(This is the 11th chapter in this series about my music career, and the 16th chapter in my autobiographical series. All the previous chapters in this series can be found on the column to the right. Go here to start at the beginning.)
After releasing “Roses” under the Total Flower Chaos name in June, 2016, I immediately began trying to recruit musicians for the band. I ran an ad on Craigslist, and referenced the EP and I think some of the home demos of songs that would later be on The Way. Several musicians replied, but none worked out. It was very disappointing. I wanted to form a rock band and play these songs! 2016 ended and I had no band– not even one band member.
Then in February, 2017, a guitarist and instrumental rock composer named Paul Webb replied to my ad. He sent me a Soundcloud link to a few of his songs. Our musical styles and goals were a little different, but I was impressed by Paul’s compositions and the quality of his playing. Paul said he was currently jamming Sunday nights at his house with a drummer and bass player, and invited me over to jam with them. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to jam with some good musicians and see if this could work out.
So I went over that Sunday. In additon to Paul, there was drummer Jay Meikrantz, and bassist Sean Mullen. I introduced a couple of the TFC instrumentals, and a couple of my newer songs, but they didn’t show much enthusiasm. Then Paul said, “We like your songs on Misfit.” Somehow he found out about by 2011 release Misfit. That was a bummer for me, because I wanted to play my new stuff. But these guys were such good musicians, I was enjoying playing with them.
We jammed for the next couple of Sundays, playing my old songs from “Misfit.” I also introduced some of my newer rock songs with lyrics. But Paul didn’t like my Total Flower Chaos instrumental rock songs, or my social commentary songs such as “Metadata,” “I Didn’t Believe” and “The Neighborhood.” These were precisely the songs I was most interested in playing. So I had to make a decision. I could have a rock band– right now, with great musicians, but not play what I considered my best material. Or I keep searching for musicians who would play all my songs.
I chose the former option. I had been having a hard time finding good musicians on Craigslist, and here was not just one, but three– a full band ready to go. I wanted to play! Sure, I was playing acoustic gigs with my band Scupanon, but I was itching to strap on an electric guitar and play loud. So I decided to compromise.
Speaking of Scupanon, Janet Lipson had recently starting singing backing vocals with me in that group. So I invited her into the new rock band. It was mostly the same songs, so she already knew them.
The band needed a name. Why not call the band Total Flower Chaos? Because it wasn’t my vision of Total Flower Chaos. We weren’t playing any of the instrumentals on the first TFC record. And we weren’t playing the social commentary rock songs, which I identified with TFC. I wanted to save the Total Flower Chaos name for that band– which I still wanted to form eventually. This band was different, and should have its own identity.
Janet suggested the name Electric Poetry. Done.
Our first gig was a house party in the summer of 2017. Our next two gigs were at open mics at the 20 Mile Tap House in Parker, Colorado. These were one-hour sets, so they felt more like gigs than open mics. Then we played a gig was at my neighborhood bar, Gennaro’s, in January, 2018.
That was followed by a string of 4 gigs in the next 5 months at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver, as well as a couple of gigs at The Toad Tavern in Littleton, Moe’s BBQ in Englewood, and a couple of gigs at breweries.
It was at the Herman’s Hideaway shows that the band began developing it’s own identity and style. Since we were playing my semi-pop rock songs rather than my heavy or political songs, I decided to wear a blue blazer over a tshirt. Janet shared center stage with me, and, when not singing, was energetic and dancing. Jay, Sean and Paul impressed the audiences with their musicianship. Sean joined on backing vocals and also helped Janet and I with in-between song banter. Paul’s friend from California, Kelly Walker, sometimes joined the band on keyboards when he was in town, giving us a bigger sound.
Electric Poetry started running out of steam in the summer fall of 2018. I noticed the guys were losing enthusiasm for the band. At some point in late 2018 or early 2019, Paul, Sean and Jay started working with another singer, songwriter and rhythm guitar player, and formed a new band, which would eventually be named Lies or Lullabies. They continued with the new band and Electric Poetry during 2019, but it became clear to me that they liked playing with the other singer more. It was more in the musical and lyrical style that they liked. Electric Poetry played what would be our last gig at the Englewood Tavern in May 2019. In September, 2019, Electric Poetry officially ended.
What I Learned
Electric Poetry was an important stage in my musical career. It got me on stage at rock clubs playing electric guitar in a rock band– it established my identity as a rock musician. My identity prior to that had been as a folk musician, which was not real me– or at least the whole me.
I learned the value of having good musicians in my band. The bar had been raised for future bands. I would insist on musicians who are as good or better at their instruments as I am with mine. Musicians who learn the songs on their own time and come to practice prepared. Musicians that require minimal direction from me, because they know how to play the songs right.
I learned the hard way that all the administrative and promotional work of a band is too much for one person, especially if you have a day job. In the future, I would require all band members to pitch in on the work of the band. To put it another way, I learned that I don’t want a backing band, I want a band. I want the musicians in the band to consider the band their band, and want to do everything they can to promote it and make the band bigger.
I also learned that I should not censor myself. I want a band that allows me to fully express express myself; a band that will play all my songs.
Electric Poetry raised the bar of expectations for my next band. I knew it would be difficult to find musicians that fit that criteria, but I don’t want to go backwards. I want to move forward. I knew it would take awhile– and it has– but I decided there would be no more compromises. My songs deserve it.
Next: Scupanon’s Last Years