Matt Bischoff of '57 Lesbian: "You need to still enjoy the company of your friends and do stuff you enjoy doing with those people"
Matt Bischoff of '57 Lesbian in 2011
'57 Lesbian (due tonight at the Bluebird Theater) came about when Matt Bischoff of the Fluid and the Frantix had some downtime and got together with his old friend and former Frantix drummer, Dave Stewart, and started a stripped down rock and roll band with former Twice Wilted bassist Chanin Floyd. It started as a fun thing for friends to do together and remains so today.
The band went through a couple of iterations before more or less calling it a day as the mid '90s hit while largely being on hiatus as Bischoff became active again with the Fluid and Floyd with Spell. Last year '57 Lesbian reunited for some reunion shows benefitting the sons of the late, great Rick Kulwicki (one of Denver's most beloved and influential musicians, who passed away on February 15, 2011). We had a chance to sit down with the witty and talented Bischoff to talk about the band and the importance of making time for your friends and what you love to do together.
'57 Lesbian in the early '90s
Westword: You were one of the founding members of '57 Lesbian, correct? Who was in the band's first incarnation?
Matt Bischoff: Yes. Originally, it started out with Dave Stewart and Chanin Floyd. I played guitar, Chanin played bass, and Dave did what he always does, play the drums.
Why did you three started the band, and when?
It was while the Fluid was still going. I think we had done Roadmouth and maybe Glue even. We didn't have anything going on. We didn't know if we were going to sign with Sub Pop and do another record with them or what. And we weren't on tour. We were just kind of this doing nothing thing. I'd always played guitar, and Dave and I had done various things. We did some stuff over here with Arnie Beckman, when Arnie was living here, when he was in college.
So we had this dead time in the Fluid. Chanin had played in Twice Wilted, and I knew her. I'd always hung out with Dave anyway, since those of us in the Frantix still hung out all the time. So we decided to do something to have something to do. Dave was the guy that got me in the Frantix by his relentless nature.
It's basically the same three people in it now that were in it originally. Those guys weren't doing anything, and I wasn't doing anything, because the Fluid wasn't even really rehearsing. We were kind of in limbo waiting to see what would happen. Maybe getting together here and there, but we weren't doing shows or recording.
How did you come up with that name?
It was probably me. But it may have had something to do with me and Dave talking some shit one time about something and making a joke. It was supposed to be a mythical car like a '57 Chevy or a '57 Plymouth. I was really into late '50s cars, so we made it up. It's just stupid; it's a dumb name more than anything. It's marginally offensive, I suppose. It was just something funny to call it, but it has a weird ring to it. It was one of those things we chuckled about and when it came time to call the band something, we said, "Let's call it that. We've got nothing better to call it."
How did you meet Chanin Floyd?
I met all those Littleton folks from Fluid shows. Like I said, she was playing with Kurt Ottaway in Twice Wilted. She's a few years younger than the people in my group, so I didn't know her in high school. Evidently, she'd done some music in high school, but when she was playing in Twice Wilted is when we first met any of those guys -- Kurt, or her or Matt Hunt. It's funny because she introduced me to other people I'm still friends with like Kevin Soll. He went by Kevin Warner at the time. We met a lot of people right around in the mid '80s. All those kids were out of high school by then or nineteen or twenty. We were all 23, 24, 25. That was a pretty cool scene back then, as far as meeting people. I met a lot of people I'm still friends with.
How did you find out that Chanin would want to play in the kind of band you wanted to do, because Twice Wilted is obviously very different from the Fluid, much less '57 Lesbian?
By that time, I'd known her for a while. I can't even remember the chain of events. But she might have been seeing Tim Beckman by that time, so I was seeing a lot more of her because I used to hang out with Tim and Dan Gilbertson, and Chanin and I used to throw down jams in the basement over in the house here. That seems to me it was before Spell.
