Thursday, March 20, 2008

WALAROO SOUTH, Painted A Million Colors (cassette, 1991)

A couple of months after PLANET ED got together (February 1991), we did the Dayton Band Playoffs at Canal Street Tavern (because it was pretty tough to get a show during the first half of summer at Canal Street if you didn't). It was in either our first or second round that we got soundly trounced in the voting by six of the nicest kids you'd ever want to meet. Those kids were WALAROO SOUTH.

WALAROO SOUTH would go through a few lineup changes over the years, but at the time Painted A Million Colors was being circulated, the band was:

Jonathan Drexler - Vocals, guitar
Lesa O'Daniel - Vocals and auxiliary percussion
Aaron Jones (no relation) - guitar
Danny Stahl - drums
Felicia Letts - backing vocals, flue, keyboard, auxiliary percussion
Hans Drexler - bass

I remember disliking the name and not being too into the music at first. It was pretty derivative college radio stuff. Comparisons to POI DOG PONDERING, DAVE MATTHEWS and especially TEN THOUSAND MANIACS were inevitable. But the music grew on me, and I ended up listening to this tape quite a bit.

And regardless of what I personally thought of the music, I could never deny that they were all great musicians. I don't know for sure, but I got the impression that most of them had graduated to WALAROO SOUTH from high school marching bands, orchestras, glee clubs, and chorale ensembles. That's not a bad progression.

I mean sure, Lesa sounded just like Natalie Merchant, but that just means she had a great vocal range and could belt the melody out pretty strongly. She was cute too (probably why Will and I always sat right up front when they played -- especially when she wore sweaters). Care to guess how many Natalie Merchant wannabes I ran across in those days who were butt ugly and couldn't carry a tune in a bucket? Trust me, you don't want to know. Lesa was the rare exception.

The others all knew what they were doing too. Aaron could alternate quite deftly between clean rhythms and flurried, Eddie Van Halen leads. Danny never missed a beat coming out of a fill (if only I could say the same about that schlub NICK ATKINSON! -- although he seemed to become a lot more precise after OXYMORONS broke up). Felicia's backup vocals were strong, and she filled out the sound quite well among all the instruments she played.

Jonathan and Hans seemed to be the creative backbone of this group. I think everyone contributed to the music, but I think Jonathan and Hans had the most control over the ultimate form of each tune. Jonathan and Lesa wrote the lyrics.

As I said, they were all very nice kids when we first met them (and still are today, I'm sure) -- very young and even "clean cut" you might say. With six members and such precise attention to their playing, they were kind of the antithesis of PLANET ED (which was a trio and probably the loosest lineup I've ever played with). However, we played quite a few shows together between 1991 and 1993, and I think we became friends. Certainly Jonathan, Hans, Will, and I used to hang out. I remember they showed up quite a few times to watch bad, gorey horror films with Will and me (other faces I associate with "The Gore Club," as Will used to call it, belonged to Ed Lacy, Rob Schaeffer (a couple of times), Dave Madisov, Dave's girlfriend Rachel, Brian Hogarth, Christine White (infrequently), and even Nick Kizirnis every now and then).

I don't know what became of Felicia or Lesa after 1993 or so. Danny and Aaron played in other bands I saw in the '90s but I can't name any of them off the top of my head. Jonathan and Hans continued with WALAROO SOUTH until maybe 1996(?). At some point, they dropped the "SOUTH" from the name, and the music changed from lite college folk rock to harder, rougher indie rock. I have two demo cassettes from that version of WALAROO that I'll share later. In the late '90s they moved to Chicago and started the band MY SECRET SERVICE with Aaron and Matt Espy (formerly of CAGE and MINK). Jonathan also plays in MEAN OHIO, also with Matt Espy.

Track list:

1. Love Canal
2. Little Brother
3. Break the Line
4. Chain Train
5. Aquilonia
6. Spacious One

Download It! (33 MB) (link re-upped on 2-1-2013)

UPDATE 2-8-2013: Jonathan Drexler died yesterday.  We all miss him very much.

take care



Big In Day-town said...

The Cliffs Notes version of this is that you need to call me so we can chain smoke, drink beers and play pool. I'll play "Alex Chilton" on da jukebox for ya!

