Musical Family Tree

Spreading Indiana Music

Sub Pub

Sometime way back in 1992 a co-worker of mine at DialAmerica, a freaky long-haired nipple-ringed Mormon dude named Rob, told me that he and another guy were trying to get band together. Next thing I knew I was in his basement with a mic in my hand. Rob was a drummer; he had a double-bass setup and wasn't afraid to use it. And that's how I met Jeff, a shaggy genius guitarist with some seriously heavy riffs. His daughter Alex was there running around the basement too, something like four years old and cute as a button.

I guess they liked what I was laying down because they asked me to come back fro more. Soon I was Alex's newest "boyfriend." Jeff and Rob and I started working up some songs. We took out an advertisement looking for a bass player. That's how we met up with Marc, a kid fresh out of high school who had just arrived in Bloomington to study at the Big University, an insanely talented devotee of the Stuart Hamm school.

Before I knew it we were playing the clubs around Bloomington. (Marc was underage for most of the places we played, but apparently that's legal if you're in a band.) I think the first gig we played might have been a short set at ER Night at Second Story. I took the mic off the stand, jumped off the stage and paced back and forth on the dance floor ranting like a madman for all three songs.

We had a pretty aggressive sound. As for my vocals, I was mostly rapping. This may seem like a strange thing for a white boy in small town in the Midwest in the early 90s. And indeed it was a strange thing. I don't know how to explain it exactly. I did not listen to a great deal of hip-hop, but what I'd heard I liked — De La Soul and Eazy-E, mainly. But I'd been rapping since the late 80s, mostly for my own amusement and the chagrin of my friends. I don't know where I picked that up or what I thought I was doing. I can only say that rapping seemed so fresh and cool. Rap was virtually unheard on stages around Bloomington at the time, especially in combination with rock music. I had not heard Rage Against the Machine at the time; when I finally did a few years later, I was overawed. But by that time, our band was breaking up.

We called ourselves The Submersibles. The band name was probably Jeff's idea, he had a peculiar sense of humor. As it turned out Jeff and I were the core of the band, because Rob soon dropped out. He cited religious differences; he was a sincere Latter-Day Saint and claimed to be offended by my lyrics, but I think it was really because he got a real job. (He also tried to save me with a team of other Mormons but that's another story.) We got another drummer, a guy named Hans who played with a jazzier feel. But then Marc transferred to another school and had to say goodbye. We found a great but very different bassist in Mike. (He was also a bit more responsible and organized than the rest of us, which was hugely helpful.) I forget what happened to Hans, but eventually he departed and Bevan took his place. The lineup changes were challenging but at every turn we were fortunate to find such immensely talented people to play with that it didn't slow us down as much as one might think.

We played mostly in Bloomington (here's some video Sean taped at Second Story) but did a few gigs around the state. The most memorable of these, to me, was when we played to a huge audience at a warehouse in Evansville. I think it was an all-ages show. The kids there seemed incredibly turned on by our music, in fact they seemed almost rabid. I was a little freaked out by some of them, like the guy with a swastika carved in the side of his head. "I'm not a Nazi but I do believe in racial heritage," he said after the show, or something like that. He loved my performance. That gave me the creeps.

Not everyone was a fan. Mostly I heard from friends and fans who loved us, but of course that's the nature of showbiz. I'm sure there were plenty of people who hated us. When we got a track on Live from Bloomington 1993, we garnered the following review from Bill Zink:

"a confusion within the band itself"

You can read the complete article. It's a hoot. I thought maybe I could get a song out of there somehow — "The Defunkifier" — but it never came to pass.

I'm connected with Bill on Facebook these days, and he reminded me that we managed to quote him on a flyer advertising a Submersibles show. The choice quote comes from later in the article — "Sorry, Submersibles. I take back everything I said. You guys rock." Apparently we excerpted only the last three words, and put his name on it. I think that's hilarious, and I wish I had a copy. All I could find in my files was the following collage:

Zink Flyer

We mostly did our own flyers, manged ourselves, booked our own shows. We recorded a number of times, but despite embracing a general DIY ethic, we never released any of these recordings. Jeff was something of a perfectionist, and I think he felt we could do better. After the band broke up, I put together a tape of some of our tracks for a couple friends, and he was not entirely happy about that.

I was never actually clear on why we broke up. It seemed to be a decision between Mike and Jeff. They just called me and let me know. I wasn't too upset because I was increasingly preoccupied with ROX which had become a full time job for me at that point. I was also a very ambivalent performer. I liked making music, but performing live could sometimes be a drag. It was physically demanding, and my voice often was not up to performing an entire set. Also, being more of an introvert, I felt extremely awkward up on stage. And of course, since I didn't have any equipment of my own, I always felt obliged to help our various drummers carry their stuff — and man, did they have a lot of gear. It's a lot of work to move and set up and tear down and remove a full-size drum kit.

I lost touch with Jeff over the years. We connected once maybe eight years ago. He still was reluctant to share our music. Then I lost track of him again. When Musical Family Tree launched, I really wanted to publish those old Submersibles recordings, but I remembered Jeff's reticence. I had too much respect for Jeff to do it without his blessing.

All that changed a month or two ago when Jeff appeared on Facebook. I broached the topic once again, and this time he was more receptive. We e-mailed back and forth a hundred times, sorting through our three studio sessions and one live performance recorded straight from the sound board, trying to determine which tracks were worthy of sharing with the world, and which should be consigned to the dark musty cellars of oblivion, never to see the light of day.

