Posts Tagged ‘Curtis Crowe’

In October 1979, 23-year-old Dacula, Ga., native Vanessa Briscoe was just biding her time in Athens after finishing her art degree at the University of Georgia, waiting for her husband to graduate so they could move to Atlanta or New York or whatever other metropolitan city came calling. She was working one of her two jobs, answering phones in the catalogue department of the downtown JC Penney, when her friend Randy Bewley showed up to ask a question she’d never imagined being asked.

“Would you like to come and audition tonight for our band?”

Four decades and three careers later, she’s never moved away from Athens, though that band, influential post-punk quartet Pylon, provided the chance to spend plenty of time in other cities.

The history of Pylon has been compiled into Pylon Box, a 4-LP set with art book released earlier this month, capturing most of the band’s music, posters and story told by music journalist Stephen Deusner, along with remembrances from many of the musicians who were shaped by those early recordings: members of R.E.M., Sleater-Kinney, The B-52s, Deerhunter, Sonic Youth, Mission of Burma, Gang of Four, The dB’s and others.

The original idea for Pylon was more performance-art project than serious musical ambition. The college town’s first breakout stars The B-52s had just left for New York, leaving a huge hole in the budding music scene. When art students and the more eclectic townies wanted to throw a party, they needed someone to step in and play. Bewley played guitar with his fellow art major Michael Lachowski on bass and upstairs neighbour Curtis Crowe on drums. When Vanessa (now Briscoe Hay) showed up for that first audition, she had no idea what to expect.

“They had a music-stand setup which had an orange vinyl notebook, which was appropriate, and it has some lyrics in it,” she said. “The band didn’t have a name at this point, either. They’d play a song and I’d look at the lyrics. And I was thinking, whoever wrote these lyrics wasn’t really thinking about how this melody went. I just tried to make it fit—I might extend the word or I might shorten it or whatever. All I was trying to do was trying to find my little place inside this machine that they had.”

The next day, Bewley called to tell her she was in and to explain the premise of the band. “What we’re planning to do,” he said, “is to go to New York, get written up in New York Rocker and then disband.” “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s not gonna take up too much time out of my life.”

In a way, she was right. After playing several shows around town—including the second-ever show at Crowe’s new 40 Watt Club—the band travelled to New York at the invitation of The B-52s, even getting a mention in New York Rocker. Pylon burned bright for a few years, touring the U.S. and putting out an EP and two full-length studio albums, 1980’s Gyrate and 1983’s Chomp before the band members surprised everyone but each other by calling it quits soon after getting invited to open for U2. Briscoe Hay has no regrets.

“I was super happy to make that decision at the time,” she says. “You know, we wildly exceeded our expectations. I mean, we didn’t ever have what you hear about all these bands on Behind the Music. I just look at that and go, ‘Gosh, I really got off easy.’ We never had internal stressors and nobody was addicted to heroin. Nobody ran off with somebody else’s wife. We were really good friends. We still are. I think, in retrospect, it was a good life decision.” Instead, she got a job managing a Kinko’s in Athens. She had her first daughter in 1987. And when interest in the band picked up again after R.E.M. covered “Crazy”—and drummer Bill Berry declared Pylon the best rock ’n’ roll band in America—she had another chance to get up on stage and channel the energy of a dozen whirling dervishes with a reunion in 1989, opening a stretch of shows on R.E.M.’s Green tour.


“I think it was Michael [Stipe] that talked with the guys, and they said ‘We think the world might be ready for you now.’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got a toddler. I have a full-time job. So if we’re gonna do this, this is going to have to be done businesslike. We did some really high-profile shows. We attended the last leg of the U.S. tour of Green with R.E.M. and went out there with B-52s and played some festivals.”

I got to see one of those shows at the relocated 40 Watt—maybe the same show that a 17-year-old Corin Tucker watched from just outside. “Vanessa was so lively onstage,” she recalls in the book that accompanies the new box set. “She gave this really visceral, physical performance that was different from anything I’d ever seen before. Music was so terrible at that time, especially hair metal where women were only sex objects and had no agency in the musical world. So seeing this band that was fronted by a woman who was such a protagonist onstage was so exciting to me as a teenager. That’s when Tracy [Sawyer] and I said we’re starting our own band! And we went back and started Heavens to Betsy.”

Briscoe Hay was a master at shifting from a calm, quiet demeanor onstage to all-out thrashing, screaming and amping up the crowd. And Bewley’s guitar served as the perfect complement.

