less than 30 bands in two days, and the Science Fair, which united members of nearly a dozen bands in order to expand on the perimeters of ordinary rock and roll collaboration. Gerald, who sings and plays guitar, and Steve ["Beaver" to his close friends], who plays bass, were more than happy to mince words on the current political climate in Hillsborough County, as well as to debate some of the more prominent political issues which shroud the lifestyles of the "alternative" music culture. Richard, who plays the drums merrily, managed to give us the slip, but the adrenalin flowed freely nonetheless.
Initially, we discussed the recent decision of the Board of Commissioners, which repealed a human rights ordinace protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in Hillsborough County. As is mentioned elsewhere in these pages, many performers outside of Tampa have already demonstrated a show support, through a nationwide boycott which on an underground level, relegates Tampa to the status of a Sun City. Obviously, this is not a good thing for artists who happen to reside there, since it reduces greatly their chances of being heard beyond their own locale, and Tampa is frequently overlooked on many bands' touring itineraries as it is.
Home of the free, straight, white male; home of the brave - if you're anything else...
Gerald: You know, now we're at a point where if you say, "All men are created equal", people think everybody, but I think back then...
Maybe the Constitution simply falls into that vague category of laws that are technically on the books, but are seldom enforced. I mean, the politicians in this case were simply representing a much larger body of citizens who obviously don't hold any great regard for the concept of human rights other than their own.
Steve: But still - it starts, "We the people..."
Gerald: But the people writing it and who signed their name on the constitutuon were all men.
What this scenario reminds me of is a book I read in high school, by George Orwell, called Animal Farm. The situation was one where every time someone looked at their bill of rights, it seemed somehow different than the last time they loooked at it. The wording appeared to have been changed slightly from time to time, in such a way that it might exclude a certain segment of the population, based on genetic or perhaps economic circumstances.
Gerald: Every side is paranoid these days - every side. You've got the militia on this side who are paranoid of government, and you've got the gay groups who are paranoid of government - you know, it's like everybody's afraid of government.
Don't forget that in this day and age, there are still those who believe this is about extending special rights to special interest groups.
Gerald: Well, it's not granting people special rights, it's just sharing human rights; it's really screwed up.
Everything you have ever done that has led you to this moment.
Gerald: I'm from St. Petersburg - all my life. I started playing when I was twelve, doing bands and stuff. Back in the late eighties, me and some other friends from high school, and from the neighborhood, formed a group and started playing out. We were kind of going from being a new wave band to going more dark, more gothic, and then starting to take it more to a pop edge, because I had always been into The Beatles, stuff like that. About six months ago - I guess you'd call it the first incarnation - ended. We had been playing for so long, it was just time to move on. I liked the direction the band had been moving in, especially in the past year, because it was more of what was coming from my heart - it was just more real. We had a seven-inch out, and we weren't planning on doing a lot of the old stuff. Rather than break up the band and start someting new... I came across Steve and Kevin. I had known Kevin for a while, and I met Steve through one of the Singles ads in Creative Loafing. We played a few times and it really clicked - better than anything I had ever done before clicked. From a month of disbanding Edison Shine, the new improved version is out - better than ever.
When did that happen?
Gerald: We met in February (1995), and played March 5th, or something. Basically, I like to kind of consider Edison Shine being this all along. I like to forget what it was before - not that what happened before wasn't good or anything, it's just that this seems to be real, which is important.
So how old is that single at this point?
Gerald: A year. It came out in April of '94.
How drastically has your musical impoetus changed since the reformation of the group?
Gerald: I'm the only person that was on the single. Although I think it is definitely representative of what we do. I think we've gone further since then, but evolution is important.
It's a Corporate Thing - you wouldn't understand...
Is Aquatic Dogg Findings basically you, or at least an extension of the band's own identity?
Gerald: Right. We're looking to - hopefully by next year, if we play our cards right - put other groups out on the label, and try to get distribution. It's something that I've wanted to do for years, and it seems like things are moving that way now. I would like to think that Aquatic Dogg Findings would be an official label, doing more than just Edison Shine stuff, by spring or summer of next year. We're gonna start by putting out the new Edison Shine CD in the fall or winter this year.
Has starting your own label given you the opportunity to examine the issue of indepedent industry, as opposed to corporate-run labels?