Once again, Dave and I decided we were going to do something, and we needed a bass player, and that a three piece band was the way to go. We decided a female bass player that could sing would be a good trip, and we knew one. She had bad ass bass and knew how to play it. As you well know, Chanin's a real sweetheart, and she was like, "Yeah, I'm not doing anything. That would be cool." She's got several basses, but the one she plays with us is an old hollow body Guild. She's played Fender basses, and between her and her husband, they've got a pretty good quiver of guitars and amplifiers.
How was the band received early on? Did people try to impose expectations about the Fluid or Twice Wilted on what they were going to see?
I think it always got mentioned, but it was really quite different. Right away, Michael Roberts from Westword was interested in what we were doing. He was always a big supporter of pretty much anything we did. He was always a real good guy for us. Always writing stuff and making mention of shows. So obviously, those things got mentioned but it's not really the same kind of deal. It's more of a primitive, rackety, noisy thing. If you were a Fluid fan, it didn't automatically mean you were going to be a '57 Lesbian fan.
Twice Wilted, of course, was a whole different music. We played shows with them in Littleton and here and there. There are flyers for all kinds of shows that I don't remember that the Fluid played with them. There were all these different scenes going within a group. A big group of people would play shows together, but there was all these little scenes within that scene -- different kinds of music. As anything, initially, there's going to be some sort of curiosity, because so and so was in this, or so and so is in this band, or that band or the other. Ultimately, the thing has to stand on its own merits or not.
Did you talk about the kind of music you wanted to do?
We wanted play fairly simple, fairly rackety, noisy, no particular thing. Whatever came together. We have some really straight forward songs and some more loopy stuff. There's a bunch of stuff we used to do that never got recorded. I don't remember how any of it went, but I remember titles of songs. But we didn't have any sort of plan except get together and jam and figure out stuff. Sometimes songs were written in advance, and sometimes they were written as a group. It wasn't like a well-thought-out anything. Kind of spur of the moment, let's see where it goes kind of trip.
Where did you play?
We played a bunch of weird places. We played in Boulder at Quigley's or Club 156 -- whatever it was called then. We played at Seven South, the Garage at 23 Parish, when Michael Lustig used to do that. We played there quite a bit. We opened a bunch shows for touring bands. We played with King Missile, the Dwarves. We played at Rock Island, when the viaduct was still there. Do you remember that?
Oh yeah, I remember taking that precarious, kind of scary exit off of the 20th Street viaduct down into the warehouse district.
You could go over it or go on the side and park. There was some weird Che Guevara graffiti down there. It was a different lower downtown then. The 20th Street viaduct area would take you down to the Skyline, and I used to work down there, too. You go down and the Skyline one way and the other way around there was a gas station and Lighbulb Supply. That was gone by '98.
But back in the day, there were train tracks, warehouses and a couple of bars. And that big gay bar, Tracks. I got drug to that place by girlfriends, and it was quite fun. I'd just stand up on the balcony and watch a sea of people just dancing their asses off. It was like "Hey man, you'd never even know this was going on by driving by." Which is cool. Like the old Weather Center place. You could have anything going on there, and nobody in the whole city would know.
Do you remember that Montgomery Ward building in the middle of the landscape back then?
It might still be there but they re-fabbed it and added on to it and made it into lofts. For a while, they used it for fire department training. For a while, homeless punk rocker kids lived there. There was a big article about it.
You recorded at least a 7-inch, but did you record more than that?
That was a different band that recorded the 12-inch that Sonny Kay did. Before that, Dave and Chanin and I did some recording at Time Capsule on Perry Street, which is where everyone was recording at the time. The Fluid did some demo stuff there; '57 Lesbian recorded there; Spell recorded their first stuff there. Boss 302 recorded in there. I did some stuff with Cold Crank there, Uphollow.