“‘Feast on My Heart’ made it onto a lot of mixtapes I made,” Tucker’s Sleater-Kinney bandmate Carrie Brownstein also wrote in the new book. “It has a bluntness to it, but the metaphor is so vivid. It just seemed like that’s what we were all trying to say. This is a place of rawness and earnestness that we’re all trying to get at. We were all trying to honour these parts of ourselves and share them with each other. With Sleater-Kinney, if I was trying to convey an idea to Corin, sometimes we would just sit around and listen to Pylon and talk about things. And we returned to Pylon again and again for inspiration over the years, both vocally and in terms of playing guitar. There’s an endless supply of great riffs in these songs, because the guitar doesn’t have to get out of the way of the vocals like it does in so much blues and rock music. In Pylon songs the riff repeats as a counterpoint to Vanessa’s vocals, so they’re competing or creating a conversation. It adds tension to the song. That’s what Sleater-Kinney were always trying to do—make the songs sound more dire, more like conversations.”

In 1991, after Briscoe Hay gave up her job to focus on the band, Bewley decided he didn’t want to continue. Pylon operated as a four-way dictatorship, so if one member was done, they all were. Instead she took the opportunity to go back to school.

“I didn’t really like managing a store that much,” she says. “I wanted to do something that maybe has an impact on people’s lives. So I thought about teaching and nursing. We have a lot of both in both sides of my family. And I was like, ‘Well, teaching would be easy.’ I just had to get a teaching certificate because I had a BFA already. But I tried substitute teaching to be sure I could do it, and I failed miserably at it.” Her principal said that was because she smiled too much. But she had cousins and an aunt who were nurses, and she’d helped members of her family recovering from strokes. After some more schooling, in 1994 she became a registered nurse, a job from which she recently retired after 21 years. There were other Pylon shows along the way, and it was Bewley who got things started again in 2004.

“He came and talked to us individually and said, ‘Hey guys, I really miss y’all. Can we get together just for fun?’ And so we did and we played some shows. We flew to New York and California and put out the DFA reissues. And then he passed away in 2009. And that was the end of that.” Without one of its members, there couldn’t be a Pylon. Briscoe Hay has performed periodically since 2014 as the Pylon Reenactment Society with some other Athens musicians, even releasing a couple of singles and playing Primavera Sound in Barcelona.

But the music lives on in Pylon Box, which includes bonus tracks like an untitled instrumental recorded in 1978, before Briscoe Hay had even joined the band, and Razz Tape, which predated the band’s first EP. The band has had a lasting impact on countless musicians, and Briscoe Hay didn’t have to give up all aspects of her life to do it.

And then they quietly called it a night, destined to be an obscure if important footnote at a key moment in music history. A new box preserves the legacy, the rare band that didn’t release a single throwaway. It could be argued that Pylon pulled the plug too soon, but I’m grateful for what they left behind. It’s never too late to fall in love, again, with a great band.

gyrate (2020 reissue)

And how about Pylon? You remember Pylon, right? Oh lord. Pull up a chair… While the B52’s were the first to break the seal on Athens, Georgia as a hotbed of artistic intrigue in the late-70’s, and R.E.M. would become the cities most famous sons, Pylon were arguably the city’s favourite band and deepest influence on their emerging peers.

In the late 1970’s Athens, Georgia was buzzing with a raw but sophisticated music scene.

The turn of the decade began producing new sounds from bands like the B-52’s, R.E.M. and art-rock luminaries, Pylon. before they were a band, Pylon were art-school students at the university of Georgia: four kids invigorated by big ideas about art and creativity and society. in 1980 the band released its first record, “Gyrate” and began touring across the country in support of the release. they would soon develop a following across the country. shortly thereafter, Pylon went back into the studio. they gleefully pulled their songs apart and put them back together in new shapes, revealing a band of self-proclaimed non-musicians who had transformed gradually but noticeably into real ones. Now more than three decades later, both studio recordings have been remastered from their original audio tapes and are set for release on New West Records

