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Given this approach, it's no surprise that storylines are verboten in St. Andre's world. "I sometimes have a problem with narrative, because I think it eventually exhausts itself," says Peipon, a recent graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute who's currently involved with a magazine that focuses on art criticism. "If a poem is heard over and over again and you know it by heart, you're going to tend to go back to that poem or piece of music to experience a very particular sensation. If you know what the story is and you want something emotionally or intellectually similar to what your mood is, it's easy to go back to that narrative, and it's the same thing every time. I guess I think there is the possibility to have a different experience with music every time you hear it, and that is something that I'm trying to get at."
Although the group kicks at many of the customs and expectations that define rock, its traditional lineup of two guitars, bass and drums is firmly rooted in convention. This was not always the case: "There was a brief period of time in the band's history when I played the clarinet," says St. Andre, who played in the reed section of his junior high's ensemble before switching to bass. "But that was a direction we didn't pursue for too long, because any exploration into those kinds of instruments ended up sounding jazzy, and that's really not what we're about. We're not a fusion band." At the same time, though, the ragged looseness of St. Andre's scores hint at improvisation. "Most certainly we leave room for that within any given structure," he confirms. "The structures of jazz to me are beautiful and worthy of imitating, but the advent of swing in rock has killed it. Music needs to have a certain urgency to it. When jazz gets too close, it robs it of its power."
Jazz won't be interfering with the band's sturm und drang anytime soon, but electronica might. Drummer Petersen has been experimenting with the style, and the other bandmembers are softening to the idea of its inclusion. "They're pretty open to it, in fact," she says. "John has suggested including some of the electronica on future albums, but it wouldn't happen in the live performances. It would just be incorporated in a recording situation." She doesn't fear that the introduction of a machine might render her signature can-bashing obsolete: "Nothing can really replace the sound of acoustic drums, so for me, electronic music is completely separate. It's like video to film--you can never say one will replace the other. One might be more popular in a given time, but it's never going to bury the other one."
Nor should it, St. Andre believes. "Above all, we're a rock band--and it's more interesting to try to imitate the sound of something robotic when you're using an instrument that isn't."
Currently, the four are recording an EP with former Nation of Ulysses player Tim Green (presently part of the Champs) and dreaming of their next move--to New York, where Davis plans to attend watch-making school while the girls insinuate themselves into the art world. "I feel the music scene in New York is a little more accepting of the kind of thing we do," Davis says. "San Francisco is really eclectic in its music, but there's not that many bands out here doing stuff that we're that interested in." Surprisingly, he does not hesitate to wax nostalgic over the band's early days in Denver, when the musicians shared the stage with local heavies Space Team Electra and the Apples. "The spring of '95 was a magical time for us and the Denver rock community. I think if you ask anyone that was in those bands or a host of others, they'll tell you that there was a camaraderie and support amongst us that we've later come to realize is rare." When asked whether he expects to find such fellowship in New York, he replies, "I would love for that to happen, although that's not exactly something we're seeking. I would love to have a handful of bands that we play with regularly and enjoy their company and feed off each other's influences."
In the meantime, the music the brainy crew makes continues to evolve ever further from its starting point, driven by heady ambitions. "Originally I was more lighthearted about what a song should be or what structure should be within songs," St. Andre admits. "But since then, the music has become more complicated and, to me, a lot more beautiful."
St. Andre, with Puppet Show and Dressy Bessy, 10:30 p.m. Friday, March 12, Lion's Lair, 2022 East Colfax Avenue, $4, 303-320-9200. The Apples, with St. Andre, 9 p.m. Saturday, March 13, 15th Street Tavern, 623 15th Street, $6, 303-572-0822.