update from pylon

I’ve written about it a lot before, but one of the biggest influences in my life was a little documentary in 1986 called “Athens, GA: Inside/Out.” Among other things, it introduced me to the band Pylon. They became an early obsession of mine, and, since then, I’ve not only been fortunate enough to catch them play live a few times, but I’ve also been able to spend some time with most of them over beer. They’re the nicest folks in the world, and it makes me happy as hell to report that they’ve gotten back together again. (If I’m not mistaken this is their third reunion.) For those of you that don’t know about the band, check out this clip from the “Athens, GA” documentary. Then, if you’re still interested (you will be), scroll down to read a brief exchange I just had with Vanessa Hay, the singer of the band… The image included below, taken at a recent show at the 40 Watt Club, comes courtesy of Athens photographer Mike White.

Mark: So, how’d the reunion tour go?

Vanessa: The tour went well. We got a good response and had a lot of fun. We played in Atlanta, Chapel Hill, NYC, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. We sold out the show in NYC and had good size audiences everywhere else. It was nice to see friends that I haven’t seen in years. I took my older daughter Hana along as the merchandise person. She had never been to the Northeast before and had a great time.

Mark: And Gyrate was just reissued too, right?

Vanessa: Gyrate Plus was reissued by DFA records on October 16, 2007. It has the tracks from Gyrate plus bonus tracks, which include an alternate song that was on the UK version of Gyrate, an ep that was issued in the UK that included a remix of Danger and our first single, Cool/Dub, as well as a song that was recorded in our practice space in 1979. The song kind of fell apart from a vocal standpoint because I was singing in another room and lost where we were in the song, but it has the most awesome guitar riff on it.

Mark: Have you written anything new since getting back together, or has all of your time been spent practicing your songs?

Vanessa: A good bit of it has been spent practicing due to the fact that Curtis (Pylon’s drummer) is only in town for a limited amount of time when he is here. He has been on the west coast for much of this past year working in the production crew for Californication. The writer’s strike has him in a sort of limbo right now. We have jammed and we have tons of old tapes with sections that could easily be turned into new songs with some focus and time.

I have written some new material, but have turned to using a recording project called Supercluster. I have never been in another band before besides Pylon. I have guest sung a few times, though.

We just released an ep “Special 5” and I’m shopping this material to the indies as soon as the holidays are over. Hopefully I can complete it as a full length CD with someone’s help. I only pressed 100 on CDR and they are mostly gone except the ones to be shopped.

Band members for Supercluster include my husband Bob Hay (The Squalls, Bob Hay & the Jolly Beggars, A Che Why), Hannah Jones (The New Sound of Numbers), John Fernandes (Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, Circulatory System, Dark Meat among just a few that he’s worked with), Randy Bewley (Pylon, The New Sound of Numbers), Bill David (Bob Hay & the Jolly Beggars) and my daughter Hana Hay on one song playing cello.

Mark: Wow. So did this begin before the Pylon reunion?

Vanessa: Supercluster? No it came way after the reunion, I started this project in spring of 2007. I started with wanting to work on something with Hannah Jones who is in the New Sound of Numbers – my favorite “new” Athens band. I had some songs coming into my head that didn’t exactly seem like Pylon type material. Also, Curtis is out of town a lot, so I didn’t have the Pylon outlet. I might not have started writing again if it hadn’t been for the Pylon reunion. The guys in Pylon have been extremely supportive. Randy plays electric guitar for Supercluster and Michael did the graphics for the e.p.

We have played only two sets live and one song for a benefit in Atlanta last summer called 500 Songs for Kids. That was interesting. 500 bands actually played the 500 top rock songs as decided by Rolling Stone magazine. It was like Grand Central Station backstage. There were something like 50 bands a night playing at this one medium-sized bar. We were picked to do Maggie May and it was a real bear. Who knew? I got an alarm clock and set it off for the beginning of the song, then whispered “Wake up, Wake up..” and used it at the end to clue us when it was going to end. We performed at Athfest last summer and then again recently opening for Pylon.

Mark: The Songs for Kids project sounds incredibly cool. I’m surprised I didn’t hear about it before this. And that’s cool that you’re playing with Randy, not only in Pylon, but in Supercluster. If you don’t mind my asking, what made him change his mind about a Pylon reunion? I know that the rest of you had wanted to get back together for years and that he’d been the only holdout.

Vanessa: It was pretty fun and a really surreal experience. A lot of performers came from Nashville, Atlanta and the Athens area. It was a very eclectic mix of musicians. School age rappers, country/folk singers, heavy metal, indie bands….. It was all for a very important cause too. Our night benefited Camp Sunshine which my younger daughter has attended for the last 5 or so years. It was nice to have a working project that could say yes, because Pylon was unavailable.

Randy missed playing with us. He called us up, which took a lot of guts on his part. I respect him for that. We got back together this time just for fun and we play when we can. Curtis can be called out of town at a moments notice, so we are usually unable to plan anything too far in advance.

Mark: So, given that, what do you think the future holds for Pylon?

Vanessa: I have no business predicting the future.

I know that DFA have now asked to reissue Chomp. I don’t know what else could be in store for us. That is kind of fun, isn’t it?

Mark: Is that kind of what happened the last time you reunited? Was there too much of a plan, and did that contribute to not making it fun?

Vanessa: We did try to have a business plan and do things the “right” way. It was more focused. It was just a different kind of fun. We have never done things, though, for other’s expectations. For better or worse, these have all been our decisions. When Randy decided to leave the second time around, we decided to break up. Pylon is the four of us, no substitutes allowed…

[It’s not available online at the moment, so you’d have to buy the back issue of Crimewave to read it, but Issue #14 has a great interview with the band that gets into their history, the old Athens scene, and everything else.]

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  1. Tommy
    Posted January 8, 2008 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Saw this documentary a long time ago as well. Pylon – Hole – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Can easily hear the influence. Funny how a certain creative scene (Athens) at a certain time can leave such lasting influences. Think early 70’s NYC, early 80’s Minneapolis (Replacements, Prince, Husker Du), early 90’s Seattle, etc.

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    I like the youtube clip. A little overweight, very southern, unambitious woman as rock star is great context for the performance. If all rock stars worked at copy shops I might buy more music.

  3. Anonymatt
    Posted January 9, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I went to the Brooklyn show and it was great. I was happy to buy my copy of Gyrate Plus directly from the band, but I didn’t realize it was Vanessa’s daughter who was manning the merchandise stand. (Besides the CD, the only other merch were red T-shirts with “COOL” in white letters.)

    Oh, and I found out the show through this blog, so thanks. Keep us posted if Supercluster or Chomp gets released on CD.

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