And so it is that The Submersibles have finally released a record, a compilation of a couple dozen tracks, most of which have never been available to the public before. ("Splinter" was on Live from Bloomington 1993, remember?) We're calling it Totally Submerged: A Watery Grave. You can listen to the album (downloads enabled) via our band listing at Musical Family Tree. Important note to Mom and Dad: Do not, repeat do not listen! I love y'all, but you would not enjoy this music and would probably find it offensive on every level.

Totally Submerged: A Watery Grave

I apologize to the world at large for the muffed vocals on some of the live tracks. For the stupidity of the lyrics I must take full blame. Listening to this music takes me back to another time and has engendered many thoughts about how I've changed and grown over the years. Most of all I feel immensely fortunate to have collaborated with such talented and committed musicians.

Where are they now? Jeff is in Florida transforming himself into a manatee. Alex is in the Navy. Marc is playing in Mindwarp Chamber. Bevan is in The Very Foundation. I've totally lost track of Hans and Rob. Mike is still in Bloomington doing great things in the theater scene which appears to be thriving. Thanks, guys, I wish you all well and hope you enjoy listening to this music as much as I have.

cross-posted at b.rox

Views: 51

Tags: bloomington, memoir, rap, rock

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Comment by Frankie Camaro on April 12, 2010 at 4:13pm
Dang I would have invited you Ed B! I didn't realize but I think like said everyone was welcome usually. I always thought putting a rap beat to some Blue Oyster Cults songs like that would just rock. I guess that's still why a lot of my songs have conspiracies and mysteries I guess is partly from listening to them when I was in middle and high school. I like stuff like The Red and Black, Cities on Flame and Hot Rails to Hell.

I saw the Minute Men in Austin tear up on Red and Black. One of the finest live moments I've ever seen as they just did it even better then BOC.

There should be a thread sometime for the dressing room at second story as there are lots of stories.

1. When the MC5's Wayne Kramer played and I was in the opening band bout 1981 or so. I was with Kirk Ross's Band the Riffomatics which prob should be on here if not. John Barge went in to the dressing room and Wayne Kramer signed John's MC5 album and said something like "Hey Frankie, great show thanks". And then he changed it to "Frankly John, thanks" and just kind of wrote over the word Frankie. That was the infamous show when Wayne Kramer jumped off stage because a drunk friend of ours kept throwing ice at him. (should be a full story on that one)

2. When I walked in on The Jesus Lizard and said "Hi I'm Frankie from Austin" since I kinda knew the dudes from JL that played in Scratch Acid in Austin before moving to Chicago. They had blown the PA and were in the dressing room with Steve Albini arguing over who was going to pay to fix the blown PA. I talked to the soundman and he had told Albini NOT to turn up the power amps, but he did and they blew up. So they were in no mood to talk to me and I just backed out.
Comment by Jeb Banner on April 12, 2010 at 2:30pm
technically it was for the bands but mostly it was for the pot smokers. When I was a janitor c 1995-6 I found a lot of "left overs"...

I'm kinda shocked you were never back there Bart! I would have thought you would have been a regular... :)
Comment by John P. Strohm on April 12, 2010 at 2:28pm
Oh, and I don't think there were any formal invitation requirements for that fabled room - though some people would be swiftly bounced. Glenn Hicks acted as de-facto doorman/bouncer. Or maybe it was Eloid...
Comment by John P. Strohm on April 12, 2010 at 2:26pm
I met Eric on MFT as a matter of fact - we've corresponded a bit. We've never met face-to-face. He had to bail on our plans due to pressing matters in B'ton. I look forward to meeting him - he's a smart feller.
Comment by Editor B on April 12, 2010 at 1:48pm
Ooh, Frankie, I had Cities on Flame looped on a tape (the hard way, from vinyl, and me with rudimentary turntable skills) which I used for practice before I fell in with the Subs. I must have heard you do that? But what really blows my mind is that just this morning I was listening to Veteran of the Psychic Wars — BÖC — and thinking "someone really needs to loop those drums" and presumably rap over it.

Old habits die hard.

Speaking of which, I was never invited into that room on the right. Never even saw the inside. I always had to go out to the freaking parking garage.

John: Eric H. stayed at my place in New Orleans over the weekend — he was presenting here at a music conference — and said he might look you up on the way home. I had no idea y'all knew each other.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on April 12, 2010 at 10:50am
Yep I love the III also. I think I meant to say The flat 5 and sharp 5 chords are weird for pop but the 3 is great.
Comment by Frankie Camaro on April 12, 2010 at 10:48am
Hey John cool post. Can we move this over to the songwriting blog? I think it got cross-ref or something.
That's exactly the kind of songwriting issues I wanted to get in to.
Comment by Jeb Banner on April 12, 2010 at 8:32am
yeah, there could be an entire movie done with people just telling stories about what happened backstage at 2nd Story, especially if you include the video game room as well.
Comment by mike whybark on April 12, 2010 at 12:43am
What's in that room on the right everyone goes in and out of for? hmmmm

Franklin, according to my sketchy math I haven't seen you in a decade and you STILL MAKE ME LAUGH MY ASS OFF.
Comment by John P. Strohm on April 12, 2010 at 12:36am
I'm glad I checked that video - I remember the band better than I realized. It's really one of those bands that seems like it could only happen in a college town.

Yeah, backstage at Second Story - a total free-for-all. The club where I play now - my town's Second Story - has two airstream trailors for the backstage. I've never seen any weed smoking there, but I think everyone hides that sort of thing from me. Family man, lawyer...probably a narc.

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