Today marks the twenty-seventh anniversary of the first meeting and jam session of the Flying Bohemians. Who is this band, you ask? It was/is a trio of myself and my high school buddies Chris and Nathane.
The idea to start a band came to me in early 1988, most likely late February. I’d bought my first bass a few months earlier, a headstock-less Arbor Stiletto (the tuning pegs were at the other end), and after teaching myself the basics, I was itching to get something started. I floated the idea to some high school friends, and Chris and Nathane were the two that responded. We decided to meet up after April vacation and test out what we had. Names were bandied about, and we settled on Chris’ suggestion, as it seemed to fit our nerdy misfit style.
The three of us had been close friends for at least a year or so at that point, having been a part of a larger circle of friends, so I already knew we’d get along just fine. Our abilities were wildly varying — I had the theory and a bit of the knowledge, but not much of the practice, Chris had a decent knowledge of guitar playing, and Nathane was the virtuoso, complete with the best amp and effects. All three of us were writers, though, so we were on the same page as far as songwriting went.
The first session was very much like any initial jam session I’ve been in — it’s less about kicking out a solid song from the beginning, and more about testing each other out, listening to see what the other person can bring to the table. My keyboard work was pathetic, but my bass playing was infinitely better. Nathane was prone to throwing a few metal screeches in there, but he also came up with some pretty neat melodies as well. Chris was a natural at picking up counter-melodies and coming up with lyrics on the fly. There was a lot of noise, but by the end of that Friday afternoon, we had two complete songs committed to tape: a simple round-like track called “The Mellow Song”, and the ridiculous “Green Coffee!!!”.
The cassette cover of our first ‘greatest hits’ collection, influenced by the early Cure album covers.
We met up when we could over the next year and a half, in between school and jobs and laid out at least twenty or so solid songs we were proud of. As Chris and Nathane were a year ahead of me and heading off to post-high school life, all told we probably met up maybe about fifteen times between that initial jam and the last original trio meeting in November of 1989. Nearly all the jams were committed to tape using the trusty Jonzbox, although sadly many of those have now gone missing. On the other hand I was able to retain the complete and solid songs we recorded, and they are now safely on mp3. Chris and I would meet up a few more times in the early 90s and record more songs, but by 1994 it had pretty much become my solo project.
I call TFB a ‘bedroom band’ rather than a garage band, as our jams mostly took place in someone’s bedroom after school or on the weekend. We weren’t a loud band, but that was more due to the fact that we didn’t boost the volume all that high when we played…we were as lo-fi as you could get, and we had to ensure we weren’t blasting our families away either. But we were okay with that, as it lent to our unique sound. We did jam in my parents’ garage a few times, though that was always an issue if it got cold, or if the crickets decided to come out and join in. There’s a solid version of Chris’ song “Temptation” out there that I’m quite proud of, except that there’s a cricket-chirp throughout the entire recording.
‘Drop’ was recorded 1990-91 by Chris and I. The sound is more acoustic and pastoral than previous songs we’d done.
There’s also the fact that the three of us were heavily influenced by college radio, and you can definitely hear it in our songs. We gravitated to many of our favorite bands of the time: The Cure, Love and Rockets, the Smiths, REM, Cocteau Twins, Joy Division, and The Sisters of Mercy. A few of our songs, like “Night Pt 1”, are loud and pulsing (and most likely inspired by “This Corrosion”), while others like “Epitaph” and “Look at the Blank Sunlight” are soft, ambient instrumentals that would fit nicely on late 80s college radio.
I recorded a few solo sessions between 1993 and 1995, the last done on a rainy day off while I was living in Allston MA; it’s all instrumental and varies in style, but it’s mostly experimental and meandering. The last Bohemian recording was a joke song Chris and I did at his house after a gaming night called “(I Can Do) Math in My Head” in early 2001. By that time I was jamming with a few buddies from my Yankee Candle job under the name of jeb! (Jon Eric Bruce), and our sound was less ‘college rock’ and more ‘modern rock’. Those sessions would also be taped and ripped to mp3 for posterity as well.
I chose to finally retire the TFB moniker last year to start a new music venture, Drunken Owl. [Thank my wife for that moniker!] Now that my schedule has opened up again, I plan on recording future songs and snippets — this time straight to my PC — and see what comes of it. I’ve got more guitars and a lot more years of practice under my belt, so this is going to be a new sound for me. I’m curious as to how it’ll come out.
Still…I’m still thankful that, twenty-seven years ago, I was able to kickstart this whole music playing thing as part of my life.