I will hold to my dying day that music found by avenues other than commercial radio, movie soundtracks, mainstream music magazines, and music videos (do people still discover music via videos anymore?) is far more valuable and meaningful. There’s nothing quite like discovering a great band by seeing them at a show, having them introduced to you by a friend, hearing them on a free label comp, etc. Now, when that band breaks up, as many do, often the members will branch off into new bands. Then those bands put out some great stuff, maybe even better than the previous band’s stuff, maybe so different it can’t be compared, and then that band might break up, and more new bands are formed from that. Add in solo projects, side projects, previous groups of newer members, and you’ve got a Band Family Tree. There are a lot of well-known ones, and I’m going to go over a few through a few different posts. Let’s start with what is arguably the best-known in the punk/90’s emo scene, at least in the Midwest, and my personal favorite . . .
Slapstick was, in my opinion and the opinions of many others who know what they’re talking about, the best ska-punk band of the 90’s. A cousin of mine officially introduced me to ska music in late 1996, and when I got to see him again about six months later and I was immersed in what I knew, he played me the group Slapstick, and they’ve been #1 on my list ever since. They formed in 1993 in Elgin, Illinois and released one full length album (Lookit), and a couple EP’s.
They called it quits in 1996, citing artistic differences, and five of the six guys broke off into two separate bands, and one went and joined Gainsville, Florida ska group Less Than Jake. Eventually, those two new bands broke up, and that led to four new bands, each with one member that used to be in Slapstick. Two of those four bands are still together, and in the last several years, those same four guys, along with guys added to the “family” post-Slapstick, formed three additional bands. Take a gander at my always-awesome Paint skills and then we’ll go into talking about these great bands. This doesn’t include former band members (e.g. the two drummers in Alkaline Trio before Grant) or count any short-lived side projects, or side projects and previous groups of post-Slapstick family members. (Click to enlarge)
This is a quote I found from Broadways vocalist/bassist Brendan Kelly that talked about the artistic divide that formed in Slapstick in their latter days:
Slapstick broke up because we couldnt write songs together anymore. Dan or I would bring a song in and matt danny and rob wouldnt like it. Conversley, those three would bring in songs and dan and I wouldnt like them. The creative process stagnated. it has alot to do with the fact that none of us really ever liked ska a lot. It was a phase for all of us and once we got through the phase, writing ska became hard to do (not to mention silly). We had different Ideas about what direction Slapstick should go, and there was no other resoloution. We are all still great friends though. (Source)
What fascinates me about this is that the music of The Broadways vs. Tuesday are as different as night and day, and here he mentions the differing styles between the band members while Slapstick was still together. That’s what is so enjoyable about the Slapstick Family Tree–each time one group splits up, the next bands take on very different sounds. As you’ll see in the next family tree I cover, this isn’t assumed.
The Broadways were a post-punk quartet with heavy anarchistic lyrics and themes. Like . . . so anarchistic that they kind of piss me off. I actually saw them play at my hometown’s late-90’s venue, The Asylum, at like a 9-band show and had absolutely NO idea that two of those four guys were in Slapstick. Perhaps it was for the best, because I might have soiled my pants. They have all that makes a punk group great: hard guitars, fast songs, bad vocals . . . feel free to venture here and check them out.
Tuesday was the polar opposite of The Broadways. They were, well, emo. I guess that’s not really polar opposite in the big picture of all music, but within the punk rock scene, it is. Their songs were more melodic, the guitars weren’t as rough, and the lyrics were more . . . well, I almost said personal, but one could make a good case that The Broadway’s lyrics are personal in their own way. I guess Tuesday was more introspective–songs about life and love, not about how shopping malls and Big Macs are destroying us. Of these two groups, The Broadways seem to be better remembered, but I like Tuesday way better and always have. I actually put one of their songs, “So Awake,” on my wedding CD . . . as the first track, which might not have been a great move, because I’m pretty sure when that song started, some people just turned it off. (If that’s you–give it another listen, that was a great mix CD). I really wish there was more online to share with you, but as it is, you’ll just have to head here and listen to their entire full-length album because it’s that good.
Less Than Jake, despite having been around since a year before Slapstick formed, should be mentioned as part of the Slapstick Family because the sixth member of Slapstick, Pete Anna, joined them around late 1997/early 1998, got album credit on their masterpiece Hello Rockview, toured for that album, then helped record their next album, Borders and Boundaries, and (according to Wikipedia), left to become a fire fighter. That’s pretty awesome, actually. He’s at 1:17 in the video.
So by the late 90’s, this first generation of post-Slapstick groups were coming apart, and some even greater bands were on their way . . .
The Lawrence Arms are probably the second most famous of all the Slapstick Family. After The Broadways split in two, Brendan Kelly and guitarist Chris McCaughan joined with drummer Neil Hennessy and adopted a more pop-punk style than The Broadways had. They’re still together, among the three members’ multiple side projects. I had some friends get really into them back when they were pretty new, but they didn’t grab me. It wasn’t because I thought they were bad, I actually just liked this next band way better . . .
