Thursday, July 30, 2009

St. Joseph & The Abandoned Food

From Saint Joseph himself:

"I find it difficult to write about St. Joseph & the Abandoned Food because I’m not really sure what it was. Yes, it was a rock band—though we only played a handful of shows.  Yes, there was a 7-inch—though the songs on the record are not very representative of our sound. The members of the group consisted of Chris Cohen on drums; Noel Harmonson and Andrew Maxwell on guitars; and me on vocals. When he felt like it, Kimo Dressendorfer would join us on saxophone.

I had just been dismissed from the Audience and was looking to start a new band. Noel and I were housemates and occasional musical collaborators. We would often stay up late drinking, talking, listening to music. We loved the Fall, Captain Beefheart, Can, Caroliner Rainbow, Sun City Girls, no wave, 60s psych, free jazz… we wanted to synthesize these influences, to create unstructured music…and to have some fun along the way.

Noel, Chris and Andrew all worked at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz. I knew Andrew as a poet and the guy who provided titles to many of the songs by the Fucking Champs ('Thor Is Like Immortal' being one of my favorites). For a brief while, there was a small scene in Santa Cruz that we rather self-consciously called 'No Brow'—it centered around the Abandoned Food, the Lowdown, and a free jazz group Andrew was in called Axaxaxas mlö.

Abandoned Food practice sessions seemed to go on for hours and hours. The band would just play free and I would try to improvise vocal noises and effects. Essentially our songs had themes (or 'heads,' to use jazz lingo) and we would deviate from and return to them as we saw fit. I’m pretty sure Chris or Noel recorded every session, though who knows what happened to the tapes. Every once in awhile Kimo would jump in on sax. Kimo was some sort of black metal shaman; you'd go into his room and there'd be nothing but pillows and a few sticks arranged in occult fashion against the walls.

Our live shows were chaotic. We had a different name for every show. Andrew says: 'There were only four live performances, and on each occasion, the band featured a name distinct from the canonical version. While "St. Joseph" remained static, the secondary name varied. In addition to Abandoned Food, variations after the ampersand included Substandard Cushion and Harlequin Knights.' I would get stage fright before performing and to quell my nerves I would get fairly drunk. Several shows ended with me attacking and wrestling members of the audience.

When it came time to record a 7-inch we decided to condense two of our songs into very simple, straightforward singles. Live, these songs would have gone on twice as long. The lyrics are fairly absurd; I recorded a lot of nonsensical noises and yelps and then wrote the lyrics based on what those noises resembled in English. A typical line is: 'I was sitting on magic hands and yodeled "the cat delivery". Hands all over! Woo-hoo! Oh deli eyes…' The covers of the 7-inch were made out of edible nori (seaweed used for wrapping sushi).

The band just sort of petered out after the release of the 7-inch. Noel went on to greater and heavier things as the resident noisemonger in Comets on Fire. Andrew continued playing with Chris in a band called the Curtains, and then with Peter Kolovos in noise improvisers Open City. Later, Chris joined up with Deerhoof and was with them on some of their best albums, and he currently plays in a great band called Cryptacize. I’m out of the music racket altogether."

Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure, St. Joseph and the Abandoned Food.

Harlequin Knights b/w Grub Blastin' (Aporia)
1. Harlequin Knights
2. Grub Blastin'


Harold said...

awesome! thanks! :)

Unknown said...

I have most of the rehearsal tapes and recently dug into them. They're all pretty loose and the sound quality is a bit dodgy but it was great to revisit some of the hairbrained ideas we were working on. I'll see if I can't put together some kind of comp if anyone is interested. I'm sure I could link it here.