Also stuff before I was in Boss 302, and I was basically the cracker of the whip, "Nah, that's not good enough, sing that again! Your backing vocals aren't good enough, Brittenham!" It was when I was that guy. They asked me to do that, "Yeah, come and help us make sure we do this right." That was a great place. I've got the '57 Lesbian tapes from there. Someone from Westword called me up and said, "Hey Matt, did you see this thing?" So I got the '57 Lesbian tapes, and we got The Fluid tapes that were in there as well.
See Also: Time Capsule master reels of classic Denver recordings saved by gracious real estate agent
We recorded seven or eight songs with the original line-up at that place. And then umpteen, crappy-sounding practice things and live tapes that are generally unlistenable recorded off a portable cassette player stuck in the back of the room. Then the third iteration of the band, when April played bass with Andy and myself, we did a bunch of eight-track recording up in Boulder with my friend Mark Braden.
Only few songs from that session got released on a little L.A. label called No Life that released a three or four-song 7-inch. That was the only stuff we released that we recorded. We did it when we could, and towards the end of all that, the Fluid did its last record, and there was nothing at that point, because I was gone all the time, so '57 Lesbian didn't exist for any real purposes at that point.
What inspired the song "Keith Black's Mummy"?
When Keith Black died. He was a famous builder of drag race engines. He had died, and I was talking to Rick [Kulwicki] one time, and we would always make up weird stuff and Keith Black's Mummy got made up for something that had nothing to do with anything at all. It was another one of those things that sounded funny. There's no such thing as a mummy now. Those are Egyptian things. And Keith Black was dead, and I don't know, it was just a funny song about drag racing dedicated to the memory of Keith Black. Keith Black racing engines still exist, as far as I know.
What other local bands did you play with often?
Yes. Whoever was playing. Shit, we used to play with Spell on occasion. We did a New Year's Eve show at 7 South with Throttle Men and the first LaDonnas show because I was good friends with Ross [Kerstens] and Brad. I think Aaron Reddick was playing with them at the time. That band went through some iterations while Ross was putting the band together. They were living over by the Botanical Gardens practicing in the basement. Gilbertson was playing the drums and Reddick was playing the bass and Ross. They didn't have a Facebook timeline back then, so you couldn't document every little change to your band and when you record a particular song.
You played three shows as '57 Lesbian again last year?
We played last Easter doing a benefit at Larimer Lounge and then Wax Trax in July with Purple Fluid. Then we played at September at the Rockaway with Hot Robots and The Omens. Last year, when Rick died, obviously we were putting together all this stuff and it's not like just one person is spearheading any of this stuff. I think I posted a comment on a benefit show that Garrett Brittenham was putting together for a Sunday at Larimer and impulsively said something about, "How would you about having '57 Lesbian play on that thing?" This was before talking to anyone, of course. And he said, "That would be awesome!"
At that point, I had no idea what anybody's answer would be to it. So I called up Dave and said, "How would you feel if we did this?" Dave was, of course, "That would be awesome." So I called up Chanin, and she said, "Let me think about it. I'll call you back." Because she's practical. But she called me back a day or so later and said it sounded cool. We hadn't played together, the three of us, for twenty years.
We did that show and decided it was fun. Dave's a grandpa. His oldest kids have kids, and Chanin's got a growing up close to teenage kid. We're all pretty calm, but we like to have something to do and hang out with our friends and play music. So we decided not to try to play every month or every three months. It might be two times a year; it might be five times a year. Nobody is trying to prove anything. We're just trying to have fun with our friends and we like getting together and practicing.
When you lose somebody that's as close to as many people as Rick was, it makes everybody in the circle of that realize that they really need to cherish what they still have and not let any of that go by the wayside just because you get busy with life. You need to still enjoy the company of your friends and do stuff you enjoy doing with those people. It's really easy to get on with your life and go to work and do whatever.
I went from having zero bands to, for a while, having three bands -- doing Fluid stuff, Squares stuff and '57 Lesbian stuff. Which is great. I'd like to have band practice every night. We don't have any agenda. We don't have any need to do it outside of enjoyment. If somebody else gets something out of it, great. If not, then they've just merely been subjected to our racket.
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