Sunday, March 25, 2007

From "Nickel" to the Refreshments

First of all, thank you, Jonathan Lethem, for bringing some attention to the much-ignored form of the rock novel. Everyone who's interested in reading more novels dealing with this type of subject matter should send a message to traditional publishing by buying You Don't Love me Yet.

And guess what? Lethem also has music to go with his book! Take a listen here.

Of course, he’s not the only one.

Today I want to take you from the band origins of “Nickel” to the beginning of the Refreshments. As you may or may not know, “Nickel” was written long, long ago by a band called the Solemines. The Solemines, consisting of Tim Anthonise, Jim Gerke, Dan Lancelot, and me, were regulars in the Tempe music scene circa 1990-1991. We led off for the Gin Blossoms at the Sun Club and elsewhere. (Incidentally, the Gins paid $75 for their lead-off acts back then. I wonder what they pay now.) After a change of drummers, the Solemines continued for a short time in the basement of drummer Dustin Denham’s house, circa 1992. This second incarnation, which we ingeniously called “Solemines II,” never played a gig, but within the batch of material from this period are some of my favorite Solemines songs. “Nickel” is from this batch.

For years, it killed me this music was never played for people, much less recorded. Scratchy practice-room takes were the only proof the songs ever existed. I’m sure many of you have band stories about the songs that got away. “If only you could’ve heard them.”

Well, now we can hear at least one of them, and maybe someday we’ll record more.

When Solemines II disbanded, Dusty and I remained in contact, and eventually we got the lead singer of the Solemines, Jim Gerke, to come over and goof around with us in Dusty’s basement. This new musical act, which we called the Hanson Brothers--not to be confused with the real band called the Hanson Brothers from Canada--had a decidedly different take from Solemines II, or Dusty’s previous band, the Mortals. We were a bit sillier, a bit more tongue-in-cheek, and we certainly weren’t afraid to embrace our less-than-cool side. (Our most popular cover was “Don’t Tell me you Love Me” by Night Ranger.)

The Hanson Brothers played out maybe six or seven times, leading off at places like Papillon’s on Apache in Tempe. (We were supposed to lead off Christmas night at Hollywood Alley, only to be told at the door there were too many bands on the bill and we couldn’t play.) We managed to secure a New Year’s Eve gig in 1992 at Papillon's, leading off for the Phosphenes, and that was the extent of the Hanson Brothers’ penetration into the Tempe music pantheon.

Early in 1993, as the Hansons waned, Dusty, still itching to play, offered to call the lead singer of his previous band, the Mortals, who had just gotten back from an extended trip to a place called Taipei, Taiwan. I had reservations. The Hanson Brothers hadn’t officially disbanded, even though we’d all but ceased to practice. I was also working hard, and well into my senior year at ASU; I didn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to a new project.

Still, Dusty persisted, and in April of 1993, I relented.

Next week, hear about this exciting new band’s first practice.



Anonymous said...

Did the Hanson Brothers wear masking-taped hornrims and engage in gleeful violence? No, I guess it would have to be the Hansen Brothers in that case.

I'm loving this story - actually got a little frisson at the end there.

Anonymous said...

Dang, I just looked on imdb and it is Hanson after all. Even so, I'm not sure they'd be the role models you were looking for. Care to share the etymology of the name?

Art Edwards said...

The name came from the movie, the three brother hockey players in *Slapshot.* The three of us had a fondest for the movie, and there were three of us...

But no horn rims, or gleeful violence.

Glad you're diggin' the story. Expect more frisson.