Athens, Georgia may have been the breeding ground for the B-52’s, but in 1978 it was, for the most part, still a sleepy college town with few places for bands to play when Pylon began to cohere. (It’s worth remembering that the B-52’s had almost exclusively played house parties before moving to New York and becoming a sensation.) Like more than a few great and original groups, Pylon came together without much of a support system or many first hand influences; they were young people creating their own art and making their own fun with it. While it wasn’t their first release (the epochal “Cool”/”Dub” single preceded it by seven months), 1980’s Gyrate caught Pylon on tape when they were still clearly fascinated with their own creative possibilities, though they were tight enough to sound elemental and straightforward rather than amateurish. The skittery chiming of Randy Bewley’s guitar and the expressive whisper-to-a-scream report of Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s vocals give this music plenty of brains, and the lean, minimal rhythms generated by bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe lend it all a strong, muscular body; at a time when America was just falling out of love with disco, Gyrate was a reminder that there was more than one way to make music for dancing. As smart as this music was, it was also fun and engaging in a way that many of their peers and followers were not.

Gyrate is full of joy and subtle, surreal wit, and if it sometimes sounds like the work of arty grad students, they’re still grad students who want to cut loose and get in the groove, and that’s exactly what they do. Gyrate is a classic touchstone of the American underground scene of the ’80s, and it sounds as fresh, challenging, and exciting as the day it was released. R.E.M. would become a lot more famous, but Pylon were the band that made the world aware that there was something remarkable happening in Athens, and this was their first triumph.

chomp (2020 reissue)

Before they were a band, Pylon were art-school students at the University of Georgia: Just four kids invigorated by big ideas about art and creativity and society. Pylon was less a band, however, and more of an art project, which meant they had very specific goals in mind as well as an expiration date. while their time together as a band was short lived (1979-1983), Although just a few years as their time together Pylon had a lasting influence on the history of rock and roll. Throughout their brief history, they were able to create influential work that would help foster the post-punk and art-rock scene of the early 80s. influencing artists like R.E.M., Gang of Four, Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, Interpol, Deerhunter and many more claim inspiration from the band. in 1980 the band released its first record, “Gyrate” and began touring across the country in support of the release. The band would soon develop a following across the country and specifically in the bustling music scene in New York City. One of their earliest gigs was opening for the Gang of Four in the big apple. Following the critical acclaim of their debut release, Pylon went back into the studio. while in the studio they gleefully pulled their songs apart and put them back together in new shapes, revealing a band of self-proclaimed non-musicians who had transformed gradually but noticeably into real musicians. The resulting album, “Chomp” was barely off the press when Pylon were booked to open a run of dates for a hot new Irish band called U2 (after previously playing two arena shows with them in the month leading to the album release). Most bands would have jumped at the opportunity, but Pylon were skeptical. at a critical point in the life of Pylon, they opted to become a cult band rather than stretch their defining philosophy too far. “We fully intended Pylon to be an almost seasonal thing that we were gonna do for a minute and then get on with our lives,” says Curtis Crowe, drummer for the band. “but it just never went away. it still doesn’t go away. there’s a new subterranean class of kids that are coming into this kind of music, and they’re just now discovering Pylon for the first time. that blows my mind. we didn’t see that coming.” New West Records is proud to partner with Pylon to reissue “Chomp” back into the masses. beautifully remastered from the original audio sources and pressed on vinyl for the first time in over 30 years.

Pylon’s 1980 debut album, sounded like the work of the best sort of enlightened amateurs, musicians who were still fairly new to what they were doing and making the most of their simplicity, which worked brilliantly in their favour. 1983’s Chomp was a somewhat different affair; Pylon were a more accomplished group with far more practical experience under their belts, and instead of the streamlined hands-off production of Bruce Baxter, the second album was produced by Chris Stamey and Gene Holder of the dB’s, and engineered by Mitch Easter. As a consequence, Chomp sounds fuller and less minimal than Gyrate, with Vanessa Briscoe Hay overdubbing vocal harmonies on some tracks, keyboards popping up here and there, and Randy Bewley adding some new flash to his James Brown-style chicken scratch guitar. However, if Pylon were capable of doing more on Chomp, they also knew what not to do. The textures are more complicated, but the music still feels efficient, with no wasted gestures in the songs or performances. The grooves are as potent as ever, with bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe anchoring this music with lean, funky rhythms that sound edgy while still filling the dance floor.

