Some time in March of 1988, I had this crazy idea: I want to start a band.
Sure, I had my bass, my cheapass Casio keyboard that I got for Christmas about six years earlier (and if I asked, I could borrow my Dad’s infinitely nicer Yamaha keyboard). I’d even started writing songs. Such as they were. Okay, horrible poems at first, but I could write lyrics. All I needed was a few other like-minded souls.
I wrote something out on a piece of lined paper (I didn’t even think of typing it) and stuck it up on one of the central bulletin boards near the cafeteria at aschool, and waited to see who responded. That is, before some jackass jock pulled it down and tossed it away.
Amusingly enough, the two who responded quickly and with much interest were Chris and Nathane, two of the guys I was already haning out with. Both owned electric guitars, had musical knowledge, and had jammed on their own not that long before. Thrilled at a plan coming together nicely, we aimed for late April as the kickoff, just after the they returned from their senior trip.
The funny thing about starting a band, I should add, is that the initial session is almost always going to sound like shit. You have multiple musicians with different qualities and styles — or in our case, instruments and equipment of varying quality — each not knowing exactly what to expect. The first jam is almost always going to be a wild cacophony of noise of no cohesion whatsoever. [This happened then, and it happened in 2001 when I started jamming with my buddies Bruce and Eric. I’m pretty sure it would happen again if I ever sat in with anyone else.] All three of us had our own styles and sounds, and some of us could play our instruments a hell of a lot better than the other two. As for the singing, all three of us could, but Chris drew the short stick and became our de facto lead singer. [I can sing just fine, I was just super self-conscious about it at the time.]
The initial session, played on a school day afternoon from 3 to 5pm on the 22nd of April, was maybe not a rousing success, but it provided us with two songs, which we immediately chose to claim as our ‘debut single’: “The Mellow Song.” (the period is part of the title) backed with “Green Coffee!!!”. The b-side was the end result of that first cacophonous din. We’re all playing completely different things, riffing and making it up as we go along, completely ignoring any kind of form or melody, Chris belting out hilariously dire lyrics off the top of his head. After a brief break and a decision to, you know, actually write a song of sorts — and all three of us knew how — we came up with a much lighter and enjoyable A-side. I’m actually kind of proud of that song, really; it’s deceptively complex, thanks to Nathane’s idea of each of us playing the same similar riffs but each of us playing it at different lengths so we’re swirling around each other. We all agreed the lyrics (our first official moon-June love song, apparently to get it out of our system) were indeed horrible, with an ad-lib stating just that at the end. But aside from that, we all agreed we had something there. Something clicked, and it was good.
We’d also agreed on the name around that time as well. Chris and I had thrown all kinds of names around as a not-yet-a-band group of musicians often does before they even play a note, but by that afternoon we’d christened ourselves The Flying Bohemians.
I remember we’d talked about our influences that day as well, and it was pretty eclectic: New Order, REM, The Cure, Pixies, Depeche Mode, the usual college radio cast of characters that we all wanted to emulate. Did we ever end up sounding like any of them? Well, if I had to hazard a guess, our first couple of years were a bit on the Joy Division side — a bit post-punk, a flourish of keyboards, and attempts at dark and brooding lyrics. The post-Nathane years where Chris and I recorded a handful of songs in the early 90s were more acoustic, more on the early REM side with some Indigo Girls, Love and Rockets and the Cure (circa 1985) thrown in.
Our jam sessions were few and far between as a threesome, maybe no more than fifteen or sixteen meetups at most, but we did manage to record them all.* I never completely gave up on writing music, even if there were quite a few years where nothing new surfaced, but I did continue to practice on both bass and guitar. One thing I’ve been proud of other than my novel writing has been my songwriting, which started in earnest that April and hasn’t stopped since.
* – Sadly I do not have the complete session tapes anymore for the 1988-89 years, but I did manage to get a good portion of those early songs on a two-tape compilation. I have everything else from late 1989 onwards and have transferred them to mp3.