Monday, April 25, 2011

Bo Coach "The Mustard Tape" cassette (Rok Lok Records/2000)

I know there is some very clear bias here because this is a release that came out on my own  record label but the reality is a good portion of the bands featured on this blog have done a release with me at some point so why should I exclude something I did release? Especially when it is the only release by one of my favorite bands that I experienced in the local community. Bo Coach were a band that came from my neck of the woods of eastern Long Island, the Shoreham-Wading River area to be exact and they concocted quite the racket for a few years right around the time I was getting started with Rok Lok Records and my own music projects. They played fuzzy, indie rock that could best be described as a mix between The Pixies, The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and Man or Astroman. I wrote about them previously on this blog but this time I'd like to go more in depth about the band, my personal experience with the band and in particular their lone release The Mustard Tape.

Bo Coach originally consisted of Adam Conover on vocals and acoustic guitar and Noah Strevralia on electric guitar with Mr Korg (who later appeared on Stars Are Insane's Justin Age 8) providing the pre-programmed drum beats. The one performance I saw in this incarnation was a beautiful noisy, ramshackle of mess. Underneath the hissy guitars and the uncooperative synthetic drum beats there was an undeniable suburban garage pop sensibility to Bo Coach's songs. Some months later they played again this time with my band at the time and two new members entered the fray, Adam Schultheiss (aka Skulltheiss) on bass and Ed Guldi on violin and electric guitar. Schultheiss brought a minimal warm low end that helped anchor the madness while Guldi's violin drones made the songs sound more ominous. This set up allowed the band who was without a drummer to write songs that were full without percussion, something that to this day I marvel at. And I guess in this respect this is where the similarity to how the Velvet Undergound structured their songs became very apparent. Their music was hypnotically sprawling and was off kilter and out of tune at times but in a manner that was aesthetically endearing. And above all their was just a great sense of melody driven by Conover's fantastic vocals which against Strevralia's noisy, skronk punk guitar ramblings epitomized in my ears the term "beautiful mess".

Also around this time Bo Coach bid farewell to Mr Korg and brought in Casio RX-1 as well as Denise Y whom handled Casio RX-1 in shows as well as providing vocals and sound effects. Right around this time the band started to put together The Mustard Tape. In true lo fi indie rock fashion, over the span of several weekends, and various basements the songs that made up The Mustard Tape were recorded. In fact most songs on this release were recorded in a different room and on a different date. Originally the core of what was to make up The Mustard Tape were recorded by myself and the band on my old Fostex 4 track at Chris Grant's old house one drunken weekend while his parent's were out of town. Originally recorded that night were "Mannequin", "Welcome Citizens", "Fast One", and "Head On"" as well as a cover of The Velvet Underound's "Heroin" which was recored well past the inebriated state. Of those songs the only recordings that were kept for release on The Mustard Tape were "Fast One" and "Head On" as well as all of the out takes that feature Ed playing a guitar nowhere near in tune and somehow playing the melody backwards. Still to this day I can't for the life of me fathom what was wrong with the recordings of "Mannequin" and "Welcome Citizens" that we did that night. Honestly, they sounded beautiful. Especially "Mannequin" the way the violin melody and Conover's vocals so wondrously meshed together. If I recall correctly Noah quipped that they "sounded too pretty, not dirty enough" or something to that effect. And hence that is why the version of "Mannequin" that does appear on The Mustard Tape is as lo fi as possible. "Welcome Citizens" was re- worked when the band combined it with the Half Japanese-esque rambling oddity of"Uncle Roy" and performed (and subsequently recorded) it as "Uncle Roy/Welcome Citizens" at Coffee House which was like a talent show held at Shoreham Wading River High School. You were only supposed to play one song so the figured "heck with that let's make two songs one". I love that you can hear my good old buddy and band mate Mark Gill yell "Yeah Uncle Roy" in the song. It cracks me up every time.

After all the songs were done a master tape was created,  Noah and Adam  photocopied tape covers whose artwork was just as hodge podge as the music they created- I loved it. I bought like 70 blank cassettes and we all took turns home dubbing the bastards. We sold them at shows and I even traded some copies to distros back in the day who truthfully most have been absolutely perplexed when they heard this fuzzy, lo fi racket. I feel sometimes I am the only person that got the band and felt as intensely as I did about them. But then I talk to other folks from eastern Long Island who felt the same way, so perhaps it is just a eastern Suffolk thang.

For all the noise and shenningans where the scuzzy recordings may hide it, at the heart of it all, Bo Coach knew how to write really good songs that were smart yet playful. When you remove the fuzz and actually be able to discern the melodies and structure, "Mannequin" is a brilliant song. And perhaps I have an advantage because I was able to hear them perform this live sans poor production values. But even songs like "Construction Paper Princess" is an absolutely marvelous song that nearly brings me to tears every time. "Uncle Roy" is smart, playful, and is certainly unique. And "Fast One" is a quintessential suburban indie rock ripper. One of my biggest regrets in my life is misplacing the original master tapes of the original recordings of "Mannequin" and "Welcome Citizens" as I would've love to share those with everyone today. Heck, just one more listen would do me right. I don't think anyone back then ever thought myself or anyone would ever archive this stuff.

After The Mustard Tape Bo Coach played more shows wrote another tune or two which were never recorded as well as a really awesome reworking of the song "99 Red Balloons".  They even let me include "Fast One" on The Hope Machine. My old house mate had an awesome video of a set where they played it and I wish I had that video to rip. Towards the end of the band, the started playing with a live drummer, Jaime Hamilton. She was untrained as a drummer but certainly musically inclined so it kept a minimal flavor. Not too long after that Strevralia and Hamilton focused on their other project The London Six which basically signaled the end of Bo Coach. Close to a year after the demise of Bo Coach they played a impromptu reunion show in my garage and it ruled. It felt so good to sing along to all those songs again. I understand at first listen or two Bo Coach and The Mustard Tape maybe hard on the ears due to the ultra lo fi nature of the recordings but once you peel away the layers it reveals itself to be a wonderful collection of brilliant indie rock songs. Out of now 49 releases (and counting)The Mustard Tape to this date remains one of my favorite releases in the entire Rok Lok discography and I constantly toy with the idea of repressing it.

Bo Coach The Mustard Tape track listing
1. Mannequin
2. Uncle Roy/Welcome Citizens
3. Fast One
4. Most in the World
5. Construction Paper Princess
6. Eta Carinae
7. Rose Song
8. Head On
9. Head On (Outtakes)

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