The added production polish and instrumental niceties add atmosphere without weighing down the songs, and reinforce how tuneful the material is despite their clean surfaces. “Crazy” is a beautifully ominous pop song that Pylon lacked the sophistication to pull off when they made Gyrate; if their early music was full of sharp angles, “Crazy” showed they could create something more accessible without compromising their vision in any way. Pylon would break up the same year Chomp was released, and it’s fascinating to speculate where their broader musical range and studio smarts would have taken them if they’d stayed together (they would periodically play reunion shows, and even cut a third album, Chain, in 1990.) However, if Chomp closed the book on Pylon’s first era, it was a grand finale, an album that stands apart from their debut yet is just as brilliant in its own ways.

Pylon performing in a homey space

For alternative music fans, the college town of Athens, Georgia, means R.E.M. and the B-52’s . Through the 1980s, the city was synonymous with a kind of against-the-grain music epitomized by those two bands’ very different styles. In 1987, Rolling Stone named R.E.M. “America’s best rock ’n’ roll band.” Drummer Bill Berry denied it. The best band in America, he said, was Pylon.

In its original incarnation, Pylon only lasted for five years. But no single band did more to define what it means to be an Athens band than Pylon. Formed as a performance art project by four art students who mostly did not know how to play their instruments, Pylon created a startling, original sound by combining formal experimentation with a danceable beat. Beyond their music, band members’ commitment to making art in their small, Southern college town helped transform what had been a tiny network of art students and their friends into one of America’s most important and enduring music scenes. This is how in that period when what would become alternative was new, Pylon broadened the very idea of what a band could be.

In Athens, Georgia, people got into bands the way people everywhere get into most things—through their friends.

As a high school student in suburban Atlanta, future Pylon bassist Michael Lachowski had taught himself photography by reading the Time/Life photography series and building a darkroom in his parents’ house. He met Randy Bewley, future guitarist, in the photography studio at the University of Georgia where the sculpture major from suburban Atlanta had a work-study job. Outside class, Lachowski made drawings, prints, Super 8 films, and sculptures, as well as photographs. Bewley made photographs and other two-dimensional work and later switched his major to painting. As Lachowski remembered, this kind of experimenting with genre just seemed normal at UGA: “We had an exuberant group of people; creativity was prized above all else; everybody was just putting out work. It led to us going out of the boundaries of our disciplines. A lot of us in the art school were trying out different media with a punk rock message, which is just go in there and do it. You don’t need training, or authority or legitimacy. Just figure it out.”

At the UGA library and at Barnett’s News downtown, Lachowski and Bewley followed the art and music news in publications like the Village Voice. After the B-52’s started playing New York City regularly in 1978, Bewley and Lachowski read about people they actually knew. Bewley wanted to form a band, too. Lachowski resisted. His problem with the idea was not that they were not musicians. The fact that they had no experience playing instruments was no different from the fact that they had no experience making prints or installation art before they went to art school. They could learn. Instead, Lachowski hesitated because making music seemed unoriginal: “I thought it had been done already.” But then the friends had an idea. As the band’s singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay remembered, “They’d been reading New York Rockerand it seemed like it would be an easy thing to have a band and go to New York and get some press and come back. And that would be it.” Once they got the press, they would quit. Instead of a band, they decided, they would create a kind of performance art.

Bewley bought Lachowski a bass at a pawnshop and found a guitar for cheap at a flea market. Sometime that winter, the two friends started practicing regularly in Lachowski’s off-campus studio, a second-floor space on College Avenue right across from the university. Lachowski worked from a bass instruction book. Bewley played his guitar with an alternate tuning because he did not know the standard one. Plugged into little Pignose amps, they practiced by alternating positions, with one holding the groove and repeating a phrase while the other experimented.

In the future, these long jams would give birth to a remarkable independence between the bass and the guitar parts. At the time, they sounded like “endless riffs.” Curtis Crowe, their landlord, who lived upstairs, remembered hearing “a never-ending series of hooks—no bridges or chorus, just hooks” echoing and vibrating right up through the floor. One day Crowe reached his breaking point: “So I kinda went ahead and knocked on the door lookin’ real timid and said, ‘Hey, mind if I drag these drums in here for a little bit?’ ” The band’s future drummer “had every song memorized before I ever went down.”

When Bewley and Lachowski decided to find a singer, it made sense to them to ask art students whose work they liked. Bewley’s friend Vanessa Briscoe Hay—then Vanessa Ellison—had started out in arts education before switching her major to drawing and painting without telling her parents. After she graduated, she got a job at the local DuPont nylon factory, through word of mouth at the art school. Bewley was still in school, but Lachowski got a job there too after he graduated. Bewley told her about a performance art project he, Lachowski, and Crowe had created that involved making music. Bewley wanted Briscoe Hay to try out for the role of singer. She told him she wasn’t really a musician. Bewley insisted they were all amateurs. What mattered was they respected her as an artist.