Gerald: I think everybody has different ethics and opinions. Ultimately, if you're not doing the record label, you're bound to get screwed one way or another. You just gotta look at it like, "Okay, am I ready to get screwed by being on some small indie and not making money that maybe I deserve?", or, "I'm gonna get screwed by being on a major label, and not liking the album art, or getting dropped because I only sold fifty thousand records instead of five hundred thousand records."
Steve: There's so many factors you can't really look at; you just gotta do what you do. If a major has thirty bands on a roster and you're number thirty-one, you're gonna get fucked, you know? I can think of a hundred bands that put out their first CD on a major label, and got no push, no promotion - great CD - and now they're back where they were. They got dropped, they didn't get any promotion because Pearl Jam or Guns + Roses were more important - the label knew they were gonna make them more money.
Gerald: What really sucks about being a band like that, is that there are so many people in the indie community that will say, "They sold out - they went to a major label", that they won't have a chance then to even go back to their roots.
Steve: If you're good enough, it doesn't matter. If you don't change what you're doing, and people think you've sold out, so what? If you're successful, so what? Why should people be bitter about that?
Gerald: Did you ever see "The Great Rock'n Roll Swindle"? I got the impression the whole point of punk rock wasn't neccesarily to be exclusive, as much as it was to revolutionize the record industry and exploit it. I don't get pissed off at bands like Sonic Youth for being on Geffen, and I thought Nevermind was a super album by Nirvana.
Steve: They didn't change anything that they did. People adapted to that - they didn't change their way.
Gerald: Two bands from here, locally - Pee Shy and Home - that have gotten signed... Home being on Relativity, which is a subsidiary of Sony, and Pee Shy being on Blue Gorilla, which is a subsidiary of Polygram. I don't want to speak for Jenny [Juristo, of Pee Shy], but her whole attitude, from talking to her, is, "Either I'm never gonna put out a record in my life, or I will get two records out and then get dropped. What the fuck - I might as well put two records out, and have something to show to my grandchildren! It will be something that we are doing ourselves." I mean, how many bands on a major label have as their main instruments an accordion and a clarinet? It's a non-issue in the nineties, simply because of bands like Nirvana and Green Day.
Steve: So many small indies are bought out, and so many people don't know that.
Gerald: Ultimately, if a band's good, a band's good. I'm not gonna dis Pavement just because they're on Matador, just because they're part of the WEA chain now. But at the same time, I think it's great that a label like Simple Machines can put out great stuff and have nothing to do with a major label - just as long as it's coming from the heart.
Steve: If you're successful and people blame you for that, or think you did something wrong - that's just getting your material out to a bigger audience, and if it's accepted, maybe that means it's really good. Like Nirvana - they were put before a larger audience and it was accepted. Everyone knows it's good, which is why more people got the album, or why more people liked them - maybe for different reasons, but it was good, whether or not people realized that when they bought it. Some people just went, "Oh, let's get the new Nirvana album", but it's still good.
Gerald: I'm not a big fan of Green Day or Offspring or anything like that, but I'd rather hear them on the radio than hear the same Led Zeppelin song being repeated.
As unforseen as it may have been, there's no denying that the sounds of radio prograaming has been irreversibly changed.
Steve: They've added new formats, they've totally re-formatted everything - they've re-formatted adult radio.
Gerald: Yeah, they have "adult alternative" - bands like The Sundays or The Cranberries are seen as adult alternative. There's too many fucking categories.
Steve: They play Archers Of Loaf on 102.5 - on regular daytime radio. Think about that. I'm sure the band had no intention of playing on adult radio, period.
Songwriting For Fun + Profit
Speaking of which, how is the creative process handled in this group?
Steve: Half of it's bleed-over from the other band, from those songs. We have yet to sit down and start writing a lot of new songs.
Gerald: Well, you gotta admit... we got together in February, and within three weeks we had five new songs. I don't personally feel like I can say how a song is written. Different songs are gonna come out in different instances. One instance will be someone coming in and saying, "Hey, here's the chords, I have this song", and everybody likes it and plays it. There will be other instances where everybody's just jamming, and there's this thing that just really clicks, you know?
Steve: We have forgotten so many songs that way.
Gerald: Because we don't tape 'em. We need to take a tape recorder to rehearsal. We do it here from time to time - we'll just start playing at the end of the set and see where it goes. There's a tape that you [meaning me, the person typing this] made, where we were just ad-libbing at the end, and I thought it was really good.
Steve: One in twenty times something like that will come out as a song, but that one time will be a great song.