The Honor System forces me again to link a MySpace page, which is unfortunate because I’d love to provide you with convenience when checking them out. Oh, well. So while Brendan and Chris went their way into pop-punk heaven, Dan Hanaway took drummer Rob DePaola, added guitarist Nolan “O-Face” McGuire and bassist Chris Carr (who is from my hometown, Springfield, Illinois, and was in a local band called Backslider back in the 90’s), and kept the highly politicized lyrics, but added a strong rock artistry to the sound. They’re a lot more intense than The Broadways, and the guitar work has always knocked me out of my socks. Their first release, Single File, demonstrates this wonderfully: not at one point to both guitars ever play the same thing. It boggles my mind how they made that work without being too busy, but it does. So eventually Nolan left the band for whatever reason and Tyler Wiseman joined and stuck.
Alkaline Trio was formed in 1996 by guitarist/singer Matt Skiba and drummer Glenn Porter, with bassist Rob Doran. Tuesday’s front man, Dan Adriano, replaced Doran when he left the band, and in so doing, sealed the fate of Tuesday. They were broken up by 1998. Sad, but that’s how these things go. Dan became more than just “the new bassist” for Alkaline Trio, as he started writing songs and and serving as part-time lead singer. His presence greatly influenced the sound of the band. There are few better albums from that time period than Alkaline Trio’s two full lengths and two EP’s from when Porter was their drummer. The Trio is still around, and is the most well-known of all of these bands. I don’t get them anymore, though. They lost me at From Here to Infirmary, where they started their full-on dark-imagery-and-fake-dark-lyrics-meet-bubble-gum-punk sound. I could easily rant on them forever, but I really shouldn’t at this point. So further connections as we go forward . . . the drummer that replaced Porter was a guy named Mike Felumlee (leaving after one album to be replaced by current drummer, Derek Grant), who had previously been in a Chicago punk group called The Smoking Popes. The Smoking Popes broke up because the new direction their singer, Josh Caterer, wanted to go after becoming a Christian wasn’t working. So Caterer formed a group called . . .
Duvall. I actually first heard of this band last week. But Josh Caterer and his brother Eli formed this group when Josh wanted to do more faith-based music. Rob Kellenberger, formerly of Slapstick, became their drummer in the early Aughts. They’re pretty good. I’m glad I’m writing this post, because I’m getting to hear some groups I didn’t previously know. They’ve apparently been on hiatus for the last four or five years.
So in the last five or six years, there have been yet a few more bands added to the Slapstick Family Tree. Two of them I first really listened to last week, and the third I’ve been meaning to buy something by them for a really long time (and actually formed like nine years ago, so whatever), but haven’t gotten around to it. Such is life.
Whale/Horse is the post-Honor System group that is essentially The Honor System with a new drummer, though they started out with just Dan Hanaway and Tyler Wiseman and two different guys that aren’t in the band anymore. They kind of sound like a really dark The Killers, or maybe The Killers meet The Honor System. They definitely have a The Killers flavor to their sound. I can’t comment much more on them because I haven’t listened to them extensively (yet).
The Falcon consists of Brendan Kelly and Neil Hennessy from The Lawrence Arms and Dan Adriano of Alkaline Trio. They’re being referred to by some as a “supergroup.” I’m not sure I’d call them that, though that could just be my distaste for that term–it feels like it cheapens the stand-alone merit of a band and focuses everyone on everything ELSE these members have done in other projects, therefore leading you to expect this band to be like those projects in some fashion. Well . . . The Falcon is definitely more like The Lawrence Arms than Alkaline Trio, but true to form with Brendan Kelly’s post-Slapstick ventures, I find myself bored a little too quickly. Maybe it was also the extremely anti-Christian lyrics to their song “Lazy-Boy 500” that put me off . . . I dunno.
Colossal is currently on hiatus, but I hope they get back together soon and come northwestward. I first listened to them while avoiding homework in Morris Library one day in 2003. This group demonstrates to me perfectly what happens when artists who are punk rockers grow up. Their songs are all works of art, throwing in articulate guitar picking and trumpet and awesome. I could throw all kinds of genre comparisons in there to try to explain it, but really they should just be listened to. They actually have a sound fairly similar to many groups within another Chicago band’s family tree, which I might have to do a post on sometime next week . . .
The Falcon and Whale/Horse have technically been around for like 4 years each, already. The Lawrence Arms and Alkaline Trio are still putting stuff out, though I don’t find that care for any of it. I also know that Slapstick did some kind of a reunion show several years ago, which might have been neat to see, though sometimes those things are cool for fans until they see how little the members are enjoying being on the stage with each other. So who knows what’s next for these guys? Hopefully I’ll hear of it when it happens so I can catch a show.