Heritage Hump Day: The Piersons - "Pink Dress"
Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
Local band profiles can sometimes be a drag, no different from interviews where everything you ask an athlete gets you generic answers that reflect glory back on to the team.
Such was not the case when I visited the Piersons' practice space in 1996. Here was a band that delighted in teasing, insulting and hurling objects at one another at any opportunity. You can drop the needle anywhere on this article and hear needling taking place. The article header will tell you this was 20 years ago but don't panic. I did the math and it's only 19 years ago.
For the past half-hour, Patrick "Patti" Sedillo has been hurling bottle caps at Scott Moore's forehead every time the bassist leans over to interject an opinion into a tape recorder. It's a drizzly Monday nightoutside the Piersons' practice pad, a warehouse located about a hundred paces behind Minder Binder's on South McClintock in Tempe. Inside, three of the band's four members are settling in for an interview. Everyone either has had too much beer or not enough, and some serious equalizing is under way.
New guy Michael Johnny Walker is already comfortable enough at Chez Piersons to tell all and sundry where they can shove it whenever necessary—which, with this bunch, is often. Drummer Tony Chadwick, known in many quarters as the "Sensible Pierson," is sensibly indisposed at a hospital this fine February night with a minor back injury. In his place to witness the ensuing carnage is Brad Singer, founder/owner of the band's label Epiphany Records.
About ten minutes into the interview, I leave the circle for maybe 30 seconds and return to find the room teeming with bull's-eye sarcasm, flying beer bottles and a puddle of foaming Killian's Red spreading over and around my Radio Shack recorder, which is remarkably still recording.
Patti: (laughing at Scott) You spill beer on everything.
Moore: Mike did it!
Walker: (irritated) I didn't touch a fuckin' beer! Who threw the beer at him, Patti?
Patti: (arrogantly, to no one in particular) I did, you drunken fool!
Walker: (laughs cautiously) Everybody in this town hates us because of Patti's mouth.
Singer: You guys are gonna be on the road for how long? With another band? Aw, Jesus!
"A band like this willonly work if it's teetering on the brink," Patti explains after the "brew"haha. "The brink of destruction or the brink of greatness."
In mere seconds, the cloudburst passes and Moore wistfully recounts the first time he heard his future band in 1992.
"It was at an outdoor party, and they were trying to be an alternative band at the time, playing pop songs," recaps the bass player. "But they fucked all of 'em up. I sat on the ground, listened and thought to myself, 'These guys suck, I wanna be in their band,' 'cause here were a bunch of guys who knew everything they wanted to do and nothing all at the same time."
Despite cracked equipment, the frustrated foursome, which then included guitarist Doug Nichols, managed to secure regular gigs at Long Wong's and now-defunct Valley clubs like Edsel's Attic and Tony's New Yorker Club. In addition, the group self-released two tapes, most notably Last Chance Gas, a ragged-but-right, seven-song jamboree co-produced by late Gin Blossoms cofounder Doug Hopkins that was released in 1994. The next February, Gas received some belated praise in Cake magazine, a Minneapolis pop publication that heralded the Piersons as spiritual descendants of Twin City sons the Replacements. "Sloppy and memorable," the 'zine decreed.
Later in the article, Moore makes a point of saying that the band made a point of not drinking in the studio even though their last attempt of studio drunkenss warranted some national press. That was when they recorded Humbucker, the CD from which this week's Heritage Hump selection comes. "Pink Dress" also opened a various artists compilation called Exile on Cameron Harper Street which always seemed to be playing in Long Wongs and was released by Planet Magazine, Brad Singer's weekly newspaper to rival New Times. which folded the week of the comp's release.
The former Patti Pierson, now a Bay area resident and the CEO and Founder of San Francisco Videos, cites "Pink Dress' as a pivotal Piersons track.
"We had just lost our guitarist Dug [he spells it that way] Nichols. We were beyond pissed that he left our band. I felt it like a breakup. I was so angry. Dug had sold his Les Paul. To a guitar store. My reply was let's take a picture of his guitar on a rack, with a price tag on it! They changed the idea once Michael Johnny Walker joined. Then EVERYONE thought MJW played lead guitar on Humbucker. For the record, It was me. I had to get it on the record. Then we had to learn what we had just put down, see? Then we were reborn, so to speak."
So the pink dress motif, is that calling out an ex-band member for being a pussy?
"No it's about me being desperate. And angry. Dug left to chase a girl — many of mine left in May, as they do. It was anger because he thought leaving a Tempe band was the right thing to do. For a girl. She was beautiful. And he was absolutely right."
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