Karen Kuras said...

jones -
Unfortunately this has nothing to do with your most current blog. I was googling and came across you blog dated Sept. 13, 2007 about the band Hang'n Pride and you confusion about the dedication date on the cassette. The 9-4-89 is no mistake, it is the birthdate of Glenn Kuras' daughter, Abby. They were recording the tape when she was born. Do I know this for sure? Yes,I am Abby's mother...

jones() said...

Karen, no need to apologize at all. It's always nice to hear from someone who's got the straight dope on something I don't. It's always nice to see the pieces come together. Oxymorons' show with Hang'n Pride was 5 months before the date on the cassette, so I must have picked up that cassette at some later time and just merged the events in my head. Memory is a flawed and fascinating thing. I'll update that entry with your information. Thanks for providing it.

Big, that sounds good. I'll buzz you tomorrow probably.

take care


Anonymous said...

1. I could be wrong about this, but I think I remember that Matt Espy played percussion for Walaroo (misspelled throughout most of your post) South. I know he played percussion for a band that WWSU sponsored or co-sponsored and played in the University Center cafeteria. I thought that band was Walaroo South, but I don't know for sure.
2. Danny Stahl plays in Shrug.
3. I don't miss beats. I leave them out on purpose so that YOU miss them. :-) (although that really wouldn't be any better)
4. I remember gore fests (although you never seem to remember that I was involved, too, from time to time). I remember 3-for-a-dollar video rentals from Meijer. My favorite memory, of course, as it relates to gore fest, is the night that a movie (Re-Animator 2?) actually caused Will to blow chunks.
5. I will email you soon.

your sloppy drummer

jones() said...

I think you're right about Espy's relationship to this band. I strongly associate him with Walaroo, but his name wasn't on the tape cover, so I didn't mention him in that context.

Also, your comment somehow reminded me that much of their percussion array was either borrowed or "borrowed" (wink!) from some school's music department.

Yes, Nick Atkinson, you were a gore-fester, and I forgot that because I forgot gore-fests continued through the time you and I were living in that 3rd St. apartment. But when you mentioned Will blowing chunks, it all came rushing back: 3 for a buck Meijer rentals and Will spewing -- but it was after viewing the initial plastic surgery scene in _Stepfather 3_.

Anonymous said...

Being comfortable with yourself is NOT narcistic. Narcism is being facinated with yourself, to the point of excessive self love and to the exclusion of all others. Being comfortable with yourself is simply healthy and it is something that should be on the top of anyones "bucket list". You are lucky if you have achieved this state.

Anyway, I love the blog, found u through a search engine and didn't mean to get my preach on in your comments.

jones() said...

Believe it or not, I actually like preaching -- or at least I'd rather hear preaching than equivocation. So preach on if you like. I don't mind.

I do, of course, disagree with you. Sure, we should all be comfortable with ourselves, but we should also recognize that failed personal relationships are failures. They may be excusable failures. They may even be noble failures. But they are still failures. I just can't accept that isolation is a virtue.

Anyway, I've no problem with the preaching. If I'm not ready for criticism, I shouldn't put my life on display on a public blog. Thanks for your comment.

take care


Daddy-O said...

Tripped me out reading this thread - graduated from UD in '95 and spent a great deal of time with the Walaroo crew from '92-95, both at and outside of shows...never really did keep track of where they all ended up after I left (which was around the time the band splintered, I believe)....can't remember the name, but Aaron Jones joined up with a badass funk bank that played Canal St. Tavern and a few other local haunts...if anyone has more info on what these cats are up to these days, I'd love to hear about it.


Anonymous said...

Danny Stahl was Walaroo's original drummer. Matt joined later. Jon and Hans and Matt last I heard (2003) were in Chicago. The last band I am aware they were in was My Secret Service.

Maybe someone else can fill in the last 5 yrs, I'd love to know.

C Wettle

Kaci Ruh said...

I just found this through Will's myspace page and what a surprise. I sang with Walaroo in the later, "rougher" years. While Matt was never the official drummer, he was always there in a pinch, lived in the house in 5 Oaks and is such an incredible drummer, he could always step in with little notice. He is also in Chicago, along with the rest of that gang. I believe he's making music as Avagami, per the interwebs. I haven't seen him since 2002. I've been in Brooklyn for the past 7 years and happier for it. And Chris Wettle, what a nice surprise to see your name! Hope all is well... And by the way, what a great site you've created here. I'm really enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

Hi man

It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!

Travelinrob said...

The download link is broken. Anybody have a working link or a copy of the sound files?