The audition at Lachowski’s studio turned out to be oddly formal. On a music stand, her future bandmates had placed an orange vinyl notebook full of typed lyrics. They would play a song, and she would try to make the lyrics fit, sometimes cracking up in the attempt. “They couldn’t really hear what I was doing,” she remembered, but “they liked the fact that I put forth some honest effort and they liked the way I looked, and they liked me as a human being.”

When the band debuted on March 9th, 1979, in the second-floor space downtown above Chapter Three Records, it was hard to imagine its members would soon be local stars. All the songs they played were originals, except the theme song from Batman. Briscoe Hay stood on a mirror with her back to the big windows that looked out on old campus and concentrated on the words. Bewley and Lachowski looked at their hands. Only Crowe seemed at ease. In Athens, everyone danced at parties, and yet the audience at that first Pylon show and a second at Crowe’s loft stood strangely still. As Crowe told a critic in 1981, “Nobody knew what to do, so they were real polite.” In a letter to a former professor, Lachowski added a list of comments he had heard after their first few gigs: “too art oriented,” “conceptual,” “they sound like a bunch of artists who got together and decided to have a band,” “Michael, your music sounds just like your art,” and “they’ll like what you’re doing in New York (as if to imply that they don’t really in Athens).

At their third gig, though, at a house in the country, everything changed. As Briscoe Hay recalled, “The B-52’s showed up at that party, and they started dancing and running around like crazy and everybody else did too.” After the show, Briscoe Hay said, Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson “were very supportive.” They said, “You’ve got to play New York.”

To get that date, Pylon had to make a demo. Someone bought some Kmart cassette tapes, and the four art students recorded themselves playing a few songs at Lachowski’s studio. Then Schneider gave a tape to Jim Fouratt at Hurrah, a punk dance club where the B-52’s had been playing lately. The timing was perfect. “Rock Lobster” was a New York hit, and the B-52’s reached the peak of their underground fame in the weeks before the release of their first album that July. Fouratt actually called the members of Pylon in Athens, read through a list of coming bands, and asked them who they wanted to open for. Bewley and Lachowski picked Gang of Four.

In New York, a huge crowd filled with other musicians turned out at Hurrah to see Gang of Four. Briscoe Hay borrowed a whistle from the doorman and blew it during the song “Danger.” People in the front shook Bewley’s hand after the set and badgered him with questions about how he came up with his strange tunings and original chords. After they got back home, the September 1979 issue of Interview arrived with Glenn O’Brien’s review that gave as much space to Pylon as to the Gang of Four:

Pylon, the first Athens band to hit the town since the B-52s. A tough act to follow—but Pylon is also a credit to their community. There’s not much resemblance to the Bs. Although the guitarist has real classy taste in licks that is sometimes reminiscent of Ricky Wilson’s. Pylon has a charming chanteuse up-front—sort of Georgia Georgie Girl who manages to carry off several difficult postures, including kooky, endearing, sincere and wry. And not all the songs sound the same. These kids listen to dub for breakfast. Recommended.

Interview was not New York Rocker, but O’Brien’s coverage was better than the band members’ dreams, even if they had to look up the meaning of the word dub. Their project was a success, but they did not want to quit. They were having too much fun.

In making their performance art rock, the four members of Pylon drew on what they had learned in art school about the ways that tensions between materials, mediums, and expectations could animate art. Middle-class kids holding down working-class jobs, they turned the factory into a style. Posters featuring orange safety cones and music full of machinelike repetition punctured by whistles and screams contradicted audience assumptions that small Southern towns produced only county and folk sounds and handmade things.

Their name referred to “the kind in the road, not the architectural one or the ones that hold up electricity,” as Lachowski wrote a former professor. “We chose Pylon because it is severe, industrial, monolithic, functional. We subscribe to a modern techno-industrial aesthetic. Our message is ‘Go for it!, but be careful.’ ” Working the contrast between flat, machinelike minimalism and ragged, Southern-accented amateurism, their songs used a four-on-the-floor disco beat to mash together punk’s emotional excess and industrial repetition and detachment. The bass throbbed and the drums boomed as guitar licks cut across the rhythm section without being leads. The vocals varied from deadpan recitations of short phrases to howls, and Briscoe Hay rarely flirted with the audience. Instead, she belted out vocals while bouncing up and down and shaking her head like a dancer in a Charlie Brown television special. Sometimes, she blew a shrill whistle midsong, like a referee or a cop.

