their CDs: (l-r) Donnelly, Adams, Carlton and Smith
of the 1234s. Photo by Eileen
won’t hear any Jimmy Buffet covers from Saratoga’s newest
garage band, the 1234’s
August hits in downtown Saratoga Springs, music wafts from
nearly every outdoor bar patio in town. Unfortunately, Saratoga
nightlife tends to cater to heavy-drinking types who don’t
demand very much from their music. Want to hear an odious
version of “Disco Inferno” inflicted on a crowd of people
too drunk to know the difference? Head to Saratoga in August.
One night you’ll hear an insipid new-agey organ trio pumping
out the Elton John songbook; the next night a Jimmy Buffet
cover band will assault you with “Margaritaville” as you walk
down Caroline Street.
Now imagine this, though: a nighttime stroll down Caroline
Street, a band visible through the windows of Club Caroline,
frenzied strains of the Ramones tune “Beat on the Brat” and
the Jam’s “In the City” drifting out onto the street. That
would be something, wouldn’t it?
Thanks to the 1234’s, a newly minted quartet of Saratoga rockers,
such a scenario is now possible. In fact, it has already happened.
At a Club Caroline show in July, the 1234’s bashed out scrappy
versions of the aforementioned songs during a set filled predominantly
with well-chosen ’60s garage and ’70s punk tunes. The crowd
dug it. The band next up on the bill, however, were young
New Jersey kids with a stable of polished, angst-ridden emo
songs. They sat next to their equipment looking extremely
confounded our following act—left them looking stunned,” says
Phil Donnelly, the 1234’s drummer. Singer, guitarist and harmonica-wailer
Robin Adams remembers a point during the show when the band
baffled the audience as well. “We do a killer version of ‘Paint
It, Black’, ” he says. “But I guess it pissed off everyone
in the audience. So I turned up the feedback.”
The audience could be forgiven for seeming a little confused.
“Have you seen this guy?” bassist Steve Smith says, nodding
at Adams. “He looks like a mild- mannered accountant type
you’d want to bring home to mother. Until he gets on stage
and starts screaming his head off.”
The band’s set definitely provided evidence that musical taste
counts for a lot more than musical proficiency. Ask anyone
who’d rather hear a sloppy version of Chuck Berry’s “Don’t
Lie to Me” than a musically adept cover of Elton John’s “Crocodile
Rock.” The 1234’s had the rough-around-the-edges feel of a
band whose members spend more time listening to their record
collections than practicing their instruments.
a lesson—that’s our motto,” says Smith. “We’re bashing out
The four members of the 1234’s share a fondness for ’60s-era
British Invasion rock (“We all really like the Who and the
Kinks,” says Adams) as well as the American garage rock that
emerged in its wake. With a rawer, less sophisticated take
on the British Invasion sound, American bands like the Sonics,
the Remains and the Standells played off their youthful energy
and amateurishness by riffing on the same three chords with
loud, fuzzed-out guitars.
album that brought us all together was A Session With the
Remains,” Smith says, referring to an infamous
live-in-the-studio demo of the Boston garage band that was
recorded in 1966 and released 30 years later by Coxsackie’s
Sundazed record label. “That’s our dream—to be put out by
Sundazed,” Smith adds.
be reissued by Sundazed,” Donnelly corrects.
box set,” Smith continues.
stereo and mono remixes,” Adams chimes in.
Adams, Smith and Bob Carlton (who was in indie-punk trio Dryer
at the time and now heads-up the Sixfifteens) first thought
about putting together a garage band a few years ago, around
the time when all three were working together at Saratoga’s
Last Vestige record store. They named the new band the 1234’s
(since all their songs have a 4/4 beat, Adams says). Carlton,
like so many guitarists do, had visions of playing drums.
At the time, Adams was a Skidmore College student who played
in a college band called the Short Order Crooks. The day after
graduating from Skidmore, Adams packed his bags and moved
to New York City. Exactly one year later, however, he moved
back, and the current 1234’s lineup started to take shape.
day I was hanging out at Last Vestige,” Carlton says. “And
Steve told me that Phil had agreed to play drums [in the 1234’s].
I was like ‘alright!’ ” Carlton adds, with great enthusiasm.