Gerald: It will be magical.
Have you had the opportunity to tour yet?
Gerald: Not with this line-up. We are going to continue. The "old" Edison Shine did. There's definitely places we'll be going - Chapel Hill again, hopefully we'll get up to New York - we'll be out of state probably in the fall. Hopefully we'll have the new album out, so we'll have something to give people so they can remember us.
On the soon to be renowned Aquatic Dogg Findings label?
Gerald: Unless Sony calls us. Right now the game plan is to do it ourselves, and we're not gonna rely on anyone but ourselves. If some label that has a lot of money says, "We'll give you creative control, we'll let you do the album cover, you can produce - or pick your producer", we'd be crazy not to.
Steve: You can do that, but it all comes down to how hard they push you. If they don't push you, not too many people are gonna know about you.
Welcome to the machine...
Gerald: Here's a point: a label like Sony - Mariah Carey is gonna be the bread and butter of Sony. They're gonna go, "We have Mariah Carey, she's gonna make us money, and we can sign Home, and if they don't sell records, it'll just be a tax write-off". So for a band like Home, it's great for them because they're able to get their stuff out. Take a label like Teenbeat, for example, and they know that each band they have on their label is gonna sell to their audience, and that's gonna be their bread and butter.
Steve: Unfortunately, that's almost limiting yourself. I'd be happy if a label would pay for your record, and lets you go on tour, and play all the Stone Lounges around the country. If things pick up, then they do, but if you have to come back into town and work shit jobs, that's fine with me. If I can go out for six months and tour around the country, I'd be more than happy.
Gerald: I think it basically comes down to regardless of what happens, we're just into playing the music. I know that sounds cheesy, but it doesn't matter; we're just having a good time.
Steve: Ultimately, all I wanna do is travel. If music is my vehicle to do that, then I'm happy.
Gerald: I think it's the biggest thrill when you go out of town and play, you have all these people that really dig your music. You want to say you do it for yourself, and you ultimately do it for yourself, but it's always a nice little pat on the back when you can go "Wow, it's cool that other people can relate to what I'm thinking about too."
Steve: If you're honest, you'll connect with people. You can see through fake real quick - there's a lot of it. I don't think there's as much as there used to be. The whole business of music has turned upside down; there's not just one or two ways of doing things, there's so many ways of doing things and being successful at it.
The "P" Word
Gerald: It's kind of scary, because punk rock kind of got to the music like fifteen years later, and now people don't even want to say it's punk rock.
Steve: It's become commercially acceptable. It's like, Green Day - are they not the Buzzcocks? It's time, you know?
[Right at that very moment, the tape ran out in the middle of a heated discussion about the Seattle-inspired feeding frenzy of the late eighties]
The "S" Word
Steve: [speaking about the record industry] They were signing a band a week for like eight months, just saturating Seattle with shit. But then, there were so many good bands that started there and brought attention there, that just disbanded - or they start releasing their stuff after it's already dead, but it'll sell. I mean, there are so many good bands that came out of there before anything even happened. Look at Candlebox. People swear up and down they're from Seattle; they're from, like, San Fransisco, or San Diego, they just moved to Seattle.
Gerald: Ultimately, you're gonna have people that are gonna look deeper than other people. Not that it really matters where a band's from, but you have people like us that would go, "well, they're jumping on the Seattle bandwagon", but then you have your average guy who doesn't care; he just hears some radio station playing this band.
Steve: The thing that's bad is that they never actually discover the best shit in the world, because they won't look past the shit.
I think plenty of people have figured out that Seattle is not the cultural barometer of the United States, though. I mean, not everyone is pledging allegiance to MTV.
Steve: People listen to Pearl Jam and think that Pearl Jam was the first incarnation of that band, whereas Green River was totally ignored.
But on the other hand, putting a city on the map at any point in time is going to create some sense of history, even if people don't pick up on it right away. In Tampa, for instance, you've got a couple of bands who have already been signed, and plenty more where they came from if people are paying attention.
Gerald: Well that could be interesting - you know I used to think it would be great to get a great scene going in Tampa, but every scene's getting exploited. You had Seattle, then all of a sudden Chapel Hill is the next Seattle, then San Diego is the next Seattle, you know? Why does it matter where a band's from? If a band's good, they're good. There's so many bands out there, there's so many bands just like us, just like every other band that's out there, doing it, in every small town in America.
© J. Free / New Puritan ReView; 1995