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the best little pop band you never heard

Minneapolis MN
1993 – 1994

Brad Weller: guitar, vocals
J.Free: guitar, vocals
Tom Beeman: drums

After several years of not playing in bands, I was apparently thinking about about coming out of musical hibernation for a minute, and for a moment, this seemed like it might be a good way to do it. Although I still recorded a few tracks on occasion, I definitely wasn’t making a big deal about it like I did back in my early band days. In fact, after I returned to Mpls from NYC around ’87 or so, most people either knew me as a person who wrote about music, or as a person who simply recorded other people’s bands – not someone who actually made any music of my own. Brad and Tom were both in bands I liked a lot (brownstar and Guzzard, respectively), and had recorded quite a bit, and through those repeated social interactions had kind of become pals. Brad also worked at Northern Lights Music, so it was pretty easy to practice there after hours, along with our pals shiner – who would later change their name to Calvin Krime.

Brad was looking for an outlet that would be a bit different from the sort of indie-pop / psychedelic freak-out / rock assault of brownstar, and Tom wanted to try his hand at playing drums in a pop band, which was also quite different than the trademark buzz-saw guitar attack he brandished in Guzzard. Brad had figured out that I used to play in bands and wrote my own songs, and he made a pretty valiant effort to nudge me into picking that torch back up again, although apparently I didn’t feel like I was up to the task quite yet. What was holding me back? Who knows?

Brad brought in a handful of musical themes, and we worked at meshing our guitar styles for a bit, since all I was thinking about was refining some kind of playing style that would lend itself to the project – or whatever it would end up being. There weren’t names for most of these pieces, so in a typical basement band style, we referred to them by other bands we thought we might have been mimicking, hence, names “Galaxie 500” and “Stereolab”, or stylistic nods like “waltz” and “jazzy thing”. “Amboy Dukes” was actually a fully fleshed-out song Brad had written, titled “Danger Boy”, but the nickname was inspired by my own efforts to play a non-stop lead through the entire song – in my head, envisioning something like “Journey To The Center Of The Mind”. We even attempted to cover a song by another local band (“The Principal”, by The Andromeda Strain), except we didn’t know the words – or the guitar chords – so we made up our own, and basically kept the title.

It didn’t take long to realize that Brad was hoping we would both share in the songwriting duties, rather than leave it all up to him. Nothing wrong with a real collaborative project, of course, but I had just been out of it for so long, I guess I wasn’t feeling as confident as I had been back in the day. I mean after all, my bandmates in the past often indicated that they thought I might have a screw loose somewhere, so I wasn’t left exactly brimming with confidence at this point. Brad persisted, though, and was fairly adamant that i should write new material, and not just pull out songs I had done in previous bands; and eventually it started to actually work this time around. I dusted off an old un-used melody and cobbled some lyrics together for “One By One”; and wrote some lyrics for one of Brad’s melodies, which I called “Me, Not Here”. It was starting to feel like this would work, and Brad wasted no time in setting up a couple of shows, including a coveted spot at The Uptown Bar.

Suddenly, as quickly as it had gotten off the ground, it silently screeched to a halt overnight, and that was the end of it. Brad cancelled the shows we had scheduled, and everyone quietly collected their instruments from the basement. If I had to guess, I’d say that we over-hyped ourselves out of existence, I dunno. At that particular point in time, most of us who hung out in the music scene in whatever capacity couldn’t escape the trap of being acutely aware of just how much the “indie” scene was still part of a much larger industry. Brad and I got together a few times after that and tried putting some ideas together (the instrumental track titled “0045” is one of those), but for the most part, it seemed we were thinking about other things. By the summer of ’94, I had become convinced that I was done with the music business, so I put about 20 years worth of tapes in storage, got rid of most of my other belongings, and hit the road for a while to do a bit of soul-searching …and eventually ended up in Tampa, Florida, of all places.

2014 Update:

Tom Beeman played guitar and vocals in AmRep band Guzzard, from 1992 – 1996. Between 2009 – 2011, Tom held down vocal and guitar duties in the NOLA-based War Amps, who released a 4-song EP titled Coextinction Session. He and bandmate Raymond Surinck formed a new outfit in 2011, called Sunrise:Sunset:.

Brad Weller played guitar and sang in Brownstar from 1992-1994. Sometime around 1997, Brad and Tracy-Taberry Weller joined forces with the former Balloon Guy rhythm section of Scott Tretter + John Seitz in Hicky Party, and in 2003, they formed an electro-pop combo called Rebel Yellow, releasing The Sun Defeats The Snow EP in 2008. In 2010 it was announced that they had changed the name to Still Pacific, and recruited former Guzzard bass player David Paul. 2011 found the group in the studio with Jacques Waites recording a new batch of songs, some of which can be heard on the band’s MySpace page.

Northern Lights
Basement Tapes
live set rehearsal sessions

The Principal [version] (2:22) [voc: J.Free; 17 January 1994]
One By One (4:07) [voc: J.Free; 17 January 1994]
Me, Not Here [“Stereolab song”] (3:29) [voc: J.Free; 17 January 1994]
Sideways [“Galaxie 500 song”] (4:20) [voc: Brad; 17 January 1994]
waltz (2:40) [voc: Brad; 17 January 1994]
Danger Boy [“Amboy Dukes song”] (3:08) [voc: Brad; 17 January 1994]
Iris Fry (2:54) [voc: Brad; 17 January 1994]
cello song (3:59) [voc: Brad; 17 January 1994]
jazzy thing instrumental (take 2) [loose but spirited take] (2:32) [Brad & J.Free only; 16 January 1994]
One By One (3:58) [“mantra” instrumental; Brad & J.Free only; Thursday 9 December 1993]
Bonus track: 0045 (4:11) [instrumental; Brad & J.Free at the rental house; May 1994]

Words & music © Brad Weller; 1992
The Principal © The Andromeda Strain; 1993
One By One • words & music : J.Free © 1992
Me, Not Here • music: Brad Weller; words: J.Free © 1994
jazzy thing and 0045 • Brad Weller / J.Free © 1994

vocals: Brad (4-8) / J.Free (1-3); no drums on tracks 9, 10.

Tracks 1-8: 17 January 1994
Track 9: 16 January 1994;
Track 10: 9 December 1993
recorded by J.Free; in the basement of Northern Lights Music

Track 11: May 1994 recorded by J.Free at his rented home in South Mpls.

Azimuth-optimized analog/digital transfer by J.Free from the original cassettes

© J.Free; 2006, 2022