Donnelly, whose brother Pete is the bassist for the Figgs,
played drums previously in the Spa City Rockers, a onetime
Saratoga band that he moved with to Portland, Ore., for a
spell. In the late ’80s, Donnelly had played in the well-monikered
Human Slug along with his brothers Steve and Pete, former
Figgs guitarist Guy Lyons and Guy’s brother Reed. Donnelly
also hosts the long-running King Loser’s Cut Out Bin
on WSPN 91.1 Skidmore College (“Phil’s got the biggest record
collection [of all of us],” Smith says).
didn’t expect Phil to say yes,” Smith says of his offer for
Donnelly to join the band. “Once he did, we were relieved
that Bob wasn’t playing drums. And Phil actually had a drum
Smith, currently the assistant manager of Saratoga’s Last
Vestige record store, also plays in an art-rock trio called
Bible Study, but he explains that the 1234’s allow him to
fulfill his “rock & roll ambitions.”
you can’t dance to Bible Study,” Adams quips.
our aim [in the 1234’s],” Smith says. “People have stopped
dancing. We want people to get up and dance.”
audience ideally is 16-year-old punk asses, college kids and
your average 50-year-old husband and wife who remember the
good old days,” Adams adds.
Of course, like any garage band worth their salt, the 1234’s
have got the false-bravado thing down cold. Throughout the
course of the interview, they assess their ability to beat
up a variety of other bands, until jokingly deciding that
the ADs (Last Vestige owner Jim Furlong’s former punk band)
are their biggest imaginary rivals.
challenge any band with fewer than four people to a fistfight,”
Adams jokes. “We’ll challenge any band to a rock-off.”
but they’ve got to book it,” Carlton retorts.
if I could borrow their amp, that would be good,” Adams laughs.
HAVE ALL THE CLAY PEOPLE GONE? The members of the
dearly departed Clay People have been keeping
themselves busy since the breakup, with Dan Neet’s
joint venture with Acumen Nation’s Jason Novak, Iron
Lung Corp., releasing their second album, Ditch
the Attitude, Pally. The album was recorded and
mastered in Chicago at the studios of Neet’s and Novak’s
label, Crack Nation/Caroline Records. Scarlet East’s
John Delehanty is involved in the project, as
is Neet’s former bandmate Dan Dinsmore and many
other friends and family. According to Neet, the album’s
sound is one step removed from the Clay People—as abrasive,
but a bit more on the electronic side. “It’s a dark-metal-techno
record with a few pop jammies thrown in,” says Neet.
The band will perform a CD-release show at Northern
Lights on Oct. 26.
TIME PASSING: Onetime Clayperson Dan Dinsmore
has news of his own. His new project, the soon-to-be-renamed
Black Inc., just returned from recording in Los
Angeles and Philadelphia with Mike Clink (of Guns N’
Roses and Aerosmith fame) and up-and-comer James Michael
(who’s producing the new Orgy record). The band will
be performing showcases, shooting a video and getting
themselves heard on the radio with the aid of Frank
Chakler—who got the Clay People their deal, and is crazy
about Dinsmore’s new venture.
WAS BORN IN A SMALL TOWN: Johnstown-based punk-rock
band the Flying Bobbz, made up of brother-sister
team Sarah Orloff and Skip Leo and drummer
Rick Little, just released Small Town
Chronicles—a six-song EP that features the handiwork
of Scarlet East’s John Delehanty. They’ll play
a show at Saratoga Winners on Sept. 6, so you can hear
the new songs there, or go to www.flyingbob bz.com to
listen to some MP3s.
I LIVE IN A SMALL TOWN: John Delehanty has his hands
in everything in this column, and the recording whiz
is working on a demo with new band the Arrow Down
Project—Jamie Rice, Dan Taylor, Dan Carre,
Jay Manley and Ian Manning—which offers up dirty
hard-rock with healthy heapings of metal. Neet and Dinsmore
will produce the release, and if you’re looking for
a sneak preview, head out to Valentine’s tomorrow (Friday),
when the Project will open the Diecast show.
SEEN IT ALL IN A SMALL TOWN: F-Timmi are
going back into the studio to record a full-length follow-up
to their Sucker EP.
MYSELF A BALL IN A SMALL TOWN: The Erotics
hosted a Poison/Faster Pussycat aftershow gig last week,
and they had some very welcome guests. The Faster Pussycat
folks guided their tour bus down Pearl Street and hopped
on the Mad River stage to play a few Ramones songs and
their own “Bathroom Wall,” to Erotics accompaniment.
In more Erotics news: Fastlane Records has agreed to
release the band from their contract, a welcome gesture
since frontman Mike Trash is on the verge of
starting his own label.
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: Scotty
Mac is still nursing himself back to health (for
those of you not paying attention, the rock & roller
suffered an arm injury that has left him unable to play
guitar), and is still not completely mended. His Rockin’
Bonnevilles have decided to go it alone, and the
band can be seen in area venues.
Rough Mix items? Contact Kate Sipher at 463-2500, ext.
145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.