Live, Pylon’s act could be shocking or jolting or heavy. It could also be deep. In fusing pop and rock forms with an avant-garde sensibility, the band members asked what art could mean in the midst of industrial decline, production-line mass culture, and rising political conservatism. And they tentatively offered an answer. “Be careful, be cautious, be prepared,” the lyrics of their song “Danger” warned. But be creative, too. “Everything is cool.” “Turn up the volume.” “Turn off the TV.” “Now, rock and roll, now.” “Read a book, don’t be afraid.” “Function precedes form. Things happen.” Pylon pushed people to think as well as dance, to put their minds and bodies back together. Playing live, the four art students could pound their awkwardness and their amateurism and their artistic vision into something transcendent. If people in Athens revived on a local scale that old dream that music could make a new world, it was because they were living it.

Pylon nurtured the creativity the B-52’s had helped spark in Athens before they left for New York. Pylon’s performances, shows by other bands, and art installations by Lachowski and others transformed the open space behind the Victorian house at 265 Barber Street where Lachowski lived into Pylon Park, one of the emerging scene’s important gathering places. The band also played the club Curtis Crowe started, the 40 Watt Club. In the summer of 1980, Briscoe Hay had to quit her job at DuPont when the B-52’s invited Pylon to open for them in New York’s Central Park. By the end of the year, band members found they could live two or three months in Athens on their New York City guarantees. Pylon became their job.

Over the next three years, Pylon toured the Midwest and Canada with the Gang of Four and played a string of dates in England. In January 1982, they sold out the large Memorial Hall ballroom on the University of Georgia campus. In April, when the 40 Watt moved from Clayton Street to a bigger venue on Broad Street, they headlined the back-to-back closing and then opening shows and packed both rooms. In Athens, Pylon ruled the scene that the band’s members had done so much to create.

If Pylon seemed wildly successful from an underground perspective, outside Athens, New York, and a few other cities, audiences often did not seem to know what to make of the group. Band members made enough money to live cheaply in Athens, but they weren’t exactly comfortable. To reach the next level, they hired a professional booking agent. He landed them a gig most bands would have been giddy to get: the opening slot for U2’s U.S. tour in support of their recently released album War. When they took the stage, crowds impatient to see the Irish band ignored them. As Briscoe Hay recalled, “People were heckling … ‘Where’s U2?’ and ‘Get off the stage.’ ” What everyone said was great felt instead like failure. It certainly was not fun. Maybe they did not really want this kind of success. Maybe their performance art–turned-band was exactly what they said it was, “temporary rock.”

At the beginning of 1983, Briscoe Hay told a local Athens paper, “I think if it ever became miserable, we would just disband,” and in retrospect she was hinting at what was to come. Band members decided around this time to break up at the end of the year, after they fulfilled their bookings, but they kept their decision secret. In Athens, most people found out when posters went up for “Pylon’s Last Show” with opening act Love Tractor.

A recording of that farewell show released in 2016 finally gave those of us who missed it a chance to listen in on this essential moment in Athens history. From the opening note of the first song, “Working Is No Problem,” Pylon played 22 songs with hair-on-fire intensity that did not let up until the five-song encore finished. Over the course of approximately an hour and a quarter of music, the crowd roared out its encouragement. Sometimes the fans sang along to lyrics like “Everything is cool” and even occasionally to guitar hooks, like the woo-woo of “M-Train.” At other times, they just yelled. No one wanted the evening to stop.

Interviewed afterward about the breakup, band members reflected on why they had started making music “as another form of artistic expression.” “We accomplished what we set out to do,” Lachowski said. “It’s not that we are miserable, it’s just that we’ve seen all we’re going to see and don’t want to put any more time into it.” “What was frustrating was not trying to live like other bands, but trying to convince everybody that we didn’t want to do it that way,” he explained. “We were the only ones that understood why we were not out there with the other bands trying to make it big.”

A critics’ darling, repeatedly named the best band in Athens, Pylon carried its art piece so far that it broke up on the cusp of stardom. “We’ll become a cult band now,” Bewley predicted on the eve of Pylon’s last show. “This is a type of suicide that’ll make us more popular in the long run.” And he was right

Randy Bewley, Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Michael Lachowski, and Curtis Crowe of Pylon

Box Set Includes:

  • The studio albums Gyrate and Chomp – newly remastered from the original tapes
  • Extra – a collection of singles, B-sides, rarities and live recordings
  • Razz Tape – the first-ever Pylon recording, a 13-song unreleased session that predates their 1979 debut single, “Cool”/”Dub”
  • Plus a 216 page, full-color, hardbound book featuring a treasure trove of never before seen images and artifacts from the band’s personal archives, and writings by R.E.M., Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, Corin Tucker & Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Steve Albini, Jon King & Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four, and many more
  • 47 tracks in all, including 18 unreleased recordings

Pylon band photo

Athens, Georgia art rock group Pylon have announced a new 4xLP box set. “Pylon Box” arrives November 6th via New West Records. The set includes remastered versions of both of their studio albums—1980’s “Gyrate” and 1983’s “Chomp”—as well as the group’s first-ever recording, Razz Tape, and more. Listen to “The Human Body” (from Razz Tape) and a live version of “3 x 3”, and scroll down to see a teaser video for the box set. band that married post-punk, new wave, dance and funk, will be celebrated this fall with a new box vinyl box set that collects newly remastered pressings of their first two albums and adds two records of rarities and early recordings.

The songs on Gyrate and Chomp have been remastered from the original tapes and pressed to vinyl for the first time in roughly 35 years. 18 of Pylon Box’s 47 tracks are previously unreleased recordings. A limited number of box sets will be issued with coloured vinyl.

The set also includes an 11-song collection titled Extra, which features a recording from the group before frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe Hay joined the band, as well as a 200-page hardbound, full-colour book with archival images. It features writing by the B-52’s’ Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson, members of Gang of Four, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, Steve Albini, and more. Each copy of “Pylon Box” will be autographed by Pylon’s surviving members: Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Michael Lachowski, and Curtis Crowe.

Pylon spoke about the new box, their influences early on, and more. Here’s an excerpt of what Vanessa Briscoe Hay said about Razz Tape:

Chris [Razz] wanted to record us. He’d recorded us at Chapter Three or at a party or something. He was just a nut about wanting to record things. And so we said sure. I don’t remember that we ever used this for anything, but it was late summer or early fall because it was so warm. I remember that.

I was set up in the hall outside of where [Michael] and Curtis and Randy were. And he kept the tape machine in the hall, which was outside of Michael in my studio, and it was also the band’s practice space. He set the mic up for me in the hall. There were two mics in the room: one was for the drums and the other mic was shared by both the bass and the guitar. Y’all couldn’t see me; I couldn’t see you.

We had some songs that we were trying out that were very recently written. “Read a Book” has the instrumental version; I hadn’t written the lyrics for it, yet. And we’d just written “Cool.” We just went through it. We just plowed through it. It’s not overdubbed, but that’s just what it is. And I cringe at some of the things, but the overall sound and feeling of it is very spontaneous. It’s a beautiful record just because of that and, of course, we threw out a bunch of those songs and they were never recorded.

Pylon formed in 1979 at the University of Georgia. They were contemporaries of Athens groups like the B-52’s, R.E.M., and others.
Pylon Box’ is coming November 6th, Colour Vinyl Version Limited to 500 Copies Worldwide.
This comprehensive set includes:

The studio albums ‘Gyrate’ and ‘Chomp’ – newly remastered from the original tapes, and available on vinyl for the first time in more than 30 years
‘Extra’ – a collection of singles, B-sides, rarities and live recordings
‘Razz Tape’ – the first-ever Pylon recording, a 13-song unreleased session that predates our 1979 debut single, “Cool”/”Dub”
Plus a 200 page, full-colour, hardbound book featuring a treasure trove of never before seen images and artifacts from the band’s personal archives, and writings by R.E.M., Kate Pierson of The B-52’s, Corin Tucker & Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Steve Albini, Jon King & Hugo Burnham of Gang of Four, and many more
47 tracks including 18 unreleased recordings
‘Gyrate’ and ‘Chomp’ are also available in exclusive coloured vinyl from New West Records (clear editions), Vinyl Me, Please (marble handpour editions), and from independent record stores (opaque red and teal editions).

”Like the Velvet Underground before them, Pylon could be your favourite band’s favourite band.”
NPR Music

